Orphaned Computers & Game Systems

Vol. II, Issue 3    April 1998

Pitfall Update: Pitfall III

By Chris Federico and Adam Trionfo
(AKA Your Fearlessly Exploring Editors)

This is the second of three articles that covers the "Pitfall" series of games. The details cover from the game's first release on the Atari 2600 console up through about 1998, when the three articles appeared in print.
  1. The Legend of Pitfall Harry From the VCS to the PC
  2. Pitfall Update: Pitfall III
  3. Pitfall Update: The End of the Secret Level!

Last issue, we did an article called "The Legend of Pitfall Harry: From the VCS to the PC." It was a synopsis and commentary on Pitfall!, Pitfall II: Lost Caverns and Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure. But now we have some exciting news about a Pitfall world that most of you have probably never seen.

For months, Adam spoke of a rumored "secret level" in Pitfall II. He said that he'd read about it, but that he wasn't sure how to access it. The most tangible evidence he had was the brief, teasing mention of a second cavern in the manual for the Atari 5200 version of the game. He'd heard that the secret part of the game, called the Great Cavern, was supposedly at least as large as the world in the Pitfall! sequel we all know and love, and perhaps even bigger.

We thought of including instructions about how to get to this alleged Great Cavern in last issue's feature. All we had to do was get a copy of Pitfall II for the Atari 8-bit or the 5200 (these are the only two versions in which the secret game is found), and then of course figure out how to get to the hidden level so we could inform our beloved readers!

The first part was achieved -- we thought. Earnie Reaves, an OC&GS contributor, supplied us with an Atari floppy of the game. We set about playing it, wondering how the hell we were going to find the secret. Adam soon discovered, however, that the game locked up when Harry reached the balloon cliffs. It was apparently a disk that had seen better days. So we left the secret level thing alone and completed the article. But Adam kept talking about it, and we both became manic to find out if there did in fact exist a whole new Pitfall II hidden inside the common version. I mean, we're talking about a game that both of us have played regularly for about 15 years! Controlling Harry in a whole new situation with the same mechanics sounded thrilling!

The problem was finally solved last week (I write this in late January), when Adam found another Pitfall II disk and immediately brought it over to my house. We were relieved to discover that there weren't any bugs in this one.

Now, both Adam and I have our strengths and weaknesses concerning this game. Adam is much better at getting by the frogs than I am, and I have an easier time with the long condors-and-bats bit near the game's ending than he does. We took turns searching the Lost Caverns, trying to find the hidden Great Cavern that we still didn't know surely existed. Was it accessed from a certain spot on one of the screens? Or maybe through a gap we'd never noticed between some rocks? We had no idea where to look. It seemed futile.

It was my turn to play. Adam was busy installing our new Blitz BASIC CD-ROM onto my Amiga hard drive. I was with my Atari 130XE, trying just to beat Pitfall II and see if that didn't do something.

I should point out three things: 1) I got all the gold in the game. 2) I rescued the cat, the girl, the diamond ring and the mouse. 3) I did die a few times, so staying alive through the whole thing isn't necessary (thankfully). I'm not sure if getting all the gold and the mouse are required to find the secret level, but that's what I did.

Since Adam brought the hidden area to my attention some months ago (and had given me the Atari 8-bit to begin with), I'll let him continue with the story of our find. It's only fair to let him write the exciting bit. -- CF

I have always wanted a sequel to Pitfall II, one of my favorite games. If you read the article devoted to the Pitfall series in the last issue, then you know it holds a special place in the hearts of Chris and I.

Other Pitfall games don't hold the magic for me that Pitfall II does. The Mayan Adventure, for example, is a very well-done game, but it lacks the legendary Pitfall qualities that have always lured me (for one thing, if it really belonged in the series, the player would be penalized some points when Harry falls too far). What I have been seeking for over ten years is a true Pitfall III. I've always hoped that I might eventually find a worthy PD version, but I have yet to. (Programmers?)

A few years ago, I learned that the Atari 8-bit version of Pitfall II supposedly contained a secret/bonus/extra level. I'd never owned an Atari version of the game, so I could not look for this extra level. But recently, I finally did get a working copy of that version, and as you'd expect, I was eager to look for the mysterious extra cavern!

While Pitfall II is among my favorite games, I am really no good at it. I have only gotten to Quickclaw, the cat Harry has to rescue, on one occasion. Rather than wasting hours looking for the extra level, I handed the joystick over to Chris, who happens to be much better at most games than I am. Since neither of us really knew what we were looking for, Chris decided to collect as much gold as possible. In about twenty minutes, he had already saved Quickclaw without finding anything different about the game.

But a moment later, a door appeared from the floor. Pitfall Harry, without player intervention, proceeded to walk through it.

I received the C-64 version of Pitfall II for my 12th birthday, over thirteen years ago. Since that time, I've grown to know the game as well as it can be known (except, I suppose, for the correct timing to dodge bats and condors). Watching as this door appeared on the platform where Quickclaw had been was amazing for me. It may sound pathetic, but I could not wait to see what was beyond it.

I began babbling to Chris that he had done it! But he ignored that; he just said that he didn't have control for the moment. What happened next was far beyond anything I could have hoped for.

Beyond that door does indeed lie an entire new cavern. Not a few rooms, not an extra little playing area to explore, but a huge new cavern containing new monsters and treasures! I was breathless, but not speechless. I kept dictating to Chris what he should do (I'm surprised he didn't give me a good ol' New York smack!).

Is there anything that you've wondered about, as far as why it wasn't included in Pitfall II? How come there aren't any deadly fish in the water, for instance? Why aren't there rooms that can only be entered by swimming underwater? And how come the frogs restrict their jumping patterns to ladder-tops instead of whole platforms? Well, all of these extras are included in the second cavern!

The first incredible things I noticed were the new adversaries. How about a fire-ant that's about the size of a scorpion, racing back and forth across the ground at a nearly impossible speed? Or bats without restricted movement patterns? They're both in there. Chris calls the latter wacky bats. Some quick research in the Atari 5200 manual reveals their true name: rabid bats!

There are also new things to rescue, and they are much harder to reach than the required items in the main game. There is a stranded cowboy-type character, something that looks like a rope and a treasure chest.

Some of the other new features of this extra level give new depth to the mechanics. There are now segmented platforms that must be jumped-across in a serial fashion. Some of the platforms are seperated so that it looks like they can't even be jumped-to from one another, but they can. Features like this make this extra cavern the Pitfall III that I have always longed for. Make no mistake -- it is definitely meant for people who have mastered the first part of the game, since it's very difficult (we haven't beaten it). But the difficulty is satisfying, not frustrating. After all, you can't die, as you know. Pitfall II fans must find the Atari 5200 or 8-bit version, even if it means purchasing one of those platforms. When you play it, you will know why! -- AT

OC&GS Vol. II, Issue #3 (April 1998)
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