Activision’s “Pitfall!” Turns 30 Years Old Today
Throughout our lives, we all tend to have those moments where you think to yourself, “I must be getting old”. The Sega Dreamcast was discontinued 10 years ago this year. The first Super Mario Kart game was released 20 years ago. The first game in the Legend Of Zelda series was published in America 25 years ago. Today? Another classic celebrates an birthday. The original “Pitfall” for the Atari 2600 system was released on this date, 30 years ago: September 6, 1982!
Pitfall was designed by David Crane, and a lot of video games of the 80s and 90s have a lot to thank him for. It was the first successful game cartridge that utilized the side-scrolling format that was very common in games released shortly after, perhaps paving the way for Super Mario Brothers. It was also one of the first games of notability to give you a time limit, and one of the earliest examples of having a game with an actual goal and ending. (Most of the time, once the game completed at one point, the game would just increase in difficulty and repeat.) It also was a game of skill, smarts and excellent hand-eye coordination. All of these attributes would be used in video games for decades to come.
Pitfall had the distinction of being the second best selling cartridge for the Atari 2600 console, being beat out only by Atari’s own Pac-Man. In fact, it was so successful in it’s early days (selling over 4 million units), that it was even used in animated form. Pitfall Harry appeared as one of the video game titles used in the first season of Saturday Supercade, which was a CBS cartoon series that ran for 97 episodes between September 1983 through August 1985. (You just can’t help but love it when cartoons were something to really look forward to on Saturday mornings!) Pitfall was featured in a total of seven episodes in that series.
For those that have never played the game, shame on you! You play as Pitfall Harry, exploring a jungle in attempt to collect thirty-two hidden treasures. During your adventure, you have to avoid several different hazards, including quicksand, runaway tree logs, forest fires, rattlesnakes and of course, swinging on a vine to avoid crocodiles. Treasures that you collect include gold bars, sacks of money and diamonds. There is also an underground area where you could travel through tunnels, which help speed up the game process. (In fact, if you want to collect everything, these are essential, like it or not.) Oh, and did we mention that you have to this all within twenty minutes?
A direct sequel to the game was released in 1983, entitled “Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns”. Another version was released for the NES, but was very poor in comparison to the original. The sequel to the series, “Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure” was released for 16-bit systems in 1994, with other sequels to follow for the original Playstation, GameCube and Xbox consoles. Pitfall was released in an all new format for iOS mobile devices just last month, while David Crane also opened up a Kickstarter Project recently, in order to launch a brand new jungle style adventure title.