Pitfall and its vine-swinging, croc-jumping star should need little introduction for most gamers, having starred in countless titles in the two decades since the game's sensational debut on the Atari 2600. As his latest adventure begins, we find our old hero Pitfall Harry aboard a plane headed towards the jungle flirting with a young female scientist who isn't exactly enamored of his charms. However, the plane encounters problems and crashes into the jungle. Once this happens, the exploration team finds themselves separated from each other. As usual, it's up to Harry to locate his lost expedition which involves exploring more than 40 levels. During his adventure, Harry will also find artifacts and Idols that he can trade with the Shamans to find out information, buy extra items such as health and weapons or even learn new heroic moves. This is quite important because the jungle is a dangerous place. Each level is filled with obstacles including rolling logs, poison darts, giant gaping pits and more insidious traps. Along the way, he'll also encounter a number of his classic foes including the usual crocodiles and scorpions. There are also new enemies including wild monkeys, natives, ninjas and other mercenaries who are looking to prevent Harry from claiming his prize. Harry will also face several bosses including a Jaguar and even other mercenaries that are somewhat hard to defeat. Initially, Harry can only use standard kicks and punches to defeat foes, but he can learn new moves and acquire additional weapons. When he takes damage, Harry can replenish his energy by using the fountains spread throughout each level.
Harry has several unique abilities, the most important of which is swinging from vines. This time, he can position himself on the vines and swing, and how high or low he goes determines how long his jumps are. Harry can also climb walls and ladders, roll through tight spaces, swim through rivers, and use special objects such as slingshots to hit faraway objects. During his quest, he'll also find a variety of objects such as water containers, pix-axes and torches to aid his adventure. The levels are quite large and non-linear, featuring branching paths and hidden areas to explore. In addition to the standard platforming sequences, Pitfall: The Lost Expedition breaks up the action with many interesting puzzles that he has to solve that add depth to the gameplay. Many of these involve switches and keys, which have to be located in order to continue through. In addition to the foes in the jungle, he'll also encounter other characters including a young scientist Nicole, who he has to rescue. Harry will also contact his archaeologist friend Bernard Bittendinder, and an inventor named Leech who will assist him by giving him information and items. These characters work well and integrate nicely into the storyline without getting in the way. Harry's enemies are a bit irreverent as well. The natives dance and sing and some of the bosses have wacky personalities that never leave you feeling threatened or scared, so this title is a good one for younger players as well.
Controlling Harry is a relatively easy task when you're running around on the ground. Harry can grab objects using the c-stick, and double jump to grab onto vines. The vines themselves are much more complicated this time around, since you can move up and down, and swing manually. This is relatively easy early on, but becomes more complicated as you move towards the later levels where you have to swing from multiple vines. You have to line up the camera so Harry jumps in the right direction, which can be a pain. Performing Harry's special attacks is relatively easy, but some of the more complicated attacks might require some practice to perfect. You'd expect that the game would become a bit dull after awhile, but Pitfall: LE introduces many new abilities for Harry to master, giving the gameplay a lot of variety that keeps your interest level high throughout. While the default camera angles are generally decent, there are some areas where you'll need to look around in order to see a path. Luckily, the game allows you to move the camera manually for a better angle. During the course of the adventure, Harry charts his adventure in his handy journal. The journal is also where he can store items and save his progress. Switching between objects on the fly is also relatively easy to accomplish, but most players will find it annoying to have to go to the journal every time they want to use a new object. Playing the game is relatively easy, and most players should progress quickly. Unfortunately, while Pitfall: TLE offers a decent number of nicely spaced save points, it's a memory card hog, and requires plenty of space, which is annoying.
Activision has taken a more humorous and less-serious approach to their franchise this time around, which makes the game's visuals somewhat light-hearted throughout. While the game's older audience might be turned off to some degree by this, the game's environments are large and richly detailed. The game ranges from heated jungles, to dark tombs and icy glaciers, giving players plenty of variety during the course of Harry's adventure. Pitfall: LE's character animations and movements are impressive with fluid motion applied to make Harry's various movements seem somewhat realistic. The game also features decent lighting and environmental effects such as water. These are complimented by humorous animations such as when Harry falls into a pit and it spits him back out, or when he finds himself locked between a crocodile's teeth. These definitely make the gameplay more enjoyable. In addition, several cut-scenes move the story forward with a wink and grin. The music is appropriate to the genre, adding humor or tension when appropriate. Pitfall's voice acting is generally decent, and serves to bring the character's personalities to the forefront. Harry's roguish charm is evident throughout and his commentary makes for a nice counterpoint to the action. Overall, the game
Even though many classic revivals fail to stay
true to their roots, Pitfall: The Lost Expedition is a solid platforming title
that fans of the classic series will enjoy. It's cool to see many of the
traditional elements updated for today's technology. Older Pitfall fans will
also be happy to learn that the first two 2600 titles are also included in the
Gamecube edition as Easter Eggs. You don't really need to have played the
original games to enjoy Pitfall: LE, however, since it's a solid game in its own
right. The game engine looks solid with impressive tropical environments. It has
decent level designs that create plenty of challenge. The only major issues are
an occasionally touchy camera system and somewhat predictable enemies. However,
the game offers entertaining platforming fun with a light-hearted approach.
Pitfall: The Lost Expedition is an excellent installment in the series and once
again proves why the game's appeal is so enduring.