Have I told you before about my brother? There came a point—I think it was sometime in the late ’80s—when he decided he’d quit liking anything new. Music, wrestlers, Godzilla movies…made no difference. He’s the kind of guy who’ll buy the Nintendo DS and only play classic arcade compilations on it. As such, he’ll have no interest in Pitfall! for the iPad, which is a shame because it’s actually a pretty good game.
What is it?
Pitfall! is not the Pitfall! you remember (if you remember it at all). On the Atari 2600, this Activision title (the game that pretty much launched the company) was a side to side platformer, one screen at a time. You (as Harry) jumped over rolling logs, swung over alligator infested bogs (or jumped across them, standing on the safety of their eyes), and avoided all sorts of nasty jungle creatures. In the iOS version, you pretty much do the same, but you’re now standing behind Harry, swiping to have him leap, turn and slide his way to safety.
It’s a free runner, in other words, which feels like a perfectly natural evolution for the franchise.
How does it work?
Harry runs. He’s going to keep running no matter what, and it’s up to you tell him what to do at the right time. Swipe up to have him jump, down to slide. When the path turns, you’ll swipe left and right at the correct time to make sure he turns with it. You can tilt your device a bit to adjust his position on the path (important for collecting treasures), and you’ve always got your whip available when it’s easier to attack the enemies than to dodge them (and sometimes, you will have to attack).
That’s pretty much the gist of it, but the game is enhanced by its cinematic presentation. First, the camera continuously slides around Harry. Sometimes it’s directly behind him, and other times it’s off to the side a bit. This change keeps the visuals fresh and really makes it feel like you’re acting out a chase scene in an action film. That’s also enhanced by the soundtrack, which very much wants you to feel like you’re a Saturday matinee, popcorn in hand.
There are also a lot of variety in obstacles and upgrades, including everything from new outfits for Harry to new levels and gameplay modes to work through. You can certainly get plenty of life out of this game.
Is it contagious?
That depends upon how much you like runners. This is a very good one, but if the idea of frantically swiping your screen to avoid obstacles doesn’t appeal to you, neither will this game. People looking for the classic version of Pitfall! will also be put off by this (although it is available for iOS as part of the Activision Anthology).
Those warnings aside, Pitfall! is a wonderfully designed game that manages to update the classic action with a logical, modern twist.
If the technology had been around in 1982, I’m quite certain this is what Pitfall! would’ve been from the start…only without all the in-app purchases and push notifications, hopefully. Seriously, Activision…you need to cool it with that stuff.