In the 1980's, Activision released Pitfall for the Atari 2600. It focused on you playing as an explorer trying to move around dangerous environments and tasked the player with goals such as jumping large gaps with vines and stomping on crocodiles heads. Fast forward twenty years and Activision have returned with one of their earliest franchises in a new updated look for the next generation console systems. Pitfall: The Lost Expedition is a platform game in an already overcrowded genre on the Playstation 2 system, but with some unique mechanics, it still manages to hold up quite well.
The story begins with Harry ("some people like to call me Pitfall Harry") on an aircraft with a number of intrepid explorers. Whilst Harry is "turning on the charm" to Nicole, an attractive young passenger, the plane moves into stormy territory, loses power and eventually crash lands throwing people and objects all around the jungle. Harry's first task becomes to locate all his friends and colleagues from the plane, but as you progress through the game you will discover many more tasks have to be done and that one of your old foes is in town for some reason.
As mentioned before Pitfall Harry is a platform game and most of Harry's tasks involve jumping around various areas to get to a particular goal, but there are times when this changes, such as when Harry has to capture butterflies for a young lady. The unique thing about the game is the way this adventuring is handled. Whilst backtracking to other places is nothing new, unlike in some other games it doesn't feel repetitive or thrown in to extend the game's longevity. The developers have obviously put their minds to this because they have come up with a system which may not be the most innovative thing to happen for the platform genre but it will keep you playing. You never really feel stuck in this game and there are a few reasons for this.
The main reason is the objects which Harry can pick up along the way, such as a gas mask and shield. When you reach certain areas that require various objects, rather then you having to guess, the game will tell you via an icon system that this area requires that object. So if you do become stuck, you always know that you're usually only one object away from unlocking a whole new area of the environment the game is set in. The objects are equipped via the DPAD, so you have four options. One object is the water canister, which replenishes your health. Whilst adventuring through the land you will come across objects that look like hot springs. Stand in one and Harry's health will replenish, but you can also use your bottle and carry water with you.
Some way into the game you will be told about the Heroic Moves which Harry can learn. These heroic moves, like the objects, also unlock new areas for you to explore. The moves include a high jump, and a jump where Harry travels quickly in a horizontal jump. These moves are unlocked by finding pages of the Heroic book. Other moves can be unlocked at the stores featured throughout the game. Only fourteen stores exist in the whole game so use them wisely. At the stores you spend the gold statues you have found to buy new combat moves or increase the amount of health Harry has. The other great thing about the game is the 'book style' presentation of the interfacee. The book contains information about all the enemies you have encountered, the map and other useful information.
In the early stages of the game, it comes across as quite a simplistic title which could be completed quite easily. Most of the enemies in the early part are easy to defeat such as the monkeys and natives but once you unlock or reach the snow area the difficulty appears to increase quite a bit. As mentioned before you never seem to feel hopelessly stuck in the game and the another reason for this is definitely the map. Looking at the map will tell you how many exits the current section of land has and therefore you know if you've found them all and need a unique object or whether you need to keep exploring.
There is a lot of throwbacks to the original Pitfall games such as the fact that there is a significant amount of vine swinging in the game and also you can step on alligators, as long as you aren't near the head/mouth area. There are five different environments you will encounter throughout the storyline and each is divided into numerous gameplay sections. Starting off in the jungle you will traverse areas such as snow and the game has some minor alterations when this occurs. For instance, in the snow levels Harry wears a jacket instead of his normal clothing. Each of the environments offer a unique challenge, some are more taxing on the player then the others and feature different goals..
The game overall looks impressive as well with some great animations for all of the characters, especially Harry. Something which definitely has to be mentioned is the characters eyes, which are actually polygons and rendered within the in engine cut scenes, which gives the characters a somewhat anime feel. The character design also brings across the humor aspect of the game and the actual character of Harry animates well as he moves and jumps through the dense jungle. The voice acting for the characters is well done, especially for Harry. So well done in fact sometimes the actual animations don't portray the intended joke as well as the tone of voice used for the speech. As a bonus, the original two Pitfall games can be unlocked and played. They seem to work well and are a nice addition to the game.
Pitfall: The Lost Expedition is a great platform game which may be overlooked by some due to the vast amount of platforming titles now available on the PS2 console. Whilst the game isn't one of the best platform games on the system, its by no means the worst either and offers some unique game mechanics. If you want a platform game with lots of adventure, humorous elements and a ton of gameplay then Pitfall: The Lost Expedition is a game you should definitely check out.
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