Pitfall II: Lost Caverns

Developer(s) Activision
Publisher(s) Activision
Sega (arcade)
Designer(s) David Crane[1]
Series Pitfall!
Platform(s) Atari 2600 (original)
Apple II, Arcade, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, C64, MSX, PC booter, SG-1000, TRS-80 CoCo, ZX Spectrum
Release 1984
Genre(s) Platform
Mode(s) Single-player

The original Pitfall! has the player-character Harry exploring a jungle, collecting treasures, and avoiding danger in the forms of crocodiles, scorpions, cobras, and quicksand. Lost Caverns expands the scope of the environment dramatically, as Harry now descends deep underground. In addition to the familiar screen-flipping when Harry travels right or left, this game adds the element of vertical scrolling, as when Harry falls from a cliff or flies around after grabbing onto a balloon. Unlike the first game, Pitfall Harry has unlimited time and lives, making it impossible to “lose” the game; when Harry touches a dangerous creature, he simply loses points as he moves back to the last continue point (marked with a red cross) he touched along his journey. For unintentional falls from ladders down to lower levels (but not landing into the river), 100 points are deducted.

Unlike the original Pitfall!, which has a ground level and the underground, Pitfall II has 27 horizontal levels that are predominantly the same height, each stacked atop of the other. While these levels span the full eight screens in length, they are not openly accessible all the way across, as some portions are blocked by cave walls that force Harry to travel through other areas in order to progress. Quicksand and tar pits are replaced by rivers and chasms. Balloons let Harry ascend to new areas. Snakes and crocodiles are not in this version, but scorpions are still there. New animal hazards include bats, which fly across some screens from left to right; condors, which start by flying right to left, then reverse and fly left to right the remainder of the visit to that screen; Electric eels that swim in the rivers; and frogs that jump over some pits that have ladders, often above where a bat is present.

Two new unplayable characters debut in Lost Caverns: Quickclaw, Harry’s cowardly pet mountain lion, and Rhonda, his adventure-seeking niece. Both of these characters also appear with Harry in the Saturday Supercade children’s cartoon based on the Pitfall games (in fact, Rhonda and Quickclaw were created for Saturday Supercade a full year before this game was released). Collecting Rhonda, Quickclaw, and a diamond ring is necessary to win the game. In versions without a second cave, upon collection of aPitfall2ll three, the game ends on the spot. The maximum possible score is 199,000.

Another creature, the cave rat, is shown in the next screen to the right of where Quickclaw is shown at the beginning of the game (on the platform below Harry’s starting point). However, Harry will not be able to reach Quickclaw by facing the rat head-on (via third screen hole into the river and advancing left). If he attempts to, the rat will push him back into the river. Collecting the rat from behind after going through the entire cave (just before collecting Quickclaw) will net Harry 15,000 points.

Another enhancement over the previous game is the addition of a soundtrack. Themusical cues act as subtle rewards and punishments for performance. The main “heroic” theme plays for a short while before reaching a loop of atmospheric music. When Harry collects a treasure, the main theme begins again. If Harry dies, a slower, minor key version of the theme plays, and then progresses back into the atmospheric theme. Finally, if Harry ascends using the Balloon, Sobre las Olas (“Over the Waves”) is played.

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns was one of the largest games ever created for the Atari 2600 and featured elements previously considered impossible on hardware that was already six years old at the time. Smooth scrolling, detailed animation, and a musical score that includes multiple channels were all made possible by custom hardware built inside the game cartridge. Crane designed and patented a component he called the Display Processor Chip (DPC), which could greatly enhance 2600’s graphics capabilities and could process music in 3 channels plus drums. Crane hoped that the DPC would be used by other game designers to further extend the life of the aging console, but the video game crash of 1983 made this moot.

Patch Requirements and Score

I hereby establish the Activision
Cliffhangers–open to any co-adventurer who collects 99,000 points or more.
Send me a photo of the TV screen showing your qualifying score, along with your
name and address. I’ll send the official Cliffhangers emblem

Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 2.06.22 PM
It is really amazing how good this game is.  I loved playing it and the patch requirement isn’t too hard to achieve.

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