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Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure

Review By:  Siou Choy

Developer:  Pipe Dream
Publisher:  Majesco Sales
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Platform
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  7-23-01

Taken as a whole, fans of retro gaming have had ample cause to celebrate the advent of Nintendo's GBA; with game designers flocking to their archives in search of past hits to revive and update for the fledgling handheld system. However, said fans would do well to keep in mind that not all re-releases are going to be good ones. Case in point, the GBA's recent release of Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure. To be concise, PTMA can be summed up in just one word: disappointing. Now, perhaps this may hold no surprise for those who experienced the game during its original release for the SNES and Sega Genesis. I, however, have never had the misfortune of having suffered through said clunker during its original release, for which I have to say that I'm glad. My understanding is that the game is an almost perfect port, with the sole significant difference being the removal of the original Pitfall, which was a hidden "extra" in previous releases of the game. Being from Missouri myself (philosophically speaking), I had to try to search for it anyway, and my findings confirm the worst. I was as unable to find it as scuttlebutt forewarned.

I came into this as a big fan of the original Atari 2600 version of Pitfall, and as such, wasn't quite sure what to expect from The Mayan Adventure. The threadbare plot of the game is simply this: this time around, rather than taking the part of Pitfall Harry, you play as his son, the creatively monikered "Pitfall Harry Jr." Harry Jr. gets stuck with the fun and exciting task of rescuing his dad, who has been kidnapped by the spirit of an ancient Mayan warrior, Zakelua. Or maybe he's just lost himself in a bottle of Kahlua, who knows. Regardless of whether you take this literally or not (and after all, how much fun would it be to steer Harry Jr. through the pitfalls of A.A. meetings, "tough love" and the step program), it's up to Jr. to save the day.

As fans of The Mayan Adventure's previous incarnations (assuming there were any in the first place) should already know, there are some fairly significant changes from the original Pitfall. Rather than merely facing off against crocodiles, scorpions, and snakes, you'll have to fend off monkeys, hawks, bats, skeletons, and evil spirits summoned by Zakelua as well (and my guess is that said spirits include the sinister rum and the horrifying Frangelica). Worse, an abundance of mis-timed jumps will result in your landing on some rather ubiquitous spikes. In fact, this jungle is so beset with such spikes that Vietnam veterans are advised to avoid exposure to this game - it may stir up some uncomfortable memories.

One thing that would have been a welcome addition to the game would have been the implementation of saves or passwords. By carrying over this somewhat glaring omission from The Mayan Adventure's initial release, the unfortunate gamer finds oneself forced to play through the entire game in one sitting (remember those days?). Talk about retro. Doubtless I needn't mention that this is not always the best thing when playing a battery operated portable console system. (No doubt Majesco owns some major shares in batteries.)

The graphics in The Mayan Adventure are nice, but way too dark on the Game boy Advance. Making out enemies can be far more difficult than you might imagine, when set against the game's considerably murky and overpopulated backgrounds. While aesthetically pleasing, the mise en scene is rather overabundant and complex, making it hard to distinguish any objects other than yourself (i.e., Harry Jr.) as a rule. Whatever you do, make sure you play Pitfall under a good light source, or you'll find yourself running into quicksand rather more often than you'd otherwise care to.

The screen is also a bit too small and doesn't show you enough of the surrounding environment to navigate through the game properly. All too often, you will find yourself having to take a leap of faith, praying you don't miss and end up in a lake or pit. Many times you'll find yourself jumping up into overhead spikes, because it's physically impossible, at least within the confines of the GBA's scrolling screen, to see them above you otherwise.

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