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Pitfall review: Pitfall

Pitfall is an arcade classic many gamers will remember from the 1980s. But in this fast-paced remake, you're going to need to stay on your toes to stay alive as long as possible.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
4 min read

Pitfall from Activision is a complete makeover of the original game previously found on consoles and computers back in the 1980s. Released on the 30th anniversary of the original game, Pitfall has been redesigned as a full-3D escape/survival game in which you'll jump over chasms, swing across gaps, and speed through a lush jungle setting.



The Good

<b>Pitfall</b> is a fast-paced perpetual runner with tons of gameplay variation, power-ups, and more that keep you playing "just one more time."

The Bad

There are minor graphics glitches in various spots. An in-app purchase system wants you to spend your money.

The Bottom Line

The remake of the old classic is really nothing like the original, but if you like escape-type survival games, Pitfall has tons of variation on the game mechanic you're used to.

Before you start playing, Pitfall shows you the original 2D 8-bit game as an intro, before expanding outward into a great-looking 3D world. You play as the classic hero, Pitfall Harry, and start your journey running in a 3D sideways view. On your first run, the game shows you all the basic controls: swipe up to jump, swipe down to slide under objects, and swipe left or right to turn at intersections. People who have played Temple Run will immediately recognize the controls for movement. You also have the ability to crack your whip at the various snakes and other baddies that block your path. Also like Temple Run, you have tilt controls for picking up treasure when it appears on the left or right side of the path.

While Pitfall shares some of the gameplay found in Temple Run, there's a lot more to discover as you progress through the game. The 3D sideways view mentioned above quickly turns into an over-the-shoulder view as you jump over obstacles, slide under low bridges, and jump to swing across chasms. The game throws these obstacles at you quickly, so you'll always need to be ready for what's around the next corner. But you'll also occasionally find tokens that suddenly have you riding a jaguar, speeding on a motorbike, and other twists that keep the game interesting.

Pitfall gets a complete makeover (pictures)

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As you progress, you'll move through various environments, all of which are intricately detailed and look great on newer iPhones and iPads. The jungle setting is only the beginning; you'll also run through villages offering choices on the path you take, speed through dark caverns, and even jump into a mining cart to race down a deteriorating track over hot lava. The best part is you never know when the scene will change -- your path is randomly generated and you'll often be surprised by where the game takes you.

As the first version of the game out of the gate, Pitfall is not without problems. I noticed some laggy skipping in the action at certain points, but more importantly, there were also times that the swipe controls were less than completely accurate. For example, occasionally I would swipe down (no really, I did!) to slide under a bridge, but the game read my control input as a touch, cracking my whip as I slammed into the obstacle. It seems like the problems could be fixed fairly easily, so if you encounter the same issues, there will probably be an update shortly to clear them up.

Later in the game you'll ride a mine cart over lava. Though it looks fun, you'll need to keep on your toes to keep your run going. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Like many games these days, Pitfall has an in-app purchase system, and is not shy about pointing out ways you can pay to get ahead. There are checkpoints you can pass in the game every 2,000 meters, and when you die after a checkpoint, you'll need to spend a "Macaw Token" to be flown to your last passed checkpoint. They give you a few to start, but soon you'll need to buy them from the store with your loot. Don't have enough? You can also pay real cash to get more tokens. While I generally find these tactics unsavory, it's important to note that you can still get just about everything in the store by continuing to play, and the game is fun enough that you may not mind grinding it out, slowly collecting treasure for new items and power-ups.

The in-game store also offers added extras like costume changes, potions for extra speed, and antidotes for when you're poisoned by the game's snakes and scorpions. The custom looks are a complete makeover for your character, with several silly options as well, such as the drunken pirate and one where Pitfall Harry wears a bear costume. As for the extra speed option, when I played, I never really wanted to go much faster, to be honest, because the obstacles come so quickly already.

While the new Pitfall won't really scratch the same itch as the classic for old-school gamers, Activision has managed to put together a very good escape runner with a lot to discover. If you like the idea of fast-paced running through multiple environments and giving it one more shot as Pitfall Harry, you should definitely check out this game.