Activision‘s 1984 sequel to Pitfall! – Pitfall II: Lost Caverns – was again designed and programmed by David Crane. This time, though, the cartridge had a custom display processor chip inside, which allowed for improved visuals and continuous four channel music (the Atari 2600 is normally only capable of two channel sound).
Gameplay is similar to Pitfall!, although in this follow-up the world you can explore is much bigger than previously and is made up of eight screens in width, by 27 screens in height, making 216 screens in total. When you walk from one screen to another the new screen scrolls smoothly into view.
The basic aim of the game is to collect gold bars that are located throughout the cave system. Unlike in the first Pitfall, in this game you have unlimited lives and time, but if you touch a hostile creature you are sent back to the last continue point (indicated by a cross on the ground), and are also deducted points. So in essence you can’t die or lose the game, but you can end up with zero points if you keep getting caught. Incidentally: if you play a perfect game and collect everything the maximum achievable score is 199,000. To complete the game you must find and rescue Rhonda (Pitfall Harry‘s niece), Quickclaw (Harry‘s pet mountain lion), and find a diamond ring.
There are ladders connecting some screens vertically, and water that you can jump into and swim in, and also balloons that allow you to float upwards to new areas.
The music in the game changes depending on what you do. The main theme plays until it changes to a more stripped-back tune, then the main theme begins again when you collect another treasure. When you return to a continue point a slower, minor key version of the theme plays. If you are riding a balloon a version of “Sobre las Olas” is played.
Pitfall II is a rather clever game overall – at least for an Atari 2600 game. It’s much more advanced than its predecessor – arguably even the most advanced game ever released for the Atari 2600. And although it’s extremely simple by today’s standards it remains playable and fun to this day. An enhanced port, called The Adventurer’s Edition, was released for Atari 8-bit home computers (and the Atari 5200) which has an entirely new level that became playable after the initial game was completed.