Pitfall II

Welcome back to the jungle.

Review Date: February 3, 2021

Release Date: April 1984, before the video game revival

Platform: Atari 800

Developer: Activision

Genre: Nonlinear Platformer

Anecdotes: In my Pitfall review, I mentioned how I would play it at the cousins’ house. The setting and the gameplay were outstanding. By time Pitfall II came around, though, everyone just lost interest in gaming. The Atari craze had died down. Nobody in the family had this game. Nobody even knew about it. Then, in 1984, my parents moved us to a new home. With that came a new school and new friends. One of them was a gamer and so was his older brother. I went over to their house and witnessed them play Pitfall II. I barely got to play, but watching the brother fail constantly at Pitfall II was well worth the visit.

The pesky scorpions are back, but at least they’re easier to jump over in this game.

Description: You control Pitfall Harry. Harry’s task is to find his niece Rhonda, a ring, and Quickclaw. Quickclaw is really easy to find; he is right below Harry’s starting point. Naturally, though, it’ll require exploring 200 screens of caverns to get to him. Harry must navigate a series of corridors in his search for a person, an animal, and a ring. At the same time, he’s going to have to avoid touching scorpions, eels, frogs, and bats that are all over the map.

Help me, Rhonda. How do I get out of here, and where did all my points go?

Positives: This game came out just before Nintendo revived the industry, making it an overlooked gem. The game solidified two concepts that would go on to be parts of nearly every game years later: save points and background music. The game was much larger and had smooth vertical scrolling. You have infinite tries as long as you don’t turn the system off. The technical accomplishments in 1984 were outstanding.

This sequel remains rather faithful to the original. While the vines, crocodiles, logs, and tar pits are gone, the dreaded scorpions, jungle setting, yellow floors, ladders, gold bars, and rings remain. Everything serves the same purpose as before, but now scorpions can appear above ground.

Harry can go on a balloon flight, but if the balloon pops, he falls into the water below.

Negatives: The caverns all look the same. There is a stretch of the game where you climb back and forth through similar looking corridors, but one false move sends you back to the bottom. While having the save points is nice, there are long stretches in between them.

Grade: B

And that wraps up my reviews of Atari 800 games. The system was a symbol of my early childhood and produced some classic games. However, the 8-bit goodness doesn’t stop here.

Atari 800 in review:

Games reviewed: 24

Best overall game: Ms. Pac-Man

Personal favorite: Shamus

Worst game: Spy vs. Spy

Coming up: I ring in a new era of gaming with 89 days of NES and Famicom reviews, starting tomorrow. The bar was raised with a new gold standard. Stay tuned. Thank you for reading.

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