Review / Test:
Maybe you've played a Pitfall game before, maybe you haven't. It doesn't really matter, as Pitfall: The Lost Expedition for Nintendo GameCube and other systems starts on new grounds. New developer, new story, new graphic style, it's all new and it's probably made that way to give aging adventure character Harry Pitfall, a new audience as well.
Regardless how new the game is, Pitfall still falls for the same old loves and, unsurprisingly, we meet him in a plane flying a group of explorers to the Peruvian jungle. It's not exactly how things start though, the game is presented in a long flashback, it's a little bit original, a wee bit stylish, it doesn't make much difference in the end, but the effort is worth noting, because it's also a hint Pitfall is a cinema-influenced game.
While Harry's trip is solely for pleasure (i.e. treasure hunting), his fellow explorers are on a mission to retrieve a famous missing colleague. Harry is going to get involved in this quest, not only because he's a good guy always ready to help out but also because Nicole, behind her glasses, is one hell of a sexy... BANG ! The plane just crashed and you are Harry. Immediately, you'll enjoy the simple yet intuitive control scheme and the rather luxurious jungle surrounding.
At first glance, the game doesn't seem to let you "free-roam" a great deal of area. Levels are restraint, focusing on straight-forward action, they are often built as paths in a way which reminds of Crash Bandicoot, definitely not a reassuring thought for starters. But do not let this first impression abuse you, more open levels come soon after, and the more you progress, the bigger the levels get with multiple paths and big sceneries to look at.
More difficult to overcome, the unpleasantness one might feel toward the character design. It's really a peculiar choice, characters have big feet, big hands, big head and a small body (well, except when it comes to the ladies' bosom). It's not derisive like Japanese SD style, the proportions are very different, but in a way, it's much less good, because it's neither funny, nor nice to look at. This is particularly felt when watching Harry and Nicole.
The same could be said about the characters' animation during the cinematics, which is really choppy. However, because the game is good, it's something you will eventually overcome, no matter how much the graphic style irritates you. Pitfall - The Lost Expedition has, among other things, an excellent gameplay, especially at the beginning. It's only a matter of seconds before you feel at ease controlling the character, nothing somewhat complicated like Mario's jetpack hose or Link's maestro batons (that's a blow to Nintendo).
It gains in complexity only when you are nearing the end because you'll be using different items and techniques. In addition to its early simplicity, the gameplay is original, the C stick literally becomes your hand as you manoeuver it to grab items and reach out for levers. When you need to drink a potion, you take the bottle out of your backpack and bring it to your lips by moving the C stick, your hand, upward. When using the raft or the pickaxes, an item which allows you to climb ice walls, you have to move alternately the analogic stick and the C stick, each one controlling one hand of Harry. All this is well thought !
Interestingly, Pitfall is also a game where you can feel inspiration coming from Nintendo games. And unlike what you may think, Zelda is not the main source, it's Metroid instead. Harry can roll himself into a ball, which is pretty ridiculous, and he collects power-up items in a very Metroid sort of way. To be thorough, there's also a brief and hilarious parody of one of Zelda's most famous trademarks somewhere in the course of the game. Pitfall is even more influenced by its own gaming history and this is not neglectable because it provides some of the best moments when playing.
If the vine swinging is not as reaslistic and seamless as in Zelda, the whole crocodile business is simply excellent. Crocodile's back can be used as a platform, steady or moving, the only requirement is to cross it fast because if you don't the crocodile tries to snap at you. If you are in the water, you have to swim away as fast as possible or you will have to fight for your life in the gator's jaw ! Among the other interesting enemies, there are the Howler Monkeys and the natives, some tribal warriors whose face is hidden behind a thick wooden mask, both are noisy bunches, fun to deal with.
The Lost Expedition actually favors entertainment over challenge. The game, except in a very few scenes, is not really difficult, the player is provided with everything he could wish for: saving, continues, lots of lives and points to replenish them. Although there are things to collect which give it a rather satisfying lastability, it's not either a game you will play again and again, it's quite over once you beat it and you might not feel like trying to collect the very last missing idol statues. It's a pity because it's what you need to do if you want to unlock the original Atari 2600 Pitfall! and Pitfall! II hidden in the game.
Nevertheless, this Pitfall game is a pleasant surprise from not-so-always inspired Activision. It has some very good ideas, some of the best I've had the pleasure to witness in a while (the female gorilla very angry when her baby is fond of you), it's quite fun to play and it's a brilliant tribute to an old kind of adventure flicks, with a group of people looking for lost cities somewhere in the depth of a South American or African jungle. Really an interesting flavor if you like that style. There's also a lot of humour and some Disney-like elements, which may or may not entertain a different crowd. The only very negative point of Pitfall: The Lost Expedition, on GameCube at least, is the amount of space the game takes on a memory card: 51 blocks ! This is nothing but a shame, and many won't be willing to give a chance to this interesting action/adventure title just because of that excessive requirement.
Samurai Nintendo thinks this game is suitable for everyone (kids over 7, teens and adults)