Thursday 25 January 2018

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure (Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Activision
Publisher: Activision
Released: 1994

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is an action-platformer that was released on various systems including the Sega 32X (1995).

As Harry Jr. your quest is to rescue your father from Zakelua: Lord of Evil, and discover the lost treasure of Uaxactun. Your main weapon is a sling that can be used as a whip or a stone thrower, and it can also be charged for a Super Shot by holding down the A button. Boomerangs and Exploding Stones (that clear everything on screen) can also be collected throughout your adventure. The gameplay usually consists of fighting enemies, climbing ropes, swinging on vines to cross gaps and riding ziplines; while this sounds like the pedigree for a great action-platformer, the game has many flaws. For starters, the level design is atrocious and generally consists of unintuitive labyrinths that make exploration a chore. There's also too many instances where enemies are placed directly in front of you after climbing a rope or disengaging from a zipline, leaving you no time before taking damage. Thankfully, the frame-rate is 50/60 frames-per-second (PAL/NTSC) compared to the 25/30 found in the 32X port; this makes for a much smoother experience, particularly when lining up jumps or bouncing between a series of platform springs. Unfortunately, the controls (although not as bad as on the 32X) suffer similar issues with button delay that will often lead you into harms way. Another peeve is the life metre, as instead of a simple health bar the developers included a graphic of a crocodile next to Harry Jr.; the closer it is, the closer you are to death, but it's not easily distinguishable at a glance. On a plus note, the graphics and animation are outstanding and rival those found in Disney's Aladdin (1993, Mega Drive).

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is a real missed opportunity, as despite the promising setting and impressive graphics it's a flawed game due to the sub-par level design and delayed controls. It's great that it runs at a rock-solid frame-rate, but even that can't save it from being a mediocre and ultimately forgettable platformer.

Random trivia: The original Pitfall (1982, Atari 2600) is an unlockable extra by finding a hidden warp in the Lost City of Copan level.

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