Legitimately, the game ‘Pitfall’ is on nearly everyone’s list of the Top 100 games of all time. It is a classic, one of the very first examples of an adventure-plaformer that features effective animation, fun hazards and an appealing premise. It was on the older Atari console systems, but it never actually found its way onto the Lynx (unlike ‘Missile Command’ and other retro classics). Why? We don’t know, but some clever contemporary game designers have remedied this; and here we have the free downloadable ROM and ‘Pitfall’ clone, ‘Jungle Jack’!
The object of the game is to navigate Jack through the jungle environment and collect all the treasures, whilst avoiding the ever-present obstacles and wild animals roaming around the grassy surface and underground tunnels. To do that, you’ll be running and jumping a lot, as well as leaping onto the occasional vine (or climbing ladders). Oh, and you’ll need to pick your own path, high and low; so watch out for scorpions! You only have three lives. If you want a challenge, you’ve come to the right place!
Don’t expect wild, jazzed up graphics in ‘Jungle Jack’. There's not even a title screen! Yes, this is a port for the fans, and soon-to-be fans; it's authentic to the original. And thankfully, there haven’t been any enhancements made to the visuals, nor should there be. If you appreciated the early retro graphics of ‘Pitfall’, you are going to love seeing the Lynx represent these visuals with aplomb. If you don’t like retro graphics, you may not particularly like what you see here (or the original game for that matter). But for fans like me, this game has got it exactly right. ‘Jungle Jack’ is a faithful representation of the aesthetics, even down to the animations. It’s very well done.
Sound-wise, ‘Jungle Jack’ draws inspiration again from the source material. Deeply retro sounds hit your eardrums, and you’ll honestly think you are playing an Atari 2600 at times! Yes, you will miss the “Tarzan-esque” jingle when Jack swings from a vine, but there are so many other juicy chiptune-like sound effects to get your ears around, so it doesn’t feel like such a detriment. No music of course - the original game didn’t have it either. So again, no music is a fair decision to make, unless you want to alter a classic; not an easy decision to make, that one!
Controls, thankfully, are brilliant and responsive. I didn’t have any issues leaping scorpions and swinging from vines. When I fell in a pit, I knew why; cos I messed up! At times you will want your character to drag out an Indiana Jones whip and fight off the crocodiles, but Jack doesn’t operate that way; it’s jump, jump, jump, buddy! There’s no need for a tutorial because the instructions of the game are so simple, anyone could pick it up and start playing it. But you’ll have to be a good explorer to begin discovering just where to go and what to do!
Which leads me to commenting on ‘Jungle Jack’s longevity and challenge factor, which is obviously (if you are a fan) highly rigorous. Don’t expect continue points. Don’t expect nice invincibility shields. This is a hardcore, no holds barred platformer with no hand-holding whatsoever. The rolling logs coming toward you are the least of your concerns. It’s timing. It’s crocs. It’s that water pool. It’s a maze! You see where I am going with this. Unless you are a ‘Pitfall’ aficionado, you won’t directly know where to go to complete this game. But with practice, you’ll make advancements. Then, after you lose all your lives, it’s up to your memory to remember where you went last time; unless you draw yourself a map, of course (as many have!)
The criticism in this kind of game, of course, is that it’s old; yes, it’s very old now. And if you’re new to it, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. For some players it may become one of those fascinating museum pieces, where they understand how this game became the blueprint for so many others (like ‘Adventure’ on old Atari systems). For others, though, ‘Jungle Jack’ will represent a brilliant answer to the gap in the Atari Lynx’s lineup of older, classic retro Atari games. It shows, yep, the Lynx can do it; and PLEASE can we have a classic Atari Retro Collection already, we’ve waited 30 years for it! Not like I’ve been counting or anything!
Ahem, pardon me. Anyhow, regardless of the non-presence of many classic Atari games in the Lynx lineup, I’m just happy someone ported the awesome little title of ‘Pitfall’ in the form of ‘Jungle Jack’, so that I can attempt it once again. Not only that, but it’s in a brilliant, portable form (should you have the hardware to put the ROM in your Lynx console). Have a go and see if you find the source of ‘Power Factor’, ‘Xenophobe’ and ‘Gordo #106’ game styles in THIS little beauty. And while you are doing that, I’ll be having another go controlling this Jumping Jack.
Have at you, scorpions!Score Card
This review was submitted by Jon Mc from JMac Productions