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Gamecube Review - 'Pitfall: The Lost Expedition'

by The Cookie Snatcher on March 15, 2004 @ 2:15 a.m. PST

Take an adventure as Pitfall Harry, the daring, risk-taking explorer who laughs in the face of danger. Featuring over 50 levels of fast-paced action and puzzle solving adventures, the game challenges players to swing, fight, climb and crawl through eight types of treacherous South American environments including lush jungles, dark tombs, ancient Aztec ruins and glacial mountains. Read more for the full review ...

Genre : Action/Adventure
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Edge of Reality
Release Date: February 18, 2004

Buy 'PITFALL: The Lost Expedition': Xbox | GameCube| PlayStation 2

Before the founders of Activision broke away from the tyranny of Atari back in the early 80's, the platforming genre was basically non-existent. It wasn't until the liberated brutes kicked out Pitfall! for their former employer's Atari 2600 console that jumping, climbing, swinging, and swashbuckling through side-scrolling, obstacle-laden environments became a cornerstone of videogame design. Yes, the original Pitfall! paved the way for thousands of platformers to come. But then came the inevitable onslaught of sub-par Pitfall follow-ups and sequels, and poor Pitfall Harry was left standing out in the cold, holding his whip in the wind. Luckily, his newest adventure, Pitfall: The Lost Expedition, has found its way to a console near you and it's actually not that bad of a game.

Unlike every other previous Pitfall passage, the game's titular hero gets a substantial personality makeover in The Lost Expedition. Harry is a quirky yet quick, boorish yet brave, goofy yet gutsy protagonist who wouldn't think twice before putting the moves on a pretty lady that strikes his fancy. The story begins as Harry, his colleague Dr. Bittenbinder, and Dr. B's associate Nicole are onboard a passenger plane that is suddenly struck by lightning and downed in the dangerous jungles of South America. Harry narrates the story himself and tells it as if recounting moments from the past, which makes sense since he is in fact recounting moments from his past. At first, Harry is pre-occupied with attempting to track down his colleagues and lost items but as the game progresses the story splits off into all manner of crazy paths.

The gameplay in The Lost Expedition is similar to that of Capcom's Maximo games, which is to say that Harry can run in any direction, jump, double jump, and utilize several different weapons. Also like Maximo, Harry will oftentimes be tasked with accomplishing tricky platform jumps that require precise timing and timed precision to successfully land. The Lost Expedition goes about tying the game's many different areas together through allowing the player to access certain areas only after they have retrieved the required item from another area first. For example, towards the beginning of the game you'll notice an icy ledge that can't quite be reached simply by jumping, but once Harry acquires the pickax item he can scale the wall lickety-split. Many different items will be found during the course of the experience; some of which are event-specific, some of which are particularly useful for the following level, and some of which you'll find yourself using quite a bit - like the torch. Once you have an item equipped, Harry is able to manipulate it using the right analog stick, which actually control's Harry's right arm. It's a pretty interesting gameplay mechanic and it turns out to be both functional and fun.

The way Harry moves around and interacts with his environment hearkens back to the days of Pitfall! yore, but being that the original game is around two decades old, the developers thought it might be necessary to add a liberal dose of combat into the mix. Harry starts off with some basic punching attacks and a jump kick, but more moves can be purchased or obtained in certain levels. The enemies in the game don't often pose much of a threat and can usually be felled using only Harry's stock attacks, but as the game wears on you'll face a few bigger and badder baddies that require a little more brute force to defeat. Also, be prepared to take a few hits when multiple enemies decide to bum rush you, or when the game's camera system decides to give you an unfortunate perspective. But again, more powerful attacks is usually the answer to dealing with groups of enemies.

The various platforming obstacles that pepper the experience do a great job of keeping you on your toes without being too frustrating in the process. You'll swing from vine to vine, jump atop the heads of dangerous crocodiles, and double jump your way over opening and closing pits. Occasionally, you'll swear that the game has a death wish when a seemingly perfectly executed jump on your part doesn't quite do the trick. For the most part though, the running and jumping mechanics featured in The Lost Expedition are spot-on. The game does sometimes force you to backtrack in order to reach your next destination, which can be frustrating when you're tired of a particular level's jumping puzzles. In all you can expect to clock in just under 10 hours in order to complete the game, though the added incentive of collecting all the items and unlocking the original Pitfall! and Pitfall 2 games does add some potential additional lifespan to the title.

Visually, Pitfall: The Lost Expedition isn't one of the best looking games on the GameCube, but it is more than capable of dishing out lots of nice character animations and adequately detailed environments ranging from lush jungles, lava-flooded caves, and icy terrain. The graphical style of the game is decidedly over-the-top and on the cartoony side; featuring characters with exaggerated bodies and heads and lots of colorful scenery throughout the game's 10 different areas. Texture quality could be better and the water effects are just plain wrong, but overall the game looks and moves better than a lot of other 3D platformers currently on store shelves. In terms of sound, The Lost Expedition does a great job manipulating multiple aural aspects to culminate into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. The voice acting is a tad over-the-top, but in a good way - Harry in particular really comes off as genuinely funny character without ever stepping over the line into the territory of annoying, which is surprising given the game's dependence on comical anecdotes. The soundtrack boasts some impressive orchestral tracks that are tailored specifically for the level that they are featured in. Sound effects don't seem like they are ripped out of every other game you've ever played and actually sound creative and original.

Overall, Pitfall: The Lost Expedition isn't the breakthrough comeback that fans of the original have been hoping for over the last 20 years, but it is a good, solid, platformer that manages to stay entertaining for the duration of the experience - which, unfortunately, isn't all that long. If you can deal with the occasional platform jumping mishaps and sometimes slutty camera system, you should find a lot to like here. We're recommending Pitfall: The Lost Expedition as a renter or bargain bin purchase.

Score: 7.5/10

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