"You'll probably want to pass if youíve already played the original game."
Ports of last-generation games are nothing new for Wii. Developers are generally able to at least partially justify such projects by tacking on gimmicky motion controls and calling that a reworking of a classic, which can either result in something very good (ala Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition) or in something not that great, as in Pitfall: The Big Adventureís case.
In case you hadn't heard, Pitfall: The Big Adventure is a port of 2004ís Pitfall: The Lost Expedition, which came out on the GameCube, PS2, and Xbox. As such, you'll probably want to pass if youíve already played the original game. The port features the same familiar story revolving around treasure hunter extraordinaire, Pitfall Harry. He's traveling with an expedition team when the plane he's riding crash lands in a Peruvian jungle. Separated from everyone, itís up to Harry to brave the dangers of the jungle, rescue his friends and unravel the mystery behind an ancient civilization.
The story is revealed through multiple cutscenes. These resemble a light-hearted, cartoon version of Indiana Jones, whom Harry even mentions later in the game. Since the original title was from the last generation of consoles, it should come as no surprise that the visuals in this port feel dated. Still, I found some animations effective, such as when Harry humorously bangs his head against the rungs of a ladder. While the graphics arenít the title's focus, it still would have been nice if someone had taken the extra effort to upgrade some of the original version's visuals to make them even more effective.
You'll find in Pitfall: The Big Adventure a typical action-platformer with generic environments ranging from jungles, snow-capped mountains, to ominous caverns. All of these areas have their share of hazards including: vines hanging over man-eating pits, territorial native warriros, and an assortment of wild animals. Throughout your quest, youíll collect idols that can be used to purchase power-ups from a shaman who acts as the gameís merchant. Many of these power-ups appear as pages from the Heroic Handbook that teach Harry a variety of tricks and some are even acquired as rewards for meeting up with lost explorers. Such encounters may provide Harry with an assortment of tools including a sling for hitting distant enemies and switches, pickaxes for climbing, and an inner tube raft for traversing bodies of water that are infested with piranhas and electric eels (which miraculously donít harm Harry when he paddles through using only his hands). Despite occasional logical errors along those lines, the game is pretty fun.
Unfortunately, the controls can often prove frustrating. Your basic attacks require you to waggle the Wii remote. Running and jumping actions are mapped to the control stick and 'A' button, respectively. The often-used ďsuper jumpĒ for reaching high plaforms requires you to swing the remote and then press 'A,' which only works about half of the time. The Heroic Dash, used for sprinting across hot coals, requires you to shake the nunchuck. I never figured out the exact rhythm required to consistently execute the move, so basically I had to hope my waggling would take me across safely. Probably the worst offender in the atrocious control scheme comes when you're trying to paddle while aboard the raft. To move forward, you must shake the remote and the nunchuck simultaneously. When you need to turn, youíll shake the respective device in your intended direction. Turns are very iffy and youíll likely get disoriented and end up going in circles or backwards (just like real inner tubes!).
Combat also has its share of frustrations. Youíll be pummeled by groups of enemies until you acquire a shield that protects against most attacks. The major annoyance is how damage stacks. Suppose youíre on a narrow platform and a pair of monkeys are throwing oranges at you. They both hit you. You take two damage, and you get knocked off the edge of the platform (resulting in more harm to your person). In a matter of seconds, youíve accumulated three damage from a brief barrage of beatings. It doesn't feel quite fair.
At least when you die, thereís no real penalty other than the way that the game forces you to resume play from the beginning of area where you expired. For example, if you collected three idols within an area and then die, you'll have to gather them again. This same principle applies if you save the game midway through a level and come back later. To remedy this, you must find an exit, leave the level, come back, save, and then quit. When saving your progress becomes a chore, you know the game has issues.
If you have adapt to the controls and combat and find yourself enjoying the game, know that there's some definite replay value. Even after completing the game, you can spend time performing tasks such as collecting all 160 idols. You can also compete in a batch of rather shallow mini-games with the natives. Probably the biggest bonuses in the game are the unlockable versions of Pitfall and Pitfall II from the Atari. Unfortunately, they suffer from a haphazard control scheme that requires you to hold the remote vertically and thus control Harry with the d-pad while jumping with either the 'A' or 'B' button. Thanks to that odd setup, youíll probably want to pass on these iterations.
Pitfall: The Big Adventure ultimately is plagued by frustrating controls that make enjoying this title a bigger hassle than it's worth. The game on its own is fine, but avoid the Wii version at all costs.
Freelance review by Matt Olsen (November 06, 2008)
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