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Pitfall The Big Adventure threatens to regurgitate the old platformer, but through boxy visuals and ported gameplay emerges a better game than expected. The Wii needs more adventures like this, but on crowded shelves this is likely to go unnoticed.
Franchises refuse to die. Any title with even the merest hint of a repackaged income will always try to cash in on that. Yet while the original Pitfall holds a strong place in older gamers' hearts, I can't help but question its relevance today. My reservations alter nothing, of course, so after numerous attempts to revitalize the twenty-eight year old brand we are finally treated to the first Pitfall game of this console generation - even if it is a port of a six year old PS2 game.
From the moment I picked up the case it felt as though Pitfall The Big Adventure was scared of itself and trying desperately to dissuade me from playing it. Its cover art stood in stark contrast to the game's visual style, displaying a blocky character, devoid of personality, swinging over a pool of crocs. It seemed the intent was to play more on a gamer's nostalgia than pushing the actual game inside.
I put the disk in my Wii, shielding my ears to the box's pleas not to play its contents.
The plot's shortcomings are easily made up for by the combat and pacing.
A poorly enlarged, low-res, pixilated image sat in the centre of my TV screen, thick black borders to the left and right of the image. I checked online. Pitfall The Big Adventure was a remake of a PS2 game, and it appeared the developers hadn't even gone to the trouble of adding wide screen to this opening title menu.
Thanks in part to this poor start, I was genuinely surprised when the game's action kicked off that it expanded to full screen as the strange introduction proceeded. Immediately I found myself fighting a puma, surrounded on all sides by flames - a trial by fire if you will. Without any guidance, I mashed buttons and waggled my arms until I eventually worked out what was going on.
The scene came out of nowhere but it created a real sense of scale between the diminutive witch and hulking body of the angel.
Faced with a port shoehorned into the Wii's motion support I held little hope that the action would impress. But using the remote to swing from vine to vine was more entertaining than I anticipated, and though the combat control was a little too keen to see me flailing my arms about wildly, with a little finesse I got this working too.
Playing on, I was further shocked to find that, despite all its pitfalls, it is actually quite good. True, it isn't amazing, and being on a console where it has to square up to Methuselah's Metroid and Zelda won't help, but such comparisons are not misplaced. Pitfall captured these Nintendo titles' vibe of always anticipating what new ability or item you will acquire next and what places it will grant you access to. It has an addictive feeling of constant tiny progression wrapped up in an evocative world of the Pitfall license.
It may be dated, but at its core Pitfall The Big Adventure remains an enjoyable and solid adventure game. If only the developers had been more willing to embrace this fact rather than running from it and trying to pretend that it was something else entirely. Perhaps if they'd had the confidence they would have spent a little longer on the simple things, made a better first impression, and earned more attention on cluttered shelves.
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