When Microsoft first launched it’s Xbox Live Arcade format, there was a rush of retro games ported to it, and although each title featured leaderboards, achievements, HD visuals as well as a complete remake of each game in the package, there was an underlying feel that these games were a little bit of a rip off, even if playing Smash TV online was a dream to many.
The novelty factor helped, however and XBL Arcade thrived and eventually became a nesting patch for brand new, original games, Microsoft then removed most of the old Arcade retro content and released the Game Room, a themed space where you could take your Avatar and download and buy packs of ancient games in a virtual arcade.
Game Room, despite the obvious appeal, is very clunky to use in earnest and actually only has very slim novelty appeal, even to those of us who were around in the arcades when these creaky old games were in the ascendance.
However, when Microsoft decided to bring the idea to Windows Phone 7’s Xbox Live, the idea of buying packs of retro arcade games for playing on the go was appealing, even bordering on exciting.
Unfortunately, that excitement dissipates the moment you see any of the games listed in the Marketplace, because you only get one game for your money. That’s right, no packs here, just one twenty year old game for your $2.99(£2.49 UK!).
Pitfall, which we are reviewing here, is one such game, and while it’s Game Room home does have a few nice extras, it is frankly a terribly lazy conversion.
The star of the game is Pitfall Harry, and you must guide him through the dangers of the jungle, swinging from ropes, jumping on crocs and generally acting like a tiny pixilated Indiana Jones.
The idea is to finish the 20 minute timer with as many points as possible. You start with 2000 points, and every time you bump into a non deadly hazard you lose points, although you can collect treasure to increase your total.
The thing I remember the most about Pitfall has always been jumping on the heads of crocs while avoiding their open maws. Back then, it just took timing, skill and patience. Here, you are also wrestling with the virtual joystick. The developer hasn’t done a bad job with the controls, I just feel that the very nature of the game – tiny character requiring lots of tiny and quick movements just doesn’t suit a virtual joystick with a digital movement.
Using ladders and even just jumping scorpions becomes very frustrating.
This only highlights the major fault with the package, that there is no upgraded, modern version of the game included. All the original Xbox Live Arcade games featured this, and the Xbox Game Room games could only be forgiven for not having the feature due to the fact that the games came as packs.
The Game Room wrapping means the game has achievements, medals and a nice online leaderboard that is also cross platform. There is even a 3D Atari 2600 to pan and zoom around, and the addition of a short history of the game is welcome.
The graphics look as ancient as they are, but you can at least choose between stretching the game screen to fit your phone’s display or to run it in a box.
To be honest, for the price, I would expect this to be a pack of five games like this, as in Game Room on Xbox 360 or one game with a fully upgraded option like the original Xbox Live Arcade games.
Having either of these options would give owners of Windows Phone 7 something to genuinely own that would be better than the alternative on iOS and Android. I find it bizarre that Microsoft would choose to go down this route instead, as I doubt that these are going to sell very well at all in their current form.
A poor conversion of a classic game, and a missed opportunity for Windows Phone 7.