Super Pitfall Review by: endingsWhen Harry met Super Pitfall, and a wild maze of painful insanity appeared!
Super Pitfall, what an odd name. its title features SUPER in it, but not a Super NES game (who loved to put that on all their games), nor is this even a good version of a NES game. Its not even a good Pitfall game, and pales in comparison. The deck was greatly stacked against from the start, as it features many really terrible design choices. Labyrinth maze of similar areas? Check. One-hit deaths? Check. Rescuing people who you don't know where they are, nor what they are supposed to look like when you find them? Double check! Frustratingly hidden items that require you to jump about randomly like a madman to get them to be visible? You bet your check. All the checks in the world for this lame duck. Although its not all awful, it is playable, and what I would mark it down for most, is something we'll cover later. Join me, on a trip to the underworld of NES gaming.
The character is big and bold, for some reason wearing a sky blue miner's outfit. If he's Pitfall Harry the 5 pixel high wonder of ATARI days, he's grown a mustache, and now packing heat. The enemies are quite silly looking, but very deadly, as you'll find out if you touch them. What pains me is the lack of background. The most you can hope for for the majority of the game is a black backdrop and different colored floor paving to give you any sense of orientation. I understand the limitations on graphics at the time, but not why in a game about a giant maze, they would not give you more hope in figuring out where you are. Even a simple blue/green color backgrounds would help define levels. Some of the icons look good, such as the key needed, the gun icons, but the magic potion and the lion character the key goes to- well they look quite strange.
Oh my, the sound for Super Pitfall is unfun. There is a main theme, and when you get to the later part of the game and enter a spooky underworld area, the tone changes, but there is little else. The annoying grate of the ceiling spikes coming to get you, inching along, horrible. The sound effect when you die is probably the best part.
This is my main problem with the game. Someone could go to the trouble to map the whole cavern. That's investment but doable. Someone could find the location of the items they need to beat the game, even though they are all hidden until you jump in just the right spot-- thats crazy, but still, one could put up with that once they know where they are. But the biggest crime is this game just isn't any fun. I wouldn't blame anyone to wandering around for 5 minutes, losing all their lives, and realizing there's no continues, enjoying putting this game down. Even if you play it just to beat this insane game, the ending gives you no satisfaction or feeling of completion. There is even another ending if you manage to get ALL the gold bars you can find randomly scattered about, and its reward is anything but. The game practically laughs in your face at that point. This is probably the least fun NES game I've ever played, and I've played lots.
Now, I've beat up on this game a bit, but sadly it has more hits to take. But for now, lets talk about a few things it does do alright in. One would be the platforming. I'll make up a category just to give him a little ledge to stand on.
Harry has a great jump, he can turn in mid-air, and control its height. His gun fires the full length of the screen, and most enemies can be beaten in one hit. He can grab a ladder in mid-jump, and grab swinging ropes in the same fashion, although its a bit more difficult. Issues still come up. He sometimes just slides right down the ladder instead of moving slowly, like he has a death wish. Those ropes I mentioned he has to grab from the bottom, he will pass through the middle, he only wants to touch the end. If he falls off a ledge or is hit by a waterfall, he plummets straight down, unable to change direction. Given the game has over 200 screens, being able to use this free fall would've come in handy.
While its not great, it is there. You are going to rescue your niece and your pet lion, who happens to look like a big fox -- both who are lost in the massive caverns below you. The game manual mentions being in the Andes, but nothing indicates you are even in the mountains, since so much of the game is underground. Peru does have scorpions, so at least that is going with the setting. But who kidnapped your pals? Who hid all these gold bars? There is no main villain to this game and there are no answers.
The game as a lot of hidden stuff! The diamond, a cross, the key and the medicine needed, not to mention finding the card suite keys and random bullets. There are several paths to take and reach the goal, and this game has a LOT to explore, not everything is required. Having just reviewed another cave-diving game for NES, Spelunker, I found this game reached too far. While Spelunker has small graphics and layouts but clear ideas, this game just tries to put too many layers to the maze, making it boring. I would have to knock it down a point just because many of the items are so well hidden, who is going to bother to find them?
This game has a lot of cheap deaths. From going down ladders you can't see the bottom of, right on top of enemy, to tiny foes you can't shoot with your gun and have to jump and dodge each time. And getting lost most of the game if you don't have a walkthrough is expected. While the enemies seldom gang up on you, it does happen, fortunately, most don't outright track you and continue on their way.
But the maze is just a mess. Its all brown walls, green walls, and later some grey walls, some spaced out within each so you can't quite say the grey floor always means the bottom levels. Not to mention there are hidden warps, these random spots will teleport you somewhere else, and the exit to leave is just as hidden! Some of the warps are even a regular looking enemy! How are you supposed to know its there?! Who thought these were good ideas?! Its a nightmare for a player not knowing all about this game.
Overall Score: 2.6
Whoah, this game might have some decent scores in story, depth, but the fact is, this game is a mix of bad choices from the design team. Super Pitfall gets a lot of bad reviews, and it brought that on itself. Its not a fun game, but it is playable, despite its best attempts to make you lose interest.