Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure

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Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
Sega Genesis Pitfall - The Mayan Adventure cover art.jpg
North American Sega Genesis cover art by Nadia Staroselska
Developer(s)Activision[a]
Publisher(s)Activision
Director(s)Bill Kroyer
Producer(s)Denise Roberts McKee
John Spinale
Nathalie Deschartes
Designer(s)John Spinale
Programmer(s)George Allan
Artist(s)Karen Johnson
Writer(s)Veronica Milito
Composer(s)Soundelux Media Labs
SeriesPitfall
Platform(s)Sega Genesis
Release1994
Genre(s)Action, platform
Mode(s)Single-player

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure[b] is a side-scrolling action-platform video game developed by Activision in conjunction with Kroyer Films and originally published for the Sega Genesis on North America and Europe in 1994. The fourth installment in the Pitfall franchise, players assume the role of Pitfall Harry Junior as he embarks on a journey through the Mayan jungles of Central America in an attempt to rescue Pitfall Harry, his father and main protagonist of previous entries in the series, from the evil Mayan warrior spirit named Zakelua. Its gameplay mainly consists of action and platforming mixed with stage-based exploration using a main six-button configuration.

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure originally began its development on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and formed part in a string of franchise revivals by Activision along with other games from the Atari 2600 such as Kaboom! and River Raid, featuring sprite-based visuals before Kroyer Films were brought to assist in its creation by providing hand-drawn animations and graphics instead, while the lead platform transitioned from the Super Nintendo to Genesis.[1] Initially launched for the Genesis, the title was later ported to other platforms including the 32X, Atari Jaguar, Game Boy Advance, PC, Sega CD and Super NES, with each one being developed by various third-party developers and featuring several changes and additions compared to the original version. It has also been re-released through download services such as Virtual Console. A conversion for the Atari Lynx was in development but never released.[2]

Since its original release on the Genesis, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure was met with positive reception from critics who praised multiple aspects such as the presentation, visuals, sound design and replay value, though some felt divided in regards to the controls. However, the Sega CD version garnered very positive reviews from most critics who commended the improved audio and additional content. The Super Nintendo port fared positively as well with reviewers that praised the graphics and sound design but others criticized the music and controls. The PC conversion received similar reception that fell in line with the 16-bit versions, while the 32X port got more divisive with some critics that felt it did not improve upon the Genesis original. The Jaguar port was met with mostly positive reviews but received criticism for not improving the visuals and sounds from the 16-bit versions as well, while the Game Boy Advance port was met with a more lukewarm reception.

Gameplay[edit]

Sega Genesis version screenshot.

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is a side-scrolling action-platform game similar to Disney's Aladdin and The Lion King where the player takes control of Pitfall Harry Junior across multiple stages of varying thematic set through the Mayan jungles of Central America to defeat the evil Mayan warrior spirit Zakelua, the main antagonist of the game and rescue his father from captivity as the main objective. Prior to starting a new playthrough, players have the choice to change various settings at the options screen such as controls and difficulty.[3][4][5][6]

Most of the stages featured in the game, though linear in nature, are large and populated with multiple obstacles, enemies and environmental hazards, involving the player to traverse the stage by running, jumping, climbing, swinging, shooting or dodging enemies while other areas that are featured later become more maze-like and exploratory, making the player to take different routes to reach the end and on certain stages, a boss must be fought in order to progress further. All stages also contains beneficial items and weapon ammunition to be collected for Harry Junior, in addition of hidden letters that spell the word "Pitfall", among other secrets to be found. If Harry Jr. is killed, he respawns on the nearest checkpoint reached but once all lives are lost, the game is over, though players have the option of resuming progress by either using continues or loading their saved game into the last stage reached (depending on the version that is being played), which also keeps the number of lives and items collected through.[6]

Controlling the characters is done with a directional pad, which moves the player character in four directions, as well as two attack buttons and a jump button. Harry Jr. can perform a variety of moves such as fighting enemies with his whip or shooting sling stones, boomerangs and explosives. Charging a sling stone for a determined time period allows Harry Jr. to perform a powerful shot against enemies. Harry Jr. can also crouch by pressing both down and the jump button, allowing him to traverse inclosed areas. Depending on the version, each action is assigned into their respective buttons.[3][4][5][6]

Synopsis[edit]

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure takes place after the events of Pitfall II: Lost Caverns, where Pitfall Harry had settled down on his days as an adventurer in order to raise his son, Harry Junior, but became a legend among people due to his feats. Inheriting his father's love for exploration, Harry Jr. grew up to become an adventurer and took upon many quests on his own, prompting Pitfall Harry to miss his old adventure days. Both Harry and Harry Jr. embarked on a journey towards the jungles of Central America to find lost Mayan treasures. After various days, both Harry and Harry Jr. have reached the center of the Mayan empire, hoping to uncover the treasure of Uaxactun. However, as soon as Harry Jr. uncovers the relic, his father is captured by an evil Mayan warrior spirit named Zakelua, leading Harry Jr. to rescue his father from captivity.[3][4][5][6]

Production[edit]

Background[edit]

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure initially featured a different visual style and was being developed for the SNES before transitioning to the Sega Genesis with a new visual approach.

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure was initially in development for the Super Nintendo under the title Pitfall Harry: The Mayan Adventure and formed part in a string of franchise revivals by Activision along with other games such as Kaboom!: The Mad Doctor’s Revenge and River Raid: Mission of No Return, both of which were based on their original Atari 2600 entries respectively.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13] The three titles were showcased at Summer Consumer Electronics Show in 1993 featuring sprite-based visuals, with early promotional materials and previews for Pitfall Harry touting several features not found in the final release such as underwater and flying sections, as well as 32 stages.[14][15][16]

Despite Pitfall being slated for a Winter 1993 launch, the three titles were delayed to 1994 but Kaboom! and River Raid were eventually cancelled for unknown reasons, while the former remained in full development.[10][11][12][15] Kroyer Films, an animation studio who worked on several projects like FernGully: The Last Rainforest, were later brought to assist in the creation of Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure by providing hand-drawn animations and graphics.[1][10][17] The game was later showcased at Summer CES 1994, now under its final name and sporting hand-drawn visuals by Kroyer Films, while the lead platform transitioned from the SNES to Sega Genesis.[10][17]

Development[edit]

Animation[edit]

Bill Kroyer and his studio were brought to assist in the development of Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure alongside Activision.

Bill Kroyer and his studio were approached by Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and his partner Howard Marks to produce animation work for Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure after seeing their previous endeavors, as Kotick wanted high-quality animation for the Pitfall project and although they were seeking multiple studios to be on-board, the company settled with Kroyer Films due to being the only company who hosted ex-Disney animators and were capable of matching Disney's level of quality.[1]

Activision provided several production materials such as concept art, layouts and storyboards to Kroyer Films in order to define how the main character should traverse the constrained levels, while animation required to be consistent in terms of size.[1] Bill and his company interacted several times with the programming team at Activision, who explained them how the process would work and later transpose the hand-drawn sketches lent by the studio into pixel art graphics.[1] Bill stated that the project proved to be both different and challenging for his team, as the studio needed to draw a high number of actions and poses for the characters to perform in-game seamlessly with multiple frames of animation in order for players to not feel taken out from the experience, instead of scripted sequences as seen with their animated feature films.[1]

During a meeting with Activision's creative team to showcase test animation and how the process went, a female worker told Bill that his team should make the main character younger.[1] Once their task was completed, Kroyer Films was no longer involved with the project, which served as their only involvement with video games.[1] Though Disney's Aladdin was released a year earlier for the Genesis, Bill claimed that neither he and his team were aware of its existence.[1] Bill also claimed that FernGully was referenced by members of the team during the design process.[1]

Audio[edit]

Both the music and sound effects were created by Soundelux Media Labs, who would later collaborate alongside Activision with MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat.[3][4][5][6]

Release[edit]

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure was first released for the Sega Genesis by Activision and Sony Electronic Publishing on North America and Europe in 1994 respectively, while it was later released in Brazil by Tectoy on July 1997.[18] The Genesis version has since been re-released through the Wii's Virtual Console on 13 April, 2009 in North America, then in the PAL regions on 15 May 2009 and later in Japan on 25 August 2009.[19][20] The Virtual Console re-release was later delisted on 26 December, 2013 in Japan and at the end of 2013 in North America and PAL regions. The game has been ported to various platforms, with each port featuring several changes and additions. An extra feature in all versions is the ability to play the original Atari 2600 version of Pitfall!, which is done by finding a secret doorway within the fourth stage.

Ports[edit]

The Sega CD version was published in North America by Activision and Europe by Sony Electronic Publishing respectively around the same time period as the Genesis original. It shares the same visual design as the Genesis release but contained extra (and expanded) levels, Redbook CD Audio for an arranged soundtrack, an introductory full motion video sequence, among other enhancements.[21] The Super NES port was handled by Redline Games with additional assistance from Cygnus Software and like the previous two versions, it was published in North America by Activision on November 1994, then in Europe by Sony Electronic on December of the same year and later in Japan by Pony Canyon on 14 July, 1995, as well in Brazil by Playtronic Industrial on March 1996.[4][18][22] The SNES port runs at a lower resolution than both the Genesis and Sega CD versions, as well as changes to the foreground and backgrounds in some stages but features a higher color palette and special effects not found in the Sega versions, besides other alterations.[21]

Windows 95 version screenshot.

The Windows 95 port was made by Kinesoft using their Exodus game technology, which was later reused to make the Windows port of Earthworm Jim: Special Edition and it was published by Activision on August 1995, becoming the first commercial release for the then-recently debuted Windows 95 operating system.[23][24] Developed over the course of eight months and based on the Sega 32X port, this version of the game features redrawn visuals displayed at a 8-bit color art, in-game CD audio and sound effects by Soundelux Media, as well as the extra levels from the Sega CD version.[21][24] The SoftKey version included both America Online's free trial software for Windows 3.1/95, Internet Explorer 3.02 and a Cyber Patrol demo for Windows 3.1/95. This version was also published in Japan by GameBank.[24]

The 32X conversion was co-developed by Big Bang Software alongside Zombie Virtual Reality Entertainment and published by Activision exclusively in North America on October 1995.[5][25] Based on the original Genesis release, the 32X version shares the same visual design as the Windows 95 release and features the additional levels from the Sega CD version, however it runs at 30 frames per second instead of 60 frames, suffering a great amount of slowdown.[21] The Atari Jaguar port was created by Imagitec Design and published by Atari Corporation in North America and Europe on 18 October 1995.[6][26][27] It shares the same visuals as with both the Windows 95 and 32X versions though it contains changes in certain stages and a rearranged soundtrack but runs at 30 frames per second.[21]

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure later received a handheld conversion by Pipedream Interactive for the Game Boy Advance and it was first published by Majesco Sales in North America on 11 June, 2001 and later in Europe by THQ on 21 September of the same year, becoming the last version of the game to be officially released. Based on the SNES port, the GBA version alters the visuals and contains audio issues.[21] An Atari Lynx conversion of the game was in development by Imagitec Design but it never released.[2]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Scores
Genesis Sega CD SNES Windows 32X Jaguar GBA
GameRankings 70%[28] 100%[29] 75.25%[30] N/A 70%[31] 85%[32] 53.09%[33]
Metacritic N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 58 / 100[34]
Review scores
Publication Scores
Genesis Sega CD SNES Windows 32X Jaguar GBA
Aktueller Software Markt 11 / 12[35] N/A 11 / 12[35] N/A N/A N/A N/A
AllGame N/A 4/5 stars[36] 3.5/5 stars[37] N/A N/A 3/5 stars[38] 2/5 stars[39]
Atari Gaming Headquarters N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 7 / 10[40] N/A
The Atari Times N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 65%[41] N/A
Coming Soon Magazine N/A N/A N/A 88%[42] N/A N/A N/A
Computer and Video Games 91 / 100[18] N/A 92 / 100[18] N/A N/A 66 / 100[43] N/A
Computer Game Review N/A N/A N/A 249 / 300[44] N/A N/A N/A
Computer Gaming World N/A N/A N/A 4/5 stars[45] N/A N/A N/A
Consoles + N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 90%[46] 85%[47]
Entertainment Weekly N/A N/A B+[48] N/A N/A N/A N/A
Electronic Gaming Monthly 35 / 50[49] 38 / 50[50] 39 / 50[51] N/A 26.5 / 40[52] N/A N/A
The Electric Playground N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 8.5 / 10[53] 5.5 / 10[54]
Eurogamer N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 5 / 10[55]
Famitsu N/A N/A 30 / 40[56] N/A N/A N/A N/A
GameFan 267 / 300[57] N/A N/A N/A 212 / 300[58] N/A N/A
Game Players 77%[59] N/A 78%[59] N/A 62%[60] 71%[61] N/A
GamePro 16.5 / 20[62] 17.5 / 20[63] 17.5 / 20[64] N/A 13.5 / 20[25] 15.5 / 20[65] N/A
GameSpot N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 4.3 / 10[66]
GameSpy N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 53 / 100[67]
Game Zero Magazine N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 24.0 / 50[68] N/A
Gamezilla N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 75 / 100[69]
GameZone N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 8.0 / 10[70]
IGN N/A N/A N/A N/A 5.0 / 10[71] N/A 5.0 / 10[72]
Jeuxvideo.com N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 12 / 20[73]
Joypad 85%[74] N/A 83%[74] N/A N/A 80%[75] N/A
Joystick N/A N/A N/A 85%[76] N/A N/A N/A
MAN!AC 77%[77] 80%[78] 78%[77] N/A N/A 80%[79] 66%[80]
Mean Machines Sega 89 / 100[81] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Mega Force 89%[82] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Mega Fun 85%[83] 85%[84] 85%[85] N/A N/A 85%[86] N/A
Next Generation N/A 2/5 stars[87] 2/5 stars[88] 3/5 stars[89] 3/5 stars[90] 4/5 stars[91] N/A
Nintendo Power N/A N/A 14.6 / 20[92] N/A N/A N/A N/A
PC Games N/A N/A N/A 90%[93] N/A N/A N/A
PC Joker N/A N/A N/A 88%[94] N/A N/A N/A
PC Player N/A N/A N/A 79 / 100[95] N/A N/A N/A
Player One 92%[96] 90%[97] 92%[96] N/A N/A N/A N/A
Play Time 85%[98] 85%[99] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Score N/A N/A N/A 80%[100] N/A N/A N/A
Sega Power 91%[101] N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
ST-Computer N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 85%[102] N/A
ST Format N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 80%[103] N/A
ST Magazine N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 87%[104] N/A
Video Games 86%[105] 86%[106] 85%[105] N/A N/A 85%[107] N/A
VideoGames 9 / 10[108] N/A 9 / 10[108] N/A N/A N/A N/A
World Village (Gamer's Zone) N/A N/A N/A 4/5 stars[109] N/A N/A N/A
Awards
Publication(s) Award(s)
VideoGames (1994) Best Music (CD)[110]
Power Play (1995) Best Dexterity Game in 1995[111]

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure sold in excess of one million copies by June 1996.[112]

Reviewing the Genesis version, GamePro criticized the lag in the controls, elaborating that "the split-second lag time between his jump and your ability to control his movements again is the difference between a narrow escape and losing a life. The same problem occurs whenever he changes direction - he pauses, you can't control him, and Harry Jr. takes a hit." However, they praised the graphics, the intense action, the music, and the inclusion of the original Pitfall!, and gave the game an overall recommendation, particularly for hardcore platforming gamers.[62]

GamePro gave the Sega CD version a positive review as well. They remarked that the new levels, full motion video sequences, and improved graphics all add to the game, which they noted has the same high challenge, realistic sound effects, and difficult controls as in previous versions.[63] Mike Weigand of Electronic Gaming Monthly commented of the Sega CD version that "Huge levels, excellent animations and nice sound effects make this one an action/adventure winner."[50] In contrast, a reviewer for Next Generation ridiculed the additions to the Sega CD version as unimportant. He concluded that "The game is not bad, just not great."[87]

GamePro applauded the SNES version as having "some of the best character animations ever seen in an SNES game." They also praised the distinctive enemies, realistic sound effects, and entertaining challenge.[64] Next Generation reviewed the SNES version of the game, and stated that "Run of the mill graphics and sound combined with gameplay that is, at best, tedious and uninspired, leave Pitfall interesting as a novelty, but not much else."[88]

A Next Generation reviewer, while noting that the game is "a somewhat hit-and-miss side-scroller that has some cool features", judged the Windows port to be an "excellent" conversion which would satisfy gamers who wanted to play Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure but did not own a console system.[89]

Reviewing the 32X version, the four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly praised the large number of secrets but criticized the difficult controls and the lack of significant improvement from the Genesis version.[52] GamePro dismissed the 32X version for this same reason, summarizing that "nothing has changed in this latest version of Pitfall."[25] A critic for Next Generation concurred that the 32X version's improvements are too minor for the average player to even notice, and again opined that the game is "solid" but "average".[90]

GamePro called the Jaguar version "a fun, colorful action adventure". However, they commented that it is identical to the Genesis and Super NES versions and inferior to the Sega CD version (due to the lack of the "densely layered" sound effects and orchestrated music), which they found disappointing given that the Jaguar is a more powerful system and at this point most people interested in the game would have already played it on another platform.[65] A critic for Next Generation agreed the Jaguar version is essentially the same as previous releases of the game but gave it a more positive assessment than previous reviews in the magazine, concluding that it "maintains a feeling of quality game design from the very beginning, and is well worth checking out, especially if you're an old-school Pitfall fan."[91]

Entertainment Weekly gave the SNES version a B+ and wrote that Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure was successful "mainly because the original Pitfall — a straightforward action game in which a stick-figure hero runs, jumps, and climbs up and down ladders — is far more adaptable to today's 16-bit technology. In fact, this version plays like Indiana Jones in fast-forward, as Pitfall Harry Jr. executes his derring-do amid lush jungle backgrounds, stirring music, and pumped-up sound effects."[48]

Legacy[edit]

The Windows 95 port of Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure was showcased by Bill Gates at E3 1995 to promote the then-upcoming DirectX for his platform, despite the conversion being launched three months before the first incarnation of DirectX and Kinesoft did not used any tools from said technology.[21][24]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Animation work by Kroyer Films
  2. ^ Also known as Pitfall: Mayan's Great Adventure (Japanese: ピットフォール: マヤの大冒険, Hepburn: Pitfall: Mayan no Daibōken) in Japan on the SNES.

References[edit]

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