By: Siou Choy
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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