Super Pitfall


Review by Jess Ragan



Graphics: 1

Sound: 1

Gameplay: 1

Overall: 0

My partner's uneasiness was profoundly obvious as we pulled up to the Santulli residence, apparently the culprit of some public disturbances. As crickets chirped in the tall grass nearby, the sound of a door being rammed filled the night air. Stumbling out of the police car, we commenced running towards the house to thwart any dangerous situations - but it was too late. The door had nearly burst from its hinges, revealing the horrific image of a tortured man with almost demonic eyes. "Freeze!!", my partner shouts as he points his revolver towards the almost unreal figure in the doorway.

 "Freeze!!", he screamed hideously. "Yes, I'm free! Free of its horrific effects! Yes! FREE AT LAST!!!" The once human creature sprung from the doorway, laughing dementedly as he toppled my fellow officer & ran aimlessly into the dark void of housing structures. I yanked the gun from my holster & fired a few desperate shells into the blackness. Nothing. We entered the Santulli household and immediately noticed the remnants of something supernatural... and deadly. Blood decorated the walls and ceilings as we sidestepped the remains of the unfortunates left to suffer the wrath of this horrible force. Bending down to grab one of the many pieces strewn around the room, my partner lifted up a severed head, complete with a pair of bloody, broken glasses and gashed jowls.

"Too bad", my partner observed as he set the mangled organ to the floor. "I knew this guy in high school... Oleniacz, I believe. When he was voted 'most likely to get ahead', I never imagined THIS..."

Moving on, we witnessed sight after sight of unmentionably gory remains, until we reached a doorway glowing with a strange foreboding power. Reluctantly entering, we discovered that the room was the entertainment area of the house - with broken videogame systems scattered throughout. All but one. A Nintendo sits almost defiantly atop a 30" television, radiating an image too hideous to describe, or pull away from, as my partner soon discovered. Eyes glazed, his sight fixed immovably on the logo burned into the cathode ray tube, he did not... or could not notice the small door slowly opening on the front of the NES, revealing a game cartridge. Racing to push him away, I screamed "It's worse than possessed!! It's Pony Canyon!!" but an unseen hand knocked me back as the evil chip set aim on its next victim. Five surgically sharp blades pushed themselves out of the front of the cartridge. Screaming from its plastic nest, the cartridge made a new home, embedding itself into my unlucky compatriot's forehead. It was too late for him, but not for me, as I bolted from the house, never to return... always to curse the game called....


I'm sure you get the point by now. In keeping with this issue's theme, I'm reviewing a truly frightening effort, Activision's Super Pitfall for the NES. Don't be fooled - this game has nothing to do with former Activision programmer David Crane. You see, instead of assigning him to the game he had created years before, they went instead with FCI and their ramshackle programming firm Pony Canyon. Pony Canyon is most notable for ruining other translations (such as Winter Games for the NES, a game Acclaim had mistakenly contracted them to attempt) and lousing up their fair share of original works (Dr. Chaos & Hydlide, two more NES games, spring to mind) as well. The result? An abject failure throughout which pales in comparison to the 2600 version (and many other 2600 titles, come to think of it!), Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns.

First, the plot. Basically the same as P2: rescue your niece & pet lion from their respective entrapments and collect loads of gold and treasure in the process. Second, the basic concept: again, the same. There are huge cavern areas and relatively short surface ones. Many of the mechanics have been lifted as well, such as riding balloons and avoiding the same creatures. Finally, we come to the execution: worlds apart here. Where P2 was clever and original, Super Pitfall is stale, drab, uninviting, and effort-free. Remember the lush jungles and stark caverns of the 2600 versions? They've been trashed in favor of badly colored generically drawn screens - the worst the NES has to offer. That great Pitfall Harry animation? Forget that - THIS joker bears NO resemblance to the true Harry from the first games. Imagine a garishly colored Mario stuffed into a spelunker suit, complete with a loss of dexterity.

Guess what? It's not just Pitfall Mario who suffers from this plight. The monsters themselves are hardly menacingly-drawn, and although they aren't animated icons as the first games' were, most players would probably prefer those icons. The breathtaking danger involved in P2's vines is gone - it seems as if those great guys at Pony Canyon wanted that artificial look that only stringing together white circles can achieve. Many of the wonderful effects from the 2600 renditions have been equally stripped, so don't count on getting any enjoyment (laughter not included) from them here.

If "disappointed" can be used as a term for the above shortcomings, more unpleasant words will surely follow when one discovers the final two nails in Super Pitfall's coffin: terrible music and comparatively staid animation. The music isn't just uninspired, it's badly orchestrated and downright intolerable! The animation? Well, Pony C makes up for any indulgent (for them, anyhow) three-frame movements with such disasters as Easter Island statues which slide inexplicably towards our hero. To sum up, "AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!". That's about all I can say! Just WRITING about this filth depresses me more than any T*HQ game ever could, and as such, gets my vote for one of the top three worst games ever for this system. I can say no more.


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Last updated: Sunday, January 11, 2004 09:29 AM