A Choppy Remake
This newest edition of Pitfall has all the elements to make a fun platformer, but it is just put together rather sloppily.
Anyone who has played a Pitfall game in the past will understand what this game will be about. This GBA version has a lot more story than the classic Atari version but it is rather stupid and seems unnecessary. Early in the game, Pitfall Harry, the main character, and his crew are flying in a plane when a sudden problem occurs. All the members onboard were able to parachute off and it is up to Harry to relocate all of them. For some reason, it seems that every NPC has a broken leg. All these broken legs mean that these NPC cannot do anything for themselves. Needless to say, Harry must do everything. The story, while trying to be humorous, winds up being just plain awkward.
The game takes place within two types of view. First is the classic sidescrolling form of play. Harry has all the basic platforming moves. He can jump, attack, cling to ledges, and swing on ropes and vines. Harry’s ways of attacking just seem a little strange to me. For his basic attack, Harry uses a slingshot type weapon that fires rocks. Because the game takes place in a junglely environment, I would think that he would have a machete instead. This rock-chucking weapon seems rather weak and can be difficult to aim. I’m not exactly sure where this slingshot thing came from, but I’m even more disappointed when Harry attacks underwater. In the sidescrolling levels, Harry can jump into a pool of water and swim to the other side. Naturally, there will be killer fish in these ponds. Now you might be wondering how Harry can kill these fish if he is underwater. He cannot use his magical lifesaving slingshot if he is underwater now can he. Instead, the developers made Harry punch. That’s right, Harry will punch these man-eating piranhas to death. Why the developers didn’t use simple weapon, like a knife, is beyond me.
Thankfully, Harry can double jump and cling to ledges. However, the camera seems to move a little to fast. Whenever Harry leaps or swings from a vine, the camera seems to move in jumpy and inconsistent directions. It is often too difficult to tell what is going on because the camera moves to fast. Never before have I felt nausea from camera control on a GBA game before.
The other type of game play takes place in an overhead view similar to Frogger. There are two types of overhead play. First, mini games that link levels together all take place from an overhead view. There are many different types of these mini games. In one of the mini games, the player will play through is a hang glider level that is just a weak form of R-Type. Also, a Toobin’ remake will frustrate players with its shoddy play control. There is even a Frogger type clone where Harry must jump on certain objects. While these mini games are quite different from the main game, each game has its own flaws. For example, the hang gliding level grows repetitive as you shoot the same enemies over and over and the Toobin’ remake has some problems with the play control. While each game is a great way to spice up game play, each one could use just a little more work.
Harry also plays part of the main game through the overhead view. While playing in an overhead view is quite different from regular side scrolling, it is rather lacking. The main elements that make a platformer fun are missing in the overhead view. Harry can no longer jump to cross gaps or swing from vines. I’m not sure why the developers would take the Pitfall out of the Pitfall. If you cannot jump and swing from vines, then why play as Pitfall Harry? Instead of gaps, Harry must now swim through shallow rivers that are only like five feet across. Plus, even though the game distinguishes height by creating shadows from walls, attacking enemies from a higher level will still result in the enemy being killed. For example, if Harry is standing next to one of these small rivers of water, killer fish will swim by. Harry can take these piranhas out by shooting his faithful rock sling shot. However, if Harry is on the ledge above him, he can still shoot these fish that are supposed to a ledge below and several feet underwater. And why would Harry use a rock slingshot to shoot a piranha anyway? There are many strange instances like this throughout the game.
The graphics are nothing really special. While the character animations seem pretty animated, it can be difficult to tell do to the jumpy camera. The game tries to perform some transparency effects but it just looks a little strange. When Harry kills an enemy, a white outlined version of the same enemy floats to the sky. While these animations serve their purpose, I would have preferred a simple death animation. The audio isn’t good but it isn’t bad either. You probably won’t mind keeping the music on, just don’t look for anything special.
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend Pitfall The Lost Expedition. You will want to love this game, but you won’t. The jumpy camera, the silly broken-legged story, and questioning weapons will leave players feeling empty. This game has everything to make a solid platformer, but a little more time in development could have could put this game on par with the other great games on the system. If you want to play a great Pitfall game, play the Atari version, or better yet, check out Activision Anthology on GBA.