Title  : Pitfall 3D: Beyond the Jungle
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation
Publisher  : Activision
Game Rating  : 8.4
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Whenever a new adventure game hits the shelf, it may be difficult to remember that this modern quest probably has an origin in Pitfall, the Atari 2600 game which set the stage for the hundreds of games that followed. Activision is back to remind us in Pitfall 3D: Beyond the Jungle, for the Sony PlayStation. 

After having explored the Mayan temples a few years ago, Pitfall Harry, Jr., son of the Atari original character, stumbles into trouble, again. While exploring a South American jungle, Harry is pulled into another dimension, where, equipped with only a pickax, he must save the good Moku people from the Scourge. Along the way he'll have to penetrate the enemy temple, descend into a volcano, and master the magical Lucense force. 

As the title implies, the places Harry will visit go far beyond the traditional jungle. Familiar elements such as disappearing sinkholes and vine-swinging will please veteran fans of the series, though they'll surely notice the infamous alligators are missing. Intrepid explorers may discover the original Pitfall game hidden somewhere in this descendent. 

When Pitfall appeared on the Super Nintendo, his visual antics revealed his comic nature. This time, he has the power of speech, as provided by actor Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness, Brisco County Jr., Hercules & Xena). Campbell's nonchalant, risk-free attitude fits the legendary game character wonderfully, be it the opening game sequence, or quick quips in the midst of a high-action sequence. Pitfall doesn't speak up as often as the other video game character Gex does, but Pitfall is meant to be more action, less comedy than Gex. 

Other sound effects, from the rushing lava to the groaning foes, add to the overall environment. The adventurous music undertones capture the Indiana Jones feel of the game. 

The graphics are a good lot. The variety of levels is portrayed well, with each introduced by several comic book-quality stills. The camera angle stays in the same general area, and changes heights accordingly; sometimes almost directly overhead, sometimes a side-view. On the rare occasion it swings elsewhere, it could be during a crucial jump, causing the controls to falter and for Harry to miss his mark — often with fatal results. 

Any game with the name "Pitfall" is sure to include large quantities of jumping; this latest entry in the series is no exception. There are vines, platforms, hooks, and more to contend with. It starts off easily enough — then the platforms start disappearing, the drops become longer, and the enemies are more distracting. A drop from almost any height can result in an untimely death. Some distances are hard to judge, and some enemies too well-placed. At times it seems the game itself is trying all it can to cheat you into losing. Fortunately, extra lives and a few continues abound, and progress can be saved with a password or memory card. 

Pitfall has many excellent aspects, with a frustration level a bit too high its only one noticeable fault (well, maybe not enough jungle, too). Great graphics a witty star, and a demo of Activision's new road warrior game, Vigilante 8, make this a powerful title. It may not set the standard as its ancestor did, but Junior should be very satisfied with what he's accomplished here. As Harry would say: "A beautiful girl, suicide mission — I'm in!" 

Hint: Password CRANESBABY activates the original Pitfall game.


This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 01-Apr-98