Pitfall: The Lost Expedition Impressions

We get a peek at a new version of Activision's upcoming platformer.

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Pitfall Harry's come a long way since his days on the Atari 2600, and now he's making the jump to the Xbox and PlayStation 2 consoles in Pitfall: The Lost Expedition. At a press event last night, we got a chance to run through parts of Harry's latest adventure, and it appears that this 3D platformer has retained both the series' classic conventions and its Indiana Jones-style spirit. Luckily, it will feature some new twists.

In the level we played, Harry's plane crashed in the middle of a jungle. He then woke up and found himself separated from his companions and outside, which provided him with the chance to explore his surroundings. In the new game, Harry has access to the platformer-standard jump and double-jump and is able to land a good punch on foes. Items like stone totem poles and glass can be punched too, thus providing Harry with access to different areas. Most of the time you'll run around the different environments, but you can also tiptoe to sneak past sleeping enemies, or you can crouch down to avoid certain traps. Furthermore, crouching allows you to roll through tiny spaces that you couldn't access otherwise. Harry can traverse gaps and can avoid natural hazards by jumping onto vines and then swinging to safety. Additionally, he has retained the ability to use crocodiles as stepping-stones so that he can make it across bodies of water. However, he can also swim at a fair clip. Besides Harry's punch, you can use certain button combinations to deliver kicks that can temporarily stun enemies. You may also purchase higher-level attacks from shamans, in addition to extra health and various items. Items are queued up and used with the right analog stick. (One of the items that we obtained was a canteen that could be filled at healing springs and then sipped from to restore health.)

Some of the puzzles we encountered were centered on item-hunting. For instance, we found one particular stone wall that could only be blown up after obtaining TNT. We also found an area that was blocked by a spiderweb that could only be removed after finding and using a torch to burn it away. Other areas were accessible only after climbing a ruin-like structure to flip a lever, while in some areas you had to stand on switches to raise stone platforms. Still other areas required defeating a group of enemies to advance. We even once had to climb to ever-greater levels around a giant tree while water poured in, which gave the game a nice bit of variety in manners of progression. Also, the game is rather forgiving in some aspects. For example, falling into a toothy pit just gets you chewed up and spit out again--with the loss of some health. Moreover, you can actually pry yourself out of a crocodile's jaws and then hop back to shore, only slightly worse for the wear.

The game environments looked quite nice, with the jungle in particular sporting all manner of lush vegetation and the occasional stone figure. We were able to run through a short cave and explored an old temple, where one room had a console that allowed you to play the original Atari version of Pitfall. The character models feature a cartoon-style look, present a nice amount of detail, and demonstrate a good range of facial expression while speaking. Harry, in particular, looks quite distinctive. Though both console versions were attractive, the Xbox had somewhat cleaner textures and better lighting effects than did the PlayStation 2.

Fans of the Pitfall series who are seeking a new adventure--and those who can't get enough of platformers--should keep their eyes on Pitfall: The Lost Expedition. The game seems to be polishing up nicely for its planned release on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, which is scheduled for later this month. Look for more on the game this Friday.

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