Super Pitfall
Box Shot
Super Pitfall
Platform: NES
Publisher: Activision
Designer: Activision
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Published Date 1987
Reviewed by: Rob Strangman

Ah, Pitfall. If any game brings to mind the glory days of the Atari 2600, this is the one. The original set a new standard in gaming - no one had ever played a game quite like this before. An adventure game was a new experience! In an age where simple space games ruled the arcades and companies were bringing out stupid little crap games left and right, Pitfall stood out as a quality game. It was soon followed up by a sequel - the first ever sequel to a home game - Pitfall II: Lost Caverns. But Atari soon died (in the big crash of '84), and out of the ashes of the video game industry, Nintendo took over with the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Activision's first release for this new system was an update of Pitfall, aptly entitled Super Pitfall. I remember standing in line at KayBees Toy Store just waiting to get a look at the game. Finally I was able to rent a copy. I read the story of the game. Cool, I thought - it's an update of Pitfall II, my favorite Atari game. This is gonna be great! I then popped the game in and turned on the power.

ARGH! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? PITFALL LOOKS LIKE MARIO!

The game went downhill from there. Besides the aforementioned problem, there were some other bad things about the game that made it a bad Pitfall experience.

For one thing, Pitfall controls really bad. Jumping is EXTREMELY tricky, especially when trying to jump to a tiny little ledge (Activision carried that little flaw over to one of their next games to come out: Predator). It's hard to hit creatures with your gun. Gun? What in the world is Pitfall Harry doing carrying a gun? Then there's trying to swing on vines. When Pitfall jumps off of a vine to grab onto another one, he gets a mind of his own. You will spend lots of time trying to get the hang of jumping on vines, believe me. Pitfall just doesn't like to grab the other vines.

The graphics are very blah, even for 1987. Castlevania, which was released the same year, looked A LOT better than Super Pitfall. And when the graphics aren't blah, they're too cartoony - most of the creatures look so cute, you're not sure whether to kill them or go "Awww, they're so cute!" Pitfall wasn't about being cartoony! Then there's the music: one constant theme that drones on over and over and over. And over, and over, and over. . . you get the idea. It makes you want to hit MUTE on your TV as fast as you can. There's the spike traps that are scattered around. What? Where were these in Pitfall II? Also, there's random glitches that make your life hell - for example, you'll be hanging onto a ladder, waiting for a scorpion to pass underneath you - suddenly (for no reason whatsoever) Pitfall will fall off of the ladder and land right on the scorpion, resulting in an instant death. It's enough to make you want to throw the game out the window sometimes (especially when you're on your last man and this happens!).

Because of these flaws, the difficulty is cranked way up there. It is VERY easy to die. Lack of some form of map really hurts the game too, since it's a very confusing place to be stuck in. I know people who played the game for years and to this day, they have no idea where they're going. To boot, there are no continues (I've heard there's a code for continues, but I've never seen it. If you know what it is, email me!) On top of all this, Activision didn't even program the game themselves! It was turned over to Pony Canyon in Japan.

Once you get past all of these flaws, though, it's kind of a fun game. You can spend a lot of time exploring, and it does grow on you after a while. It's really only one of those games that you play to kill some time. Pitfall has since moved beyond this, like Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure (SNES, Genesis, Sega CD) and the upcoming Pitfall 3D: Beyond The Jungle (PlayStation), which look like the true descendants of Pitfall, and not too many people even remember Super Pitfall anymore. The lost chapter in Pitfall history is destined to stay lost, I believe.

You know, if Activision had renamed this "Super Mario's Cave Exploring Adventure", they might have sold more copies. . .