Pitfall Review – A fun game hindered by its own design

Playing Pitfall, the 30th anniversary remake of the early Atari favorite (I can still hear that music that plays when you successfully jump over a pit of crocodiles) made me actually smile. So many of the games I have recently reviewed for this site have forgotten to be simple and fun.

 Name: Pitfall | Publisher: Activision | Category: Arcade | Players: 1 | Version: 1.2.323 | Size: 38 MB | Price: Free

I have really enjoyed a lot of what I found in this game but, as one of the comments on the app page says, the micro-transactions are often a bit much:

“I’ve been waiting a long time to finally get to play this game after seeing it on an iPad a couple of months ago. It plays and looks better than Temple Run. The only bad thing is all the In-App Purchases that you’re frequently encouraged to buy – I really loathe that business model. Why can’t you just charge for the game outright?”

I have to say that I do not agree with this comment precisely, but I do agree completely with its tone. I am the biggest fan of variable payment models, and the freemium model has done wonders for the mobile market. I’d even go so far as to say that it has done the same for several gaming genres and that we will see even more of the freemium model. Freemium is not free-to-play. Freemium is better described as a trial, often a time- or level-limited trial.

I agree with how the comment above seems tired of playing the game and being lumped with all of the other players who cannot or will never pay for a game. I will gladly throw money into a virtual shop in order to support a title, but to have the pop-ups and other silly distractions literally interrupt gameplay is too much. Pitfall is not that bad, but the developers need to just offer a flat fee version and tone down the in-game begging.

Having said that, the game is simple fun. It takes a while to get used to the controls but once you do you’ll find the simplicity enjoyable. I like the fact that the game utilizes all of my devices abilities from swiping or tapping to rotating the screen.

All is not well, though. While the game is fun to play it’s also often very frustrating. It would be easier or better if I could just say that the game is too challenging. Personally I cannot stand a game that demands the reflexive precision of a robot, but Pitfall is challenging for the wrong reasons. If you’re familiar with the browser-based MMO RuneScape, you will know what I’m referring to when I mention graphics. If you’ve played the game lately you know how pretty it has become over the last two years. But, RuneScape is not meant to be played as an action game, one that offers a camera that is essential to the gameplay. Pitfall looks like RuneScape in so many ways. So, when you approach a wall or log it can often be hard to tell what sort of object it is. I would try and jump over something only to realize it needed to be slid under. The game could use some better shading or slight lighting effects, it would make a world of difference when playing.

Really, though, the game is quite fun. It would probably be smart to just throw in a few bucks from the beginning because you’ll be needing them to go back to a saved point. I wish the game would just sell me an all-in-one package, but perhaps it does. I got out of the cash-shop quickly and back to the game. It’s pretty fast and fun to watch, and the controls almost always respond nicely. A patch or two might fix many of these issues, but I’d rather see a paid version that gives the player everything he or she needs to play the game through.

Pitfall also taught me how hard it is to take screenshots while whipping at scorpions. Oh well, it was a fun lesson.

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