Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns (Atari 2600) Retro Review
Updated: Mar 25
Game Name: Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns
Platforms: Atari 2600 (original), Apple II, Arcade, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, MSX, IBM PC, SG-1000, TRS-80 CoCo, ZX Spectrum
This is one of the first games that my family ever owned. We never had an Atari 2600 when I was young. Instead, we had the ColecoVision with Module 1, Atari adapter. At the time, the ColecoVision was the king of the ports. Due to this, my brother opted for this instead of the Atari 2600. Although, this would never happen today, The ColecoVision with Atari Adapter was like having an XBOX One with a PS4 Pro emulator app. You see that and say, that could never happen. However, years ago, that happened with Coleco and Atari. We got the best of both worlds.
Back to the game at hand, I always found this game really challenging. I do not believe that I had ever completed it at that time. I did beat it la few years later. In fact, last week on my twitch channel, I completed the game for the first time in over 30 years. I was pretty proud of that.
Was this game as challenging now as it was when I was younger? Let us find out.
Let us dive into the gameplay. It is pretty simple. You use the directional pad (left and right) to move your character and you have a jump button. On the original Atari and ColecoVision you would use the joystick.
Atari 2600 Controller
The game is one of the original platformers. I am aware that there were other platformers (Pitfall I, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior...etc), but for me this is the game that stands out. In both Pitfall games the goal is the same, you have a start and a goal and you have obstacles in the middle.
It seems that the first game had more difficult obstacles such as barrels and lakes. This time around you have to avoid gaps, eagles, frogs and bats. These feel easier to circumvent than in the original. There are electric thunderbolts in the water as well. I guess those could be eels.
Here is my play through of Pitfall II.
Pitfall II - Sample Gameplay
I really believe that this game does stand the test of time. When you think of platformers, most players think of Super Mario Brothers. However, Pitfall II is still fun for me.
One of my biggest criticisms of the game is that, by today's standards it is very short. It took me about an hour to complete, but if you know what you are doing it can take about 15 minutes. There are many reasons for that. Back then, memory was a luxury and games could not be as large as today's games.
I do not really have any other criticisms of the game. The rest of my analysis is mostly positive. Let us start the positivity train with the soundtrack. I think that for its time, this is one of the best soundtracks that ever existed on the Atari 2600. Unlike most games on the system which used two channels for the music, David Crane managed to make the soundtrack on four channels. This made the soundtrack sound crisp and more in depth than other games.
The cartridge contains a custom "Display Processor Chip" designed by David Crane to allow improved visuals and four channel music instead of the two the system is normally capable of.
Pitfall II - Soundtrack
This song can be an ear worm and for me it is a classic soundtrack like Super Mario Brothers was or even Ninja Gaiden.
I think that the reason why most people forget this gem of a game, is because it was released towards the tail end of the video game crash. It was one of the bigger named releases on the platform. However, interest in the console was not as popular and I think the popularity of the game suffered because of it.
Most players today would never think of playing this game as it is too old and newer games are more fun. That may be true, but I do think that for any player that wants a challenge, they need to play this game. There are so many areas that seem easy but can take you some time to get through.
In addition to the actual difficulty, you had the opportunity to roam around. Let me explain. For the most part the gameplay is linear, however, there are parts with a helium balloon and it is not clear where you need to go. So this allows you to discover the game and find hidden golden nuggets and gems. This type of gameplay was ahead of its time. It is not an open world by any means but it made the gameplay more interesting. For example, in Donkey Kong the goal of each level is pretty straight forward. There is no guessing involved.
I think that if you are looking to play an old Atari classic, this is one for you. In all honesty, I think I have played this more in my lifetime than any other Atari game. That includes Berzerk, Ice Hockey and River Raid. I am not the first person to say that this game is a classic. I find this game very enjoyable. Some games age do not age gracefully, but this one on the Atari is the exception.
I am not sure if it is available to find for download on some system but you can for sure play it on emulation.
What do you think? Let me know below.