Orphaned Computers & Game Systems

Vol. II, Issue 4    June 1998

Pitfall Update

The End of the Secret Level!

by Chris Federico and Adam Trionfo

This is the third 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!

Okay, is everyone sick of Pitfall articles yet?

This one couldn't be avoided. We promise. This is vital information here, man.

We mentioned last issue that the Atari 5200 and 8-bit versions of Pitfall II contain a secret level, encountered upon winning the game proper. This area, called the Great Cavern, is insanely difficult and contains many hazards and bad guys that aren't in the game everyone's already familiar with.

Well, a month after our discovery of the Great Cavern and over a period of four hours, working together, Adam and I finally beat that tough hidden game. The ending is extremely neato, and must be reported.

Taking turns at the Atari 130XE, we sent poor Pitfall Harry wandering around the huge hidden area until we knew what our new goals were: a stranded cowboy-type, a coiled rope, a treasure chest and a key.

The problem was, we always spotted these items from a platform above or below; the routes to reach them are extremely tricky. This bonus game is a lot bigger and more complicated than the actual Pitfall II, requiring more route planning. We actually found ourselves wishing we'd mapped it from the beginning.

We finally got all of the items except the rope. At one point, we were surprised to find that rescuing the cowboy caused a snake charmer to appear on a screen near the edge of the area. Upon entering this screen, the charmer's message scrolled across the bottom: "Charming the golden rope is Pitfall Harry's only hope." Grabbing the treasure chest caused it to appear on this screen as well, near the charmer, and at that point we realized that it was actually a basket.

Our theory is that the cowboy was the charmer in disguise, waiting for a good-Samaritan-type act from Harry before revealing himself and helping Harry escape the caverns. Because it became evident that that's the purpose of the bonus game: to get the hell out, now that the niece, cat and diamond ring have been rescued.

Weird, huh? So we had to find the rope. We located the necessary route at the top of the area, but it turned out to be the most difficult run of Pitfall screens we'd ever undertaken. We took turns for the better part of an hour, trying to get to this damn rope. We eventually realized who was better at what types of obstacles, and split up the game play appropriately.

We finally got the rope, but nothing happened! We embarked on another quest to re-locate the snake charmer. This took about half an hour. We finally found him again, and we noticed the end of the rope sticking out of the basket. But nothing else was happening!

I'll let Adam tell the last part of the story. It's cool. -- Chris

So I voiced my concern right away. "I bet we need to find a flute so we can charm the rope now." Of course, in panic, this seemed quite logical. We had even thought we saw a flute earlier in the game. There was no way that we were going to stop playing now. We had come too far, played too long. We were determined to beat this game. Fortunately, we remembered that we'd initially thought that the key looked like a flute, so that base was covered. No flute to hunt for.

I had not been this excited about a game in years. Playing as many games as I do, it doesn't take long before the mediocre games begin to blend together. Pitfall, after all these years, had me excited and sincerely glad to be playing games again.

So there we were, waiting for something to happen, when I thought I would see if the snake charmer had any other helpful hints. When Harry approached him, the flute began to play and the rope began to slowly rise out of the basket. My jaw dropped to the floor. What was happening? Was this the end of the game? Was there really going to be more to the actual finale of the whole thing than Harry jumping around like he does at the end of the actual Pitfall II?

As the magical rope ascended toward the top of the cavern, Harry was followed up out of the basket by his niece Rhonda, his cowardly cat Quickclaw, and the giant diamond ring -- all dangling at different heights along the rope, which continued to extend upward until a hole appeared in the cavern's ceiling, through which Harry and the rest climbed to freedom in the jungle world.

At the end, by the way, the player is informed onscreen that the Atari version is in fact the Adventurer's Edition, and that this particular 'port was done in 1984 by a programmer named Mike Lorenzen. Whether or not David Crane himself had anything to do with the secret level is not known.

On the plain above, along with his rescuees and treasures, Harry bathed at last in the sunlight that had taken him and me over a decade to reach together. I feel fortunate to be one of the few to have fully experienced the best 8-bit graphic adventure ever created. -- Adam

OC&GS Vol. II, Issue #4 (June 1998)
OC&GS Articles
OC&GS Main Page