Genre : Action/Adventure
Release Date: September 20, 2004
Pre-order 'PITFALL: The Lost Expedition': PC
The original Pitfall! (released in 1982 on Atari’s then-dominant 2600 console) paved the way for thousands of platformers to come. The game was created by the founders of Activision after the down-and-out programmers were liberated from the tyranny of Atari’s controlling grasp. The jumping, climbing, swinging, and swashbuckling through side-scrolling, obstacle-laden environments of Pitfall! proved quite popular and have been a fundamental part of videogame design ever since.
But it wasn’t until Pitfall 3D for the Playstation in 1998 that this hugely influential franchise evolved Harry from 2D sprites into polygons. Pitfall 3D was a solid but somewhat disappointing rendition of gaming’s platforming hero. Developer Edge of Reality’s Pitfall: The Lost Expedition, which was released just over six months ago on the PS2, GameCube, and Xbox, managed to put Pitfall Harry back on the treasure hunting map and now publisher Aspyr is hoping to release the game on the PC platform this September. While the game’s default control system on the preview build we received was in apparent need of some fine-tuning, Pitfall: The Lost Expedition PC looks to be right on par with the console versions and in some aspects even better.
Unlike every other previous Pitfall passage, the game’s titular hero gets a substantial personality makeover in The Lost Expedition. Harry is a quirky yet quick, boorish yet brave, goofy yet gutsy protagonist who wouldn’t think twice before putting the moves on a pretty lady that strikes his fancy. The story begins as Harry, his colleague Dr. Bittenbinder, and Dr. B’s associate Nicole are onboard a passenger plane that is suddenly struck by lightning and downed in the dangerous jungles of the Peruvian jungle. Harry narrates the story himself and tells it as if recounting moments from his past, which makes sense since he is in fact recounting moments from his past as you experience them first hand. At first, Harry is pre-occupied with attempting to track down his colleagues and salvage whatever he can from this disastrous expedition but as the game progresses the story will split off into all manner of crazy paths.
Harry can run in any direction, jump, double jump, and utilize several different weapons through over 40 unique connected levels. Not straying too far from his running-and-jumping roots, Harry will oftentimes be tasked with accomplishing tricky platform jumps that require precise timing and timed precision to successfully land. Players will make their way through the game’s lush and detailed environments, occasionally happening across an NPC that teaches Harry a new ability or presents him with a new item. To access certain areas you’ll first need to learn or obtain these abilities and items and utilize them to reach areas that are otherwise inaccessible. For example, you’ll notice an icy ledge that can’t quite be reached simply by jumping, but once Harry acquires the pickax he can scale the wall lickety-split.
The way Harry moves around and interacts with his environment is smooth and seamless, presenting an unusual amount of control to the player while remaining focused, functional, and fun. The game utilizes a unique control scheme for items, allowing players to equip various items and interact with them by controlling the movement and direction of Harry’s hands. This worked great on the console versions but doesn’t translate well over to a PC keyboard. Plugging in a dual analog stick controller and performing some minor button mapping tweaking fixed all that, however.
The various platforming obstacles that pepper the experience do a great job of keeping you on your toes without being too frustrating in the process. You’ll swing from vine to vine, bounce atop the heads of dangerous crocodiles, and double jump your way over opening and closing pits. For the most part, the running and jumping mechanics featured in the PC version of The Lost Expedition are spot-on. The inclusion of the original Pitfall! and Pitfall 2 games will certainly help to add some incentive for old-school fans.
Visually, Pitfall: The Lost Expedition is looking better than ever on the PC. The game is constantly dishing out lots of nice character models and accompanying animations and with the higher resolution of this port you’ll be able to see all the nuances that went into the game’s many wonderfully rendered character models. The levels in The Lost Expedition are colorful and crisp, though not overly cartoony, and feature detailed environments ranging from lush jungles, lava-flooded caves, and icy terrain. Also, it looks as if developer Beenox has went to the effort of noticeably increasing the detail and polygon count of Harry and the rest of the cast, an appreciated improvement. In terms of sound, The Lost Expedition retains all the aural goodness of its console predecessor. The nicely orchestrated music, comical sound effects, and excellent voice acting culminate into something that is greater than the sum of its respective parts.
If you haven’t had a chance to swing with Harry in Pitfall: The Lost Expedition then keep an eye out for the PC version when it’s released later this September. Assuming Beenox is able to simplify the control scheme by the time it goes gold, or assuming you own a dual analog controller to help sidestep the keyboard control issue, it looks as if The Lost Expedition will be a journey you won’t want to miss.