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Pitfall: The Lost Expedition - GC - Review

If the video game industry were a movie, it'd be called Game Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Remakes.  You can't flip through a game magazine or surf a gaming site without hearing about another new update, remake, or side-story to a classic game.

Normally when everyone jumps on a bandwagon like this gamers just roll their eyes, stop making purchases, and cause the industry to move onto something else.  But in this case many of the “new” classic games are very good.  So good in fact that you forget about the series' history and just enjoy the experience of the present game.

Such is the case with Pitfall: The Lost Expedition.  Is it lost?  No.  Is it an expedition?  Yes, and a very good one at that.  You know and love (or at least remember) the original Pitfall as a game where you ran, jumped over things, and tried your best not to get hit by anything.  That is essentially what you do in The Lost Expedition but on a much grander scale.  In other words, this isn't just an Atari game with pretty graphics and 3D illusions.

The easiest way to visualize the game in action is to think of Crash Bandicoot's game worlds.  They were short and very linear.  Now expand them and take away some of the linearity.  That's the base of Pitfall's worlds.  Add an array of things you'd expect to find in a jungle (vines, lots of trees, man-eating plants, etc.), throw in a few dozen "pitfalls" to increase your chances of dying, and you've got the latest and greatest addition to the Pitfall family.

With the evolution of Pitfall comes one necessary change: the ability to fight back.  You're no longer a weak explorer who runs from danger.  Yeah, you'll run from it alright, but if the danger isn't too big (like a crocodile) or too powerful (like a giant, Pitfall Harry-devouring plant), then tap the B button and show 'em what you're made of.  It's a simple punch, but it's more than enough to scare off any of the little critters that are running amok.

Accompanying the punch attack are punch combos (basic, single-button combos), a double-jump, a low sweep-kick, and a crouch move that makes Pitfall Harry look like Sonic the Hedgehog.  He scrunches his body into a tiny ball, enabling you to move in and out of tight areas.  It's great for the player, but man, his back must feel awful after doing that for several hours.  Sleeping on the ground (as most explorers do) will only make it worse.

With so much good, the only bad thing about the controls is the C-stick.  The C-stick, as many of you are aware, stands for "camera stick."  Nintendo thought that it was better to remove the four yellow buttons present on the N64 controller and replace them with a single stick.  When used for its intended purpose, the stick works great.  It's small but easy to handle and is very intuitive.

Pitfall: The Lost Expedition does not use the stick for its intended purpose.  For some reason it was thought that it would be cool to use the C-stick as a grabbing tool.  Push it up, down, and all around to grab items or pull levers that are right in front of Harry.

In actuality this is not very cool at all.  Items can be collected and levers can be pulled easily in other games just by pressing a single button.  No hassle, just a button a press.  And while I wouldn't say it's a hassle to use the stick for item-snatching, it is a pain not having good control over the camera!  That's the real reason for my complaint.  A camera stick should only be used for that purpose.  There are probably some exceptions to the rule, but not for a game of this kind.  The L and R buttons move the camera, but it's not as smooth or as intuitive as it could have been had they used the C-stick.

Is that a reason to avoid this game?  Not at all.  I don't think anyone should avoid it.  It's definitely a must-rent for most GameCube owners, especially those who like the platform or action/adventure genres.  It is a good buy, and retails for that wonderful new standard price point of $39.99 (I remember when all brand-new games retailed for no less than $50; some even reached $60!).  You wouldn't want to buy a game just because it's cheaper, but with Pitfall: The Lost Expedition, you're not getting a cheaper gameplay experience.  It's shorter, and a lot less involved than Jak II, has less innovation than Mario, and isn't as fast as Sonic.  But not every movie can be an Academy Award-winner, and not every game can be a work of art.  That doesn't mean that other movies aren't worth seeing, nor does that mean that other games aren't worth playing.

Review Scoring Details for Pitfall: The Lost Expedition on GameCube


Gameplay: 8
If you're like Austin Powers, you probably like to swing.  If you're like Wayne from Wayne's World, you probably like to schwing.  Pitfall: The Lost Expedition won't get you the "schwing," but it will have you swinging for hours.

 

From platform to platform, from vine to vine, Pitfall moves at a great pace.  You can stop and smell the roses, look for items, and try to unearth each and every secret.  But that's not really the kind of game this is, and quite frankly I'm glad.  You could spend an entire night just exploring the worlds of Jak II or Ratchet and Clank.  That'll stay fun as long as there aren't too many copycats.

 

In Pitfall, you could easily spend a night getting through most if not all of the game.  The shorter length isn't what I'm praising, but rather how much progress you can make so quickly.  The worlds are pretty big in size, but it's possible to just run-and-jump through them, enjoying the moment and not dwelling too much on fine details.

Graphics: 8
Decent, colorful and cartoony characters and game worlds.

Sound: 8
Subtle sound effects with a small amount of music.  Done very effectively.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Hardcore gamers might not be too happy about the game's simplicity.

Concept: 8
It took 'em a long time, but Pitfall has finally made the jump into the third dimension.

Overall: 8
Pitfall has its flaws, which I've pointed out in both this review and my review of the PS2 version.  But what I've found in reviewing two versions of the same game is that, unlike most titles which become boring quickly, Pitfall: The Lost Expedition is still fun.  It's good for multiple play-throughs in a row.  How many games can you say that about?  I can list a few, most of which were released a year or two ago.  If nothing else, this game captured the essence of what it means to be a fun game.

 

Great

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