Sunday 24 April 2016

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (Atari 2600 review)

Developer: Activision
Publisher: Activision
Released: 1984

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns is an action-adventure game and the follow-up to 1982's original Pitfall (Atari 2600).

Playing as Pitfall Harry, your mission is to navigate an underground cavern, rescue Rhonda and Quickclaw, and locate the missing diamond. Also scattered across the world are 28 gold bars and a stone-age rat, and while they're not mandatory they will add to your point total. Along the way you'll encounter frogs, bats, scorpions, condors and electric eels. While it's a typical action-adventure game it's much more relaxing than other examples of the genre and that's because there's no lives; instead, when hit you're taken back to the last checkpoint you passed and deducted a few points. This is a great idea as it allows you to delve further into the game and keep trying to see what lies ahead. Although the cavern is large it never feels overwhelming and the open world playground makes you want to search every nook and cranny. The game is littered with memorable moments, especially when you first ride a balloon and float high into the air! Other areas increase the variety and have you swimming through water while avoiding electric eels, or taking a death-defying leap off a ledge to collect an item. Everything is so neatly and cleverly designed and it's obvious that a lot of care went into crafting every element. A great feature is that the game actually has an ending, something not regularly seen on the Atari 2600. The music is perhaps the star of the show as not only is the main track incredibly catchy, it changes tempo and even has a solemn variation if you take damage. Similarly, the animation is top-notch with a brilliant range of smooth motions when Harry is running, climbing or swimming.
Forget being one of the best Atari 2600 games, Pitfall II: Lost Caverns is one of the greatest games of all time. Programmer David Crane did a remarkable job in harnessing the true power of the humble 2600 console and what stands here is a masterpiece in concept, sound, level design and gameplay.
Random trivia: David Crane later served as a programmer on the highly controversial game Night Trap (1992, Sega CD).

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