Like Father, Like Son
I remember back to the day when video games were first beginning to become popular. I vaguely recall a system called the Atari 2600 that started with Pong and ended up with Space Invaders and Pac-Man. It’s hazy, but I also remember a man, not just any man, but an adventurer. He was an explorer, a fighter, a lover, and he really reminded me of Indiana Jones. He was Pitfall Harry. Harry could swing from vines with the grace of Tarzan, oblivious to the dangers that lurked below him. Back in those days Harry was the Man, but those days are gone. Pitfall 3D heralds the return of the Pitfall Harry legacy in the form of his son, Harry Jr. and as the old saying goes, like father like son.
Harry Jr, follows in his father’s footsteps by being the consummate adventurer and lover. He travels though a portal to a strange world called Moku to try and stop the Scourge from taking over Moku and Earth. He joins the resistance led by a fine chick named Mira. He must go through eleven levels of hell and countless minions in order to then face Scourge. Will Harry succeed? Will he hook up with Mira? Only time will tell.
A far cry from the original Pitfall sprites, Pitfall 3D boasted graphics with many exceptional qualities, but was also hindered by several well, uh, pitfalls. The overall layout of each level was meticulously done. There are nearly infinite details to be appreciated, from the terrific, demonic, disembodied Imps to the Moku Temple. Each level even gets progressively better, graphically speaking. However, some of the backgrounds looked too pixelly and elements in the foreground sometimes blocked too much of the main view and made playing difficult.
The City of Shenrak is representative of the game as a whole. Harry starts out within the walls of the city and goes from within the city to the jungle on the outskirts. The change in scenery was emphasized by fires, rickety wooden bridges, and falling boulders. From the jungle, he returns to the walls of the city and to various levels on the walls. Plying this section of the city was made more exciting by the different jumps he had to make. At times, I got this vertigo-esque feeling in the pit of my stomach that I don’t normally get with other platform games. In the jungle, Harry gets to swing from vines, following in the footsteps of his father. Since this is a 3D game, he can not only swing left to right, but also front to back. This is a brand new twist on an original concept. Harry is quite adept at swinging and is no George of the Jungle. Eat your heart out Tarzan!
Pitfall Harry Jr.’s voice was done by Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Adventures of Brisco County Jr.). Throughout the game he makes snappy one-liners and when you get to close to the edge of a cliff or wall, he says “whoah!” The voiceovers were cute and sometimes funny, and actually served a purpose. In certain situations, Harry explains how to change direction whilst swinging or how to recharge your energy. The music playing in the background was wild and appropriate for the jungle motif.
One of the strengths of the game was its varying camera angles. When they named it Pitfall 3D, they weren’t just whistling Dixie. You can see Harry move from left to right, right to left, front to back, up to down, and down to up. These varying views made going through the levels more interesting. Harry has to face new enemies as well as old ones from the original Pitfall. My two favorites were the Papwa Ipo, a really funky monkey, and the Scorpion(from the original), which grabs your feet and slams you from side to side. Don’t get too close or you’ll get stung. Aside from these enemies Harry has to negotiate rolling logs of death, opening and closing bottomless pits, and the occasional falling boulders, or were they meteors? The variety of the enemies made gameplay challenging and fun. I also liked the fact that you could replenish your health during each level with the crystals and the health stations. These health stations, along with the fact that Harry didn’t have to repeat the level after each death, facilitated extended gameplay. I hate games where I bust my butt getting to the end, only to die and have to do the whole thing over.
Despite being an overall acceptable game, I do have complaints, primarily about the lack of consistency with regards to motion and the graphics. When going through a level, I would jump or walk to an edge and fall off. The next time through, I would do the exact same thing and yet nothing happened; I was fine. This glitch made me wary of exploring too much and I definitely stayed away form the edges. No pushing the envelope for me, thank you very much.
Pitfall 3D capitalizes on an excellent original idea (well… original-derivative anyway) with really tight, although sometimes pixelly, graphics and layout. The levels were fun to go through and beat. Bruce Campbell makes an excellent Harry Jr. Overall, the game performed well, but a few minor things kept it from being a really superb game.