APP OF THE DAY: Pitfall review (iPad / iPhone / iPod touch)
Ah, 30 years ago; men had moustaches you could hang a coat on, TV mainly consisted of young women in skimpy outfits chasing rotund middle-aged men, and the number one games console was fronted in teak paneling (effect, anyway). Those, as they say, were the days indeed.
And it was on one such machine, the Atari 2600 (or "VCS" in popular circles), that today's App of the Day made its bow. It was crude, pricey and as difficult as getting a bus driver to reopen the doors after he's pulled a nano-metre away from the curb, but we loved it.
So, pray silence for the return (again) of...
- iPad (version tested), iPhone, iPod touch
Let's get it out of the way at the start, this latest, iOS-exclusive version of Pitfall owes an awful lot to Temple Run. There's no point in denying it, Pitfall 2012 is as close to Temple Run as the same developer's own Brave reskinned version. However, that's not to say Activision's effort is inferior to that highly addictive, number one app. No siree, we'd go as far as say it even betters it. Oh yes.
At it's heart, there are many similarities. A lot of the gameplay it situated on a character, viewed from behind in third-person running, jumping and sliding his way through a terrain to get as far as possible from the thing chasing him. This time it's an exploding volcano (as in the original 1982 game), but the theory is the same.
The adventures of Pitfall Harry, however, vary somewhat, with extra obstacle types - snakes and falling trees included - and graphics that scream of a far bigger budget than its obvious influence.
To start with, the action is side-scrolling and almost 2D, panning around to the rear-view camera angle in time. The obstacles in the way don't necessarily always look similar. There are different-levelled pathways, such as a ramp up to huts. And there are ropes suspended across spike-filled pits that you can leap on to in order to swing across. It's harder too, mainly for these reasons.
The sound is better, with speech and bombastic Hollywood-style music. And there are some cheeky nods to the 1980s game, including a brilliant start animation sequence.
Like with Temple Run - although the entire game is available to you for an initial outlay (69p, in this case) - you can also buy in-game currency with real cash in order to power up Pitfall Harry more swiftly than earning the same through multiple plays. This can end up costing a fortune, but we didn't have a problem earning enough to make it much further through the game given time.
If there's one gripe, also like Temple Run, to collect coins (or silver bars in this instance) you have to tilt your device left and right. TR is a portrait game, whereas Pitfall is landscape so it basically restricts you to having to hold on at all times and use your thumbs to swipe for jump, slide, etc. It's far trickier to play holding the iPad in one hand horizontally.
This is irrelevant to the iPhone version, however, and many use their thumbs to play anyway, so it's a very minor caveat and there are plenty of other great additions that we're very keen on. Take the checkpoint system, for example. At certain distances, you can activate a checkpoint, then use a power-up (giant macaw) to take you straight there when starting a new run. It helps you see further effects and levels.
So yes, Pitfall is a Temple Run clone of sorts, but one that's a giant evolutionary leap forward. And, let's remember, just about every modern platform game's DNA can partly be traced back to the original Pitfall anyway, so it could be said that they actually owe much to each other.