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
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.
If you’re like
Austin Powers, you probably like to swing. If you’re like
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.
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.
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.
and cartoony characters and game worlds.
effects with a small amount of music. Done very effectively.
might not be too happy about the game’s simplicity.
It took ’em a
long time, but Pitfall has finally made the jump into the third dimension.
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.