Super Pitfall Review

Super Pitfall

Super Pitfall is one of the worst video games of all time. It is cryptic and glitched to irredeemable levels, making it an unbearable, unplayable gaming experience.

The original Pitfall on the Atari 2600 is seen as one of the most fondly remembered games from the era, but its NES sequel deserves no warm feelings of nostalgia. It’s a game so broken that its only real accomplishment is that it gave the video game medium its most ironic use of the word “super.”

In Super Pitfall, players take control of Pitfall Harry, who must navigate a labyrinth to find a lost princess. It sounds pretty standard, but its execution is far below even the most basic of games.

Pitfall Harry has two basic actions: Jumping and shooting. The game manages to fumble even these most basic of gaming actions. The jumping feels awkward and stiff, and Pitfall Harry can only shoot directly in front of him, which does very little good considering almost all of the enemies crawl on the ground. So unless you time a shot just right when a frog is jumping towards you, or manage to be standing in the right spot when an incoming bird or bat are flying by, you aren’t hitting squat. So the main character’s basic controls don’t work. That alone would ruin the experience. But that’s only the beginning.

The entire game is just cryptic beyond belief. The whole thing evokes the worst kind of trial-and-error, with flat-out unfair enemies and traps (the very first ladder in the game leads to an automatic death). There’s never any indication of where you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to do. It’s just a big guessing game, one in which most guesses lead to death.

Even worse still, things like ammo and secret items that are required to beat the game are all invisible, and located in the most random of places. Even if you manage to reach the princess, nothing happens unless you have all the secret items with you. And backtracking to find them is such a hassle you’d be better off restarting the game (though the best option is to not play Super Pitfall at all).

"Gold is the only item that isn't invisible, and all it does is give you a few extra points."

“Gold is the only item that isn’t invisible, and all it does is give you a few extra points.”

So how do you make these invisible items appear? By jumping in certain spots next to the items. Are there any visual or audio cues to know where these spots are? Of course not. So you’re basically jumping around all over the place like an idiot, blindly hoping that one of the items is nearby. All while avoiding enemies that you can’t hit but can kill you with a single touch.

The game’s cryptic qualities don’t even stop there. Super Pitfall contains secret warp zones to fast travel to different areas of the labyrinth, but once again, there’s no indication as to where they are, and you’ll probably just fall or jump into them by pure accident. One of the game’s most notorious moments is one such warp zone that’s found by jumping into a particular enemy bird, which looks no different than the other enemy birds that kill you when touched. So the game isn’t even consistent with its rules.

As if all this weren’t bad enough, Super Pitfall is also glitched to high heaven. Jumping will often lead Pitfall Harry to get stuck momentarily, and I kid you not, I even died by jumping in one instance (much to my utter confusion and the delight of my friends watching). Just in case the intended gameplay weren’t torturous enough, the glitches ensure that Super Pitfall is downright unplayable.

Combine all of this with the game’s ugly, uninspired visuals and grand total of two musical tracks (both of which are irritating, seconds-long loops), and Super Pitfall is one of the worst things to have ever happened to the NES and, most assuredly, one of the worst video games of all time.

 

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7 thoughts on “Super Pitfall Review

  1. Red Metal

    Seems like you’ve been playing a lot of the games the AVGN reviewed. There’s a whole new dimension of badness when you’ve experienced it for yourself, isn’t there? I felt the same way when I reviewed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

    Super Pitfall is one of those games I can’t believe the developers honestly thought was a finished product when they decided to have cartridges printed. I feel bad for anyone who grew up with the Atari 2600 game and wasted $60 in mid-eighties money on this, thinking it would be good. Also, I wonder how many people fell for that trap by going down the first ladder?

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    1. themancalledscott Post author

      The funny thing is, most of these games are in my brother’s possession. I was visiting with him and found out that our childhoods were eerily similar to the AVGN’s. I borrowed a good number of these games, though Super Pitfall actually belongs to one of my friends, who is actively buying games reviewed by AVGN. He even got me Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a Christmas gift(?). Expect a review for that one soon. Though one of the other ones he got a hold of may be worse than all the ones I’ve reviewed so far…

      You’re right, it’s hard to believe Super Pitfall actually exists. Who in their right mind played it and thought “yeah, that’s good enough. Ship it.” It’s a crime against game design.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Red Metal

        You played a lot of the games the AVGN reviewed as a kid? Man, that’s rough. Aren’t you glad you can research if a game’s good or not nowadays? I know I am. Weirdly, a few of the games he reviewed are ones my brother owned such as Simon’s Quest and Friday the 13th, but they weren’t games I myself ever had. I’d say Pac-Man 2 was one of the worst games I ever owned, and I’m surprised the AVGN never reviewed that one because it would provide him a lot of material to work with. Otherwise, I’m happy to say I didn’t grow up with any of the games I “awarded” a 1/10.

        I rang in the New Year by demolishing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so I’ll look forward to you doing the same!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. themancalledscott Post author

        You know, I actually forgot that I had played some of them (I must have blocked them from my memory), but it was kind of fun to remember them. It gave me an even greater appreciation for the AVGN.

        I think he should definitely do Pac-Man 2. And Sonic 2006 is well overdue (James Rolfe claims it’s “too new,” but Big Riggs was actually newer when he reviewed it than Sonic 06 is now).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mr. Panda

    Sounds like a horrible version of Spelunky. I don’t like games that are overly cryptic for no reason. Or games that have bad jumping. I’m just not going to play this game… I find all the comments about your similarities with AVGN funny though. Could you be transforming into the next AVGN?

    Liked by 1 person

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