Pitfall II: Lost Caverns, Atari 8-bit

This Atari 8-bit conversion of David Crane‘s classic Atari 2600 platform game is subtitled the “Adventurer’s Edition” because it contains a whole new second level that becomes available after you complete the first.

Completing the first level is a daunting task, though. Unless you can find a version of the game with a built-in trainer. I got lucky and the first version I tried had a trainer, so I found a map of the first level and set out to complete it. It took a while (maybe an hour), but with collisions turned off it made the task easier, and lo and behold: there is indeed a second new level.

Completing the first level doesn’t actually require that you collect every gold bar in the game – just collect the three main objects: Rhonda (Pitfall Harry‘s niece), Quickclaw (Harry‘s pet mountain lion), and a diamond ring. When you touch the third and final item a blue door appears and Pitfall Harry runs through it, starting the second level. You’ll notice the change because the score at the top of the screen splits in two (the left score being your total from the first level and the right score being your accumulator on the second level).

It has to be said that this new second level is much bigger and much more difficult to make headway in than the first. For starters the hostile creatures that you encounter are considerably more difficult to avoid, and secondly the layout of the platforms and ladders are more convoluted and tortuous than before. Also: there are larger underwater areas with fast-moving killer fish in them. And knowing what you’re supposed to be doing is more vague too. So getting to this fabled second level is not only quite difficult, but getting anywhere in it is next to impossible.

I did read that Activision‘s marketing department were not particularly happy that this conversion was different to the original game and that programmer Mike Lorenzen was forced to make the second level an ‘Easter egg’, rather than a publicised feature. While that might seem a bit odd on the face of it, it’s probably not unfair to say that the second level is not up to the standard of the first. David Crane‘s original first level is very well designed and it’s not impossible to complete if you know what you’re doing. The second level, however, is arguably too difficult, unfair and not as well designed. And, as there is no way of saving your progress in the game, any dalliance with the second level is bound to be frustratingly short (that is: unless you’re using emulator quicksaves).

That said: having an extra level in Pitfall II is hardly detrimental to the game and its presence does at least make this version slightly more interesting than the original. In terms of graphics, sound and gameplay it’s almost identical to the Atari 2600 version.

More: Pitfall II: Lost Caverns on Wikipedia

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