Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns

Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns
Company: Activision
Model #:
Mike Lorenzen
Year: 1984
The Atari 8-bit versions have a second quest


When developing a sequel to a smash hit, the expectations are high.  Not only does it need to be as good as an already amazing game, but it needs to add new gameplay elements that take the game further.  This would be a daunting task for most programmers, but thankfully David Crane hit it out of the park.  Again!  Pitfall II takes the same basic gameplay ideas from the first game (run, jump, explore, grab treasure) and improves on it by giving the player a huge new world to explore with a story and an actual goal to accomplish.


Once again you play the role of Pitfall Harry, famed explorer and track and field star (check out Decathlon if you don't believe me).  This time around however you're not exploring an endless jungle, instead Harry must explore a giant cavern in an attempt to rescue his niece Rhonda, his pet lion Quickclaw, and find the legendary Raj Diamond.  While these three items are required to win the game (yes, there is an ending this time), Harry can also collect gold bars scattered randomly throughout the cavern for extra points.  Harry can also grab the cave rat for extra points, but like the gold bars, it's not required to win the game.


The cavern is big, like really really big, so big you'll never see the end of it.  Ok so maybe it's not THAT big, but it certainly seems that way to many first time players (it's actually 27 x 8).  Thankfully the cavern isn't a maze and is actually pretty straight forward.  Once you get into it from the above ground section (this is a one way trip BTW), you'll find the cavern separated into three distinct sections, each with little side tunnels to explore.   The first area is the a long series of ledges connected by a single ladder, the second area is a large open area that must be explored by grabbing a balloon which will let you float upwards, while the third area is a long slog upwards through a gauntlet of scorpions, condors, and bats.  The first area only has gold bars so it can be quickly run through if you're not interested in points, the second area contains Rhonda and the Raj Diamond.  This area requires some leaps of faith off cliffs and can be a little confusing.  Quickclaw and the rat await  you at the top of the third area.


Scattered throughout the cavern are odd looking red crosses.  Touching one of these will act as a save point and if Harry is ever hit by an enemy he will automatically fly back to the last cross he touched.  The only penalty for dying is a loss of points (you lose more points the further Harry has to travel back to the cross), but you may do this an infinite amount of times even if you've run out of points.  This ingenious system allows causal players a chance to really explore the game without fear while giving more competitive gamers the ability to play for high score.



Pitfall II brings back some old enemies and introduces some new ones as well.  Scorpions will still hound Harry's every step, but this time they're joined by bats, condors, frogs, and electric eels.  While condors will fly serenely across the across the screen in wide arcs, bats flutter up and down in a more jagged pattern.  Each of these can be run underneath if you time it right.  Frogs like to jump back and forth at the tops of ladders and can be a pain to get past if you don't time things right.  Eels are only encountered in the water areas and easily avoided if Harry stays on the surface.


Many people may not that the Atari 400/800 and 5200 ports of Pitfall II contain a whole second game that is available after beating the game.   This 'second quest' features not only a huge maze like cavern to explore, but adds new enemies and hazards, along with new items to find.  New enemies include 'rabid' bats which move in erratic and hard to predict patterns, fire ants which act like fast moving scorpions, piranha which act like eels but actually move up and down, and frogs that are free to move across the whole level!  There are also new obstacles to overcome such as bridges made up of little platforms, water tunnels, and ledges that don't meet the ladder (you won't be able to jump off the ladder to these).  If you are able to complete the second quest and find all the items (the basket, the charmer, the flute, and the rope), you'll be treated to a new ending sequence which explains how Harry finally escapes the caverns.

So how come the Atari 400/800 and 5200 versions got this amazing extra world while none of the other ports did?  The reason behind this is simple, it was never supposed to exist!  Programmer Mike Lorenzen started work on the 8-bit ports along side programmer Robert Rutkowski who was working on the Colecovision port.  Since Mike was able to reuse the original Atari 2600 code, he finished much quicker than Robert who coded his version from scratch.  Since Mike had so much free time (management wanted to release both versions simultaneously), he decided to create new levels and enemies to pass the time which eventually became the second quest.  Unfortunately since management wanted both versions to be the same the second quest was not allowed to be mentioned on the box or in the manual, but they allowed it to remain in the game because it was so good.


If Pitfall II has a flaw it's that it's winnable.  There's an absolute end to the game and a maximum score than can be achieved (199,000).  The difficulty never increases (not that the game really has difficulty levels anyway) and the cavern layout never changes, so once the player has masted the game the replay value diminishes dramatically.  In fact an experienced player who knows what they're doing can beat the game in 10 minutes or less.  Thankfully the Atari 400/800 and 5200 ports solve this problem by adding a the second quest which really adds to the replay value (good luck getting a perfect score!).

Version Cart Text Description
?/??/84 Pitfall II CZ-011 (C) 1984 Activision,Inc.
Final Version


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