Pitfall: The Lost Expedition is worth checking out for any PC player on the lookout for a good platformer.
In many ways, the original Pitfall! for the Atari 2600 can be held primarily responsible for inventing the modern platforming genre. Without that seminal game, we would have never experienced the trials and tribulations of Pitfall Harry, jumping over pits, climbing up and down ladders, and swinging from vine to vine across the dense jungles--or, at least as dense as the 2600 was capable of rendering. Since Harry's original adventure, many games have built upon the basic platforming concepts found in that game, consistently pushing the envelope of what platforming can be. Yet somehow, in a sad twist of irony, most of the subsequent games featuring the Pitfall moniker didn't do anything for the genre, instead serving as little more than lame retreads of previously explored territory. Earlier this year, Activision delivered its latest addition to the series on consoles, titled Pitfall: The Lost Expedition. Much like many of its Pitfall predecessors, it didn't break any manner of new ground, yet it still managed to be pretty fun on its own merits. Now The Lost Expedition is available for PCs, and though it features a few more annoying control restrictions than its console counterparts, it's still a solid platformer.
The Lost Expedition does add one slight innovation to the series, in that it opts to give its protagonist a legitimate personality this time around. This iteration of Harry is certainly not the same faceless, pixelated fellow that we've all come to know over the years--nay, the new Pitfall Harry is quite different. The new Harry is dashing, daring, and, at least in his own mind, quite the lady-killer. The story of The Lost Expedition begins with our hero battling for his life against a demonic jaguar amid a ring of fire. After some intense combat, Harry, thinking he has won, lets his guard down, allowing the jaguar to get the best of him. Right as he's about to be dealt the seemingly final blow, Harry begins to narrate, and we're whisked back in time to the previous day, aboard a rickety passenger plane filled with various explorer types. Harry is chatting it up with a fellow explorer by the name of Dr. Bittenbinder, who just happens to be traveling with a young, beautiful, and slightly bookwormish associate named Nicole. Suddenly, lightning strikes the plane and it is sent spiraling down toward the thick South American jungle.
The entire plot of the game is told through between-mission narration by Harry. Initially, the story simply revolves around Harry's attempts to round up lost members of the expedition who were aboard the doomed plane. However, after some time, things spiral off into a number of silly directions. Ancient prophecies and cities are discovered, rival tribes square off with one another, an old rivalry between Harry and an evil explorer named Jonathan St. Claire is renewed, and, further adding to the utter wackiness of it all, you are eventually befriended by a talking cheetah. Without diving too heavily into spoiler territory, it can be said that the story of The Lost Expedition features some exceptionally dumb plot points, but thankfully, the game in no way tries to take itself seriously. Apart from hokey, eye-rolling moments, the dialogue and story progression are pretty amusing, and there are more than a few clever Indiana Jones references to keep you on your toes. Though you'll never find yourself heartily chuckling at any of the game's gags, you'll certainly be entertained.
Most of The Lost Expedition's gameplay follows the industry standard for platformers to the letter. Harry can jump and double-jump over various objects and platforms, engage in some fairly simplistic combat, and use various weapons and items that he picks up along the way. Many of the items Harry uses throughout the game actually tie in to the progression of the overall story. Numerous areas in the gameworld are blocked off, and only specific items will allow Harry to traverse them. For instance, you'll come across large walls that must be climbed with a pickax or blown apart with dynamite, passages blocked by gaseous plants that can only be circumvented using a gas mask, and objects that need to be knocked over using a basic slingshot. To use these items, you have to equip them, and then use them via a dual-analog controller's right control stick or a keyboard's arrow keys. This mechanic actually independently controls Harry's right arm and lets him use items and pick up objects you encounter during the game. It's kind of a neat mechanic, and it's certainly more interesting than your standard "action button" concept.
The one issue that stems from this right-arm control concept, however, is actually the one main issue that separates the PC version of Pitfall from the console versions. Basically, if you plan to play the game on a keyboard, then you've got nothing to worry about, as keyboard control plays fine. However, if you plan to use a dual-analog controller, you'll need to use a high-end model. We tried the game with a couple of different controllers, and actually found that the game wouldn't fully recognize the controller's right analog axis. The controller would only go side to side, and not a full 360 degrees, eliminating any ability to move Harry's arm up or down, both of which are highly necessary to play the game effectively. However, on our third try, we were able to get the full range of axis motion using a Thrustmaster dual-trigger controller. If you have a controller that doesn't work quite right, you can always switch back and forth between the controller and keyboard, but that gets very annoying very quickly.
Combat in The Lost Expedition is much more of a necessity than you might initially think when first picking up the game. From the get-go, Harry can execute a few basic strike moves and a jumping kick, and as the game goes on, he can purchase new attacks from various shamans that appear in certain levels. Most enemies are easily dispatched using weapons and basic combat moves, but a few tougher ones require upgraded attacks. The only truly frustrating thing about the game's combat is that the action can get pretty hectic when multiple enemies are attacking, and a combination of a lack of real defense on Harry's part and a rather stuttery camera makes things more difficult than they need to be. You will eventually come upon a shield that Harry can use during combat, but it only blocks attacks coming from the front and from directly above, leaving plenty of vulnerable areas. More often, your best bet is to just punch and run or, in later stages of the game, use specialty attacks like spin kicks and such to try to clear the area as quickly as possible. This isn't always an option, and it depends on how accessible enemies are and how many of them there are. Also, the camera has a tendency to adjust to a position that prevents you from seeing more than half the enemies onscreen. For the most part the game's combat system works just fine, but when its clunkier aspects appear, they tend to stick out.
- Player Reviews: 1
- Game Universe:
- Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure (32X, GBA, PC, JAG, SNES, GEN, SCD),
- Pitfall: The Lost Expedition (GC, GBA, PS2, XBOX, PC),
- Pitfall! (INTV, C64, 2600, 5200, CVIS, MSX, A800),
- Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (C64, 2600, 5200, CVIS, MSX, A800, PC, APL2),
- Pitfall: Beyond the Jungle (GBC),
- Pitfall 3D: Beyond the Jungle (PS),
- Super Pitfall (NES),
- Pitfall: The Lost Expedition Glacier (MOBILE),
- Pitfall: The Lost Expedition Jungle (MOBILE),
- Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (ARC)
- Number of Players: