Review by: Curtis Hart
Published: March 20, 2004
In the past few months, many of the titles offered to console owners have been modern interpretations of big name classics. Entreating childhood nostalgia is risky ground, as developers must be careful to respect and do justice to their material to keep the audience on their side. Despite that, all of the recent attempts have been great successes. Pitfall: The Lost Expedition has roots that go deeper than any so far. The original Pitfall, programmed by David Crane and published by Activision for the Atari 2600 way back in 1982, was one of the first ever platform games, and presented players with the then-fresh setting of a crocodile infested jungle. It sold millions of copies and spawned one of the most popular genres of all time. After over 20 years, Activision tries to recapture that magic with The Lost Expedition.
Starting a new game throws Pitfall Harry into an epic battle with a huge, burning, demonic panther. The disparity in size and power seems ridiculous, but our hero is unperturbed and strikes back at the beast with a strange blue power emanating from his arms. Apparently, the famous explorer can kick the big cat around pretty well, but in a show of arrogance, he lets his guard down, and the monster catches him from behind. With a fearful arcane creature breathing fire down his neck, Harry’s life flashes before his eyes.
Twenty-four hours before the fated fight, Harry is a normal, adventure-seeking archaeologist on a flight to Peru with the intent of beating a colleague to a lost ruin. The other explorers on the plane are headed there as well, but none of them will say much about their own objectives. Their leader, Bernard Bittenbinder, seems friendly enough, but the real focus of Harry’s attention is a cold, yet shapely, blonde named Nicole. Unfortunately for him, no sooner does he make his move than an engine is struck by lightning, sending the whole cast spiraling toward the South American jungle. Hero that he is, Harry gives the last parachute to the girl in exchange for an impromptu kiss and goes down with the plane. It seems his bad luck only applies to romance, however, as he regains consciousness in a bed of flowers, hundreds of yards from the crash site. This is where the journey really begins.
Many familiar faces present themselves as soon as the game begins. The namesake pits, complete with signature vines for swinging over them, are the first things you’ll see, and crocodiles and scorpions aren’t far behind. As might’ve been expected, little was translated to 3D without making some changes. For instance, the crocodiles, no longer content to wait for you to jump in their mouths, will dive underwater as you swim by and attempt to come up under you. The yawning pits, for some reason, now have menacing, sarlac-like fangs. Most important to the gameplay are the new, realistic vines that take momentum into account rather than swinging idly back and forth. Harry shifts his weight like a child on a swing to build up speed, and the excess vine trails convincingly behind him. Using the right length of cord and letting go at the best time to get the most height or distance out of a jump is something of a small art, and makes up a lot of the game.