Pitfall! for the Atari 2600 might be one of the only video games that has actually caused me any sort of hallucination. If you’re not familiar with the game, you play pitfall Harry, a dapper gent in brown pants, a green shirt, and a flat top haircut. You run around in the jungle on a 20 minute time limit, looking for treasure.
The treasure comprises gold, silver, bags of money, and a big ring which is nearly as tall as your video game character. I was playing Pitfall one morning when I looked away for a moment to answer a question my mom was asking. When I looked back at the screen there was a bag of money next to Harry that was half the size of the tv screen. Looking back, I know it was probably impossible, but I swear I saw it, for whatever reason.
Hallucination aside, Pitfall! is one great Atari game. Not only that, it has a legitimate place as one of the most influential games in video game history. It is the greatest precursor of every popular platformer out there on any and all consoles. If you’re not familiar with the term “platformer” think about any 2d game where you jump over things. There are lots of them, aren’t there? Thank Atari’s classic and Pitfall Harry for that.
And not only that, we’re certainly not seeing any shortage of modern games about treasure hunters in tropical locations. Uncharted and Uncharted 2, and all the Tomb Raider games also owe a debt here.
The game itself is pretty simple. At the beginning of the game you can either go left or you can go to the right. Either way is perilous, but left was more so in my opinion. You will have to avoid scorpions, campfires (no idea who built them), snakes, crocodiles, quicksand, and more. This isn’t a one-screen game like Yar’s Revenge. There isn’t a ton of variety during Harry’s 20 minutes, but there are numerous screens.
And with only three lives, you have to be pretty careful to get through the entire 20 minutes you’re allotted. I rarely made it through, especially when I headed to the left.
I’ve got nothing but great memories of this game. I can still hear the song that plays when you grab onto a swinging rope. Atari was so great–the rope was basically a big giant pixelated stick that your character stuck to while swinging over a pit, but it still seemed so cool. It makes me smile every time I think that there was a time when the 2600 games were cutting edge, and that Pitfall! was one of the greats.
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