Pitfall II: Lost Caverns

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns is a video game developed by David Crane for the Atari 2600. It was released in 1984 by Activision. The player controls Pitfall Harry, who must explore in wilds of Peru to find the Raj Diamond, and rescue his niece Rhonda and their animal friend Quickclaw. The game world is populated by enemies and hazards that variously cause the player to lose points and return to a checkpoint.

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns
Atari 2600 cover art
Designer(s)David Crane
Platform(s)Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, IBM PCjr, Apple II[3], MSX, ZX Spectrum
February 17, 1984
  • Atari 2600
  • February 17, 1984[1]
  • ColecoVision
  • October 1984[2]
  • Atari 5200
  • November 1984
  • IBM PCjr
  • 1984
  • Apple II
  • December 1984[3][4]

The game was a sequel to Pitfall! (1982), one of the best-selling Atari 2600 video games. Crane said the Atari 2600 hardware was out of date when developing the sequel, which led to him creating a custom computer chip called the Display Processor Chip for Pitfall II: Lost Caverns. This allowed for more complex graphics and background music in the game. It became the top selling console game of the year and was ported to other consoles and home computers.

Pitfall II received positive reviews with the expanded gameplay of the game, with the more positive reviews of the game finding it superior to Pitfall!. Retrospective reviews have continued to be positive, with Retro Gamer listing it as the best game on the Atari 2600 and other critics noting its gameplay innovations, such as being among the first games to include a checkpoint system.

Gameplay edit

A gameplay screenshot of Pitfall II. The mid-point red cross can be seen as well as Quick Claw, who is required to be interacted with to win the game.

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns is a video game set in Machu Pichu, Peru where the player controls Pitfall Harry.[7] The goal is to get Harry to find and rescue Quick Claw the cat, his niece Rhonda, and recover the Raj diamond.[8]

Pitfall Harry moves left and right and can jump over and onto objects, can climb up and down ladders, ascend via balloons and swim to seek treasure and his cohorts.[8] The player can additionally collect further gold bars scattered throughout the playfield for more points.[5][8] Unlike the original Pitfall!, there is no swinging on vines, time limits, or lives.[5] Accidentally falling or interacting with traps and enemies causes the player's score to diminish. The player can find red crosses across the ground that act as check points. When the player is hit by an enemy, Harry returns to the last red cross he found.[8]

Development edit

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns printed circuit board with Crane's custom Display Processor Chip at the bottom.

The release of David Crane's previous game Pitfall! (1982) was a major success for Activision and was the companies best selling release at the time.[9] It led to large amounts of merchandizing including board games, jigsaw puzzles and few episodes of the cartoon show Saturday Supercade to feature Pitfall Harry and new characters such as Harry's niece Rhonda and the cowardly mountain lion Quick Claw.[9][10] These characters introduced on the television series would later appear the sequel Pitfall II: Lost Caverns.[10]

Crane stated he made the sequel to Pitfall! "at a time when the Atari 2600 should have been replaced by a new gaming system." He had training as an electronics engineer and felt that the Atari 2600 "needed a boost" and designed a custom computer chip called the Display Processor Chip that was unique to Pitfall II: Lost Caverns.[9][5][11] The chip allowed for additional graphic capabilities for the Atari 2600 and a music circuit. The chip contained special indexing registers that reduced the processing time for graphics operation by over 40%.[11] Crane spoke about the developing the game and its graphics for the Atari 2600 at the Winter Consumers Electronics Show, stating that he would "stack Pitfall II against software in any other computer under $10,000. I might be able to make the boulders look more like bounders [on any other machine], but I could not make the game any better."[12]

The chip allowed the game to play music that included a melody track, a harmony track, a base track and percussion. This made the game the first Atari 2600 game with a full scored polyphonic musical track.[11] The score features a four-part musical score composed by Crane. It features a central "heroic" theme that plays before becoming a loop of more atmospheric music. The main theme in the game plays the bass through one channel, two channels play the melody and harmony while the last channel plays percussion sounds. The song "Sobre las olas" plays when Harry ascends using a balloon.[13]

The ports of the game for Atari 800 and Atari 5200 were coded by Mike Lorenzen while the ColecoVision by Robert Rutowski respectively.[10][14] Crane said when they made one game for another system, another game programmer was assigned to convert assets and rewrite the code as it was not a good use of his time to re-do a game he had already designed. The Commodore 64 version of the game was written by scratch by Tim Shotter while Lorenzen wrote the code for the Atari 800 used Crane's original code edited for the Atari 800.[6]

Both the Atari 800 and Atari 5200 versions of the game included more areas to explore than the original Atari 2600 version.[6][15][16] Lorenzen found time during production to create new levels that appear after the first game was completed. He explained he made the extra levels as he did not just want to recreate Crane's work, he wanted to "do something and make it better."[6] This version is subtitled "The Adventurer’s Edition" on the title screen.[6]

Release edit

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns was released in February 1984.[17][18] The game debuted at 9th place on Billboard's list of top 20 selling video games. Activision's national sales manager stated that the sales of the game exceeded the company's expectations by 25% to 30%.[17] The game had a higher retail price ($34.95) than the usual game for the system due to Display Processor Chip.[19]

Activision had reported slumping sales with operating loss of $4.1 million on $13.2 million in sales in the second quarter of 1984 and sought to remedy this with the release of Pitfall II: Lost Caverns.[20] By the end of the 1984, the game became the highest selling console game of year.[18]

At the June 1984 Consumer Electronics Show, Activision did not reveal any new games for Atari 2600 or Intellivision and showed older games in new formats, including Pitfall II: Lost Caverns for Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit computers, ColecoVision, IBM PCjr, and the Coleco Adam.[21] The game was released for Atari 5200 in November 1984.[16] The versions for the IBM PC Jr. were released in the fourth quarter of 1984.[15][22]

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns was included in various video games collections. These include Activision Anthology (2002) for PlayStation 2, and for portable devices as Activision Hits Remixed (2006) for the PlayStation Portable.[10] The game is available hidden feature in both Pitfall: The Lost Expedition (2004) and Call of Duty: World War 2 (2017).[23][24] It was released digitally as a downloadable title on the Xbox Game Room in 2010.[10]

Reception edit

Contemporary edit

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns received positive reception from Lou Hudson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bill Kunkel of Electronic Games, and the publication The Video Game Update. All three reviews felt it was superior to Pitfall!, which Hudson and Kunkel felt grew repetitive with repeat play sessions.[19][25][26] The three complimented the graphics, with Kunkel stating that it was "the kind of videogame that would be impressive if presented on a 48K computer. On the [Atari 2600], it's simply beyond belief."[19][25][26] The reviewers also wrote about the gameplay, with Hudson describing it as "immensely improved action formula", while The Video Game Update enjoyed that the player could not die in the game, giving them more opportunity to explore the world.[19][25][26] Kunkel concluded that the game "offers the most remarkable breadth of any 2600 video game yet produced." while The Video Game Update stated that "We have the opportunity to play and review hundreds of games every year, and there are very few that we feel must become part of your personal collection. Pitfall II is one of those."[19][26]

Michael Blanchet, author of How to Beat the Video Games (1982), found that the game improved on the original with more enemies and obstacles to avoid and that it had a grander playing field than the original game, but concluded that the storyline for the game was sappy and the lack of having the character die made you lose incentive to play the game.[27] Blanchet also noted that the games score was annoying as it never stopped.[28]

In January 1985, Pitfall II won the award for Program of the Year for the Atari 2600 from Computer Entertainer magazine in their 1984 Awards of Excellence.[29]

Retrospective edit

Skyler Miller of AllGame awarded the game 4 1/2 stars out of 5, stating that the game was not as innovative as the original game, but that it expanded upon the original to create one of the systems most accomplished game. Miller specifically praised the graphics and music.[30] Brett Weiss included the game in his book The 100 Greatest Console Video Games, 1977-1987 (2014) stating the game was even better than Pitfall! noting that it offered a variety of fresh features.[5][10]

John Harris of Game Developer wrote found the game was not quite as fun to play in 2007 as it was when it was first developed, but declared it to be one of the most advanced games for the Atari 2600, comparing its gameplay to the later Nintendo game Metroid (1986). Harris noted innovative elements such as being among the first games to include a checkpoint system.[5][31] Writing for USgamer, Jeremy Parish echoed the Metroid comparison, stating that Pitfall II was the turning point in platform games. Parish said it led to games within the genre to have exploring, stating that "In the style of non-linear platformers to come, such as Metroid, there was no such thing as death by falling; dropping into a pit simply led Harry to another screen, and a vast underground lake lined the bottom of the game world. In many ways, it was a game years ahead of its time."[32]

In their list of the top 25 Atari 2600 games, Stuart Hunt and Darran Jones of Retro Gamer magazine listed Pitfall II: Lost Caverns in the number one spot.[33] The two wrote that the game far more ambitious than the original and that the game was "as playable today as it ever was."[33] In the same publication, Mat Allen included the game along with Kaboom! (1981), River Raid (1982), Ghostbusters (1984), Little Computer People (1985) and Alter Ego (1986), as one of the best games from Activision's classic period.[34]

Legacy edit

David Crane at the Retro Gaming Expo in 2011. Crane said that the Pitfall! games following Pitfall II: Lost Caverns were not "Pitfall! sequels as much as other games with the name Pitfall placed on them."[35]

Following the release of Pitfall II: Lost Caverns, the Atari 2600 was at the end of its first lifecycle as a system for new games and no other games for it were developed using Crane's Display Processor Chip.[9] Crane was often asked if he would develop at third Pitfall game, he stated that "after one sequel, I was happy to move on to other ideas."[36] Following work on Pitfall II, Crane began work developing games for the Commodore 64, starting with Ghostbusters (1984).[37] Crane stayed with Activision until 1987.[9]

Sega developed an arcade game titled Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns (1985) which featured gameplay elements from both of Crane's Pitfall games.[38] The Japanese company Micronics developed Super Pitfall for the Nintendo Entertainment System was described Stuart Hunt of Retro Gamer as a "loose port" of Crane's Pitfall II.[35] Super Pitfall similar storyline to Pitfall II involving Pitfall Harry exploring caves to seek the Raj diamond and rescue his niece Rhonda and Quickclaw the lion who have become trapped in the cave depths.[39] Crane stated he had seen all of the later Pitfall! games and has played a few of them, stating he felt they were not "Pitfall sequels as much as other games with the name Pitfall placed on them."[35]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "The Wherehouse - Where You'll Love These Prices". The Californian. February 17, 1984. p. 21. Retrieved December 12, 2023. Activision//New!//Pitfall II: Lost Caverns
  2. ^ "Availability Update". Computer Entertainer includes The Video Game Update. Vol. 3, no. 7. October 1984. p. 112.
  3. ^ a b Zuckerman 1984, p. 82.
  4. ^ "Availability Update". Computer Entertainer includes The Video Game Update. Vol. 3, no. 9. December 1984. p. 144.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Weiss 2014, p. 172.
  6. ^ a b c d e Schneider 2023.
  7. ^ Activision 1984.
  8. ^ a b c d Activision 1982.
  9. ^ a b c d e Hunt, p. 83.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Weiss 2014, p. 173.
  11. ^ a b c Mercer 2004, p. 11.
  12. ^ Levy 1984, p. 8.
  13. ^ Hopkins 2022, p. 72.
  14. ^ Pembrey 2023, p. 35.
  15. ^ a b "Critically Speaking...". Computer Entertainer includes The Video Game Update. Vol. 3, no. 9. December 1984. p. 130.
  16. ^ a b "Year in Review". Computer Entertainer includes The Video Game Update. Vol. 3, no. 9. December 1984. p. 143.
  17. ^ a b Itow 1984.
  18. ^ a b "The Year in Review". Computer Entertainer includes The Video Game Update. Vol. 3, no. 9. December 1984. p. 129.
  19. ^ a b c d e Kunkel 1984, p. 68.
  20. ^ Itow 1984a, p. D8.
  21. ^ Stovall 1984, p. 4C.
  22. ^ "Availability Update". Computer Entertainer includes The Video Game Update. Vol. 3, no. 8. November 1984. p. 128.
  23. ^ Hegarty 2017.
  24. ^ Xavier Lopez 2004.
  25. ^ a b c Hudson 1984, p. 14E.
  26. ^ a b c d "Critically Speaking..Atari 2600-Compatible". The Video Game Update includes Computer Entertainer. Vol. 2, no. 11. February 1984. p. 162.
  27. ^ Blanchet 1984.
  28. ^ Blanchet 1984b.
  29. ^ "Computer Entertainer Awards of Excellence 1984". Computer Entertainere. Vol. 3, no. 10. January 1985. p. 147.
  30. ^ Miller.
  31. ^ Harris 2007.
  32. ^ Parish 2014.
  33. ^ a b Jones & Hunt.
  34. ^ Allen, p. 84.
  35. ^ a b c Hunt, p. 84.
  36. ^ Hunt, pp. 82–83.
  37. ^ "The Making Of... Ghostbusters". Edge. Future Publishing. May 2007. p. 102.
  38. ^ Weiss 2014, p. 171.
  39. ^ "Nintendo Software". Computer Entertainer includes The Video Game Update. Vol. 7, no. 2. May 1988. p. 10.

Sources edit

External links edit