Pitfall Planet desperately wants to be the next big couch co-op game, but doesn’t have enough content, or pack the challenge, to back up its charm.
Multiplayer couch co-op and versus games aren’t nearly as popular as they once were, back in the glory days of GoldenEye. Now that it’s possible to play with and against your friends across the world, there’s little need for sharing a singular TV screen. But there remains something special and unique about couch co-op that online play can’t capture: the rage, excitement, and energy are all dialed up to 11. In this regard Pitfall Planet shoots for the stars, and though it is a pleasant diversion, it doesn’t eclipse the genre’s expectations.
The isometric puzzle platformer was originally released as a PC exclusive way back in May of 2016. It’s always strange to think of a co-op game on the computer, imagining friends huddled around a 15-inch screen, sharing a keyboard. So the port to the Nintendo Switch definitely is a natural step; the console is a much better fit for the friendly, cooperative play-style. Pitfall Planet may even be one of the rare games that could be played with two people in the Switch’s portable mode with its simple controls and slower-paced gameplay.
On that note, Pitfall Planet feels a bit strange played on a flatscreen TV, but not because the co-op doesn’t fit the part. Graphically however, and as a puzzle platformer, it looks a lot more like a game you’d see on the iPhone App Store. Perhaps that’s the draw here; to capture the audience of these games and give them the opportunity to mess with friends as they solve simple, low-pressure puzzles.
Pitfall Planet plays out a bit like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, the two players each navigating a cute robot around the perilous world. Because the robots can’t jump, they have to use their grapple ability to grab and throw objects to progress through certain areas. Not only can the robots grab blocks and poles; they can also grab each other! This allows for players to grief their friends by picking them up and throwing them immediately off the level or making it all the way to the end and leaving them behind. Though it’s fun to do every once and awhile, keep in mind that majority of levels will need both players alive until the very end.
The game’s emphasis on cooperation is its greatest strength, fostering the friendship between the two onscreen companions as it builds (or destroys) your own. The charm imbued in the faceless stars of Pitfall Planet is almost enough to carry the game throughout its short playtime. But though the transition from PC to Switch is welcome, the controls don’t quite hit the mark. Moving around the quick levels is a slog, with some elements of the stages working in ways they shouldn’t. It’s seemingly random whether or not a character will be able to make certain “jumps” and the grapple is very cumbersome to aim. The precision is all over the place; with the slight move of the joystick you may accidentally throw your friend into lava (instead of purposefully!).
Pitfall Planet’s puzzles are where the game should truly shine, but they’re far too easy to recommend. The only challenge some players may get from them is if their friend continues to toss them over the edge before they can get their bearings. There’s a decent amount of puzzles for the game’s relatively low price point, but still only enough to fill an afternoon with even the most sabotage-loving friend. While some involve using bounce pads and others involve placing boxes on switches, they’ve all been done before, and better. It’s variety without the creative punch it needs to set itself apart.
From there on, Pitfall Planet continues to feel half-done. It offers the idea of customization: being able to buy cute hats for your robots that you wear throughout the game. However the limited selection and zoomed out view when in action makes these additions feel pretty unnecessary. Accruing gems to purchase these items is more about just watching your gem count increase than anything else.
Outside of the levels there’s a hub world which feels tacked on for no apparent reason. It serves to transition between different “worlds,” allowing players to hop in a buggy and drive around. The buggy’s controls are nearly impossible to handle, allowing both players to drive and throttle; you’ll end up doing donuts for the entirety of the ride. It’s a fun idea, just executed without much tact.
Pitfall Planet has all the markings of a fun co-op experience. It requires working together (single-player is entirely impossible too though) and only offers offline play. The world it sets up is adorable and the core mechanics are easy to pick up and lend themselves to a variety of puzzles. Unfortunately, with its wonky controls and uninspired execution, the game just can’t quite hold the attention of two people long enough before one inevitably decides its time to throw their friend into lava.
Pitfall Planet is available on Nintendo Switch for $14.99 and on Steam for $9.99. Screen Rant was provided a Switch copy for the purposes of this review.