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Video Game / Pitfall!

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A classic Activision franchise created by David Crane. The original Pitfall! was released on the Atari 2600 in 1982 and established the foundations of the multiscreen Platformer genre: running and jumping over obstacles as you travel from left to right.

The only real sequel followed in 1984, also for the 2600; Pitfall II: Lost Caverns introduced elements like exploration, true scrolling, and an interactive soundtrack that reflects how well you're doing. It also received an arcade adaptation by Sega in 1985, which was a hybrid of the first two games with two completely new areas added. Super Pitfall, a sequel/loose remake of Lost Caverns, was released in 1986 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. All that needs to be said about that game is that The Angry Video Game Nerd has reviewed it.

The series was revived on the SNES and Sega Genesis in 1994's Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, a platformer in the same vein as Aladdin and Earthworm Jim. Two more revivals came later, this time in 3D: 1998's Pitfall 3D: Beyond the Jungle on the PlayStation, and 2004's Pitfall: The Lost Expedition on the PS2, Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube (and ported to the Wii in 2008 as Pitfall: The Big Adventure). All of these games include the original Pitfall! as an Easter Egg; Lost Expedition and Big Adventure contain Pitfall II as well.

In August 2012, the series celebrated its 30th anniversary with an iOS Game in the Endless Running Game genre, the first product by Activision's mobile studio The Blast Furnace.

Pitfall! has also left its mark on television. In its first season, the Ruby-Spears Saturday Supercade cartoon featured segments based on the game, and a 1982 commercial for Pitfall! starred a young Jack Black.

No relation of course to the Game Show of the very same name.

The Pitfall series features examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The arcade game, strangely enough produced by Sega, featured enhanced versions of the overworld of the first Pitfall and the underworld of the second, and added Minecart Madness and Temple of Doom stages. The Atari 800 computer version of Pitfall II was also expanded.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Pitfall Harry and his son. His niece Rhonda in the cartoon as well.
  • Animated Adaptation: The Saturday Supercade cartoon series.
  • Balloonacy: Harry uses a balloon to traverse a large open area in Pitfall II.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In The Mayan Adventure, if you make Harry Jr. jump into a quicksand, he waves goodbye at you while being sucked down.
  • Canon Immigrant: Harry's niece Rhonda and Cowardly Sidekick Team Pet Quickclaw the Mountain Lion were originally created for the aforementioned Saturday Supercade adaptation, but appeared in Pitfall II afterwards. Quickclaw also appeared in The Lost Expedition, now a talking jaguar.
  • Captain Ersatz: To Indiana Jones.
  • Checkpoint: in Pitfall II Harry can't technically die; touching an enemy just slides him back to the last checkpoint, shown as little red marks on the ground.
  • Classic Cheat Code: On the Sega Genesis version of The Mayan Adventure: the level select cheat was B, Right, A, Down, Right, Up, B, Left, A, Up, Right, A. Which, of course, makes one wonder just who Brad and Laura are...
  • Continuity Reboot: The Lost Expedition.
  • Corridor Cubbyhole Run: Pitfall II has at least ten "floors" in a row which entirely consisted of walking across the screen as a bat flew towards Harry and having to run Harry under the bat only if the wings were flapping up.
  • Cowardly Sidekick: Quickclaw, though it was more of an Informed Attribute in Pitfall II, since all he did was stand in one place.
  • Darker and Edgier: Pitfall 3-D: Beyond the Jungle
  • Dark Reprise: If Harry dies in Pitfall II, a slower minor-key version of the Theme Music Power-Up plays.
  • Direct Continuous Levels: The arcade game does this.
  • Dungeon Bypass: It's possible in The Mayan Adventure to jump your way through the arenas where the second and third bosses are fought and get to the exit without triggering the boss fight (though this was removed in at least the Sega CD version.)
  • Easter Egg: The Atari 8-bit and 5200 versions of Pitfall II had an entirely new level after you beat the game that was longer than the actual game itself. This may be the largest relative Easter egg in any game.
  • Embedded Precursor: Ever since the 16-bit days, it's traditional for Pitfall games to include the original 2600 game buried in there somewhere.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Actually sort of averted in the first game - I mean, those crocodiles can hardly be blamed if they open their mouths while you're standing on them. Played straight for the rest of the series, though.
  • Flip-Screen Scrolling: The first game had nothing but Flip Screen Scrolling. The sequel introduced smooth scrolling, but only when traveling vertically.
  • Jungle Japes: Right down to the swinging vines.
  • Mayincatec: The Mayan Adventure
  • Mickey Mousing: The second game was the first example of a full soundtrack that also changed based on activity. The normally light-sounding background music changed to a heroic theme if an item was collected and a sad version of that same theme if Herry was injured.
  • Minecart Madness: The third area in the arcade game.
    • Also a stage in The Mayan Adventure.
  • Money for Nothing: The treasures that Harry finds are only good for Scoring Points, with the exception of The Lost Expedition.
  • Parents in Distress: In The Mayan Adventure, the objective is for Harry Jr. to rescue his kidnapped father, who appeared in the original games during the 8-bit era.
  • Pit Trap: Pits just love to open under you. Hence the name, I guess.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: Subverted in The Mayan Adventure. Boomerangs are one of three weapons in the game, follow an improbably far-reaching curved path, and float around in the air upon return. They do disappear if you don't grab them again, however... and they don't return if they hit an enemy.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: In the second game, the background music would change to the generic carnival tune "Over the Waves" if the player collected a balloon.
  • Reformulated Game: The Atari 5200 version of Lost Caverns, complete with its second Easter Egg level, counts, as the only reason that level exists is that the Atari team had to wait for the Commodore 64 team (who had to code the game from scratch instead of using 2600 code as a base) to finish in order to release both ports simultaneously, and in the interim the Atari team created the second level.
  • Retraux: In Mayan Adventure, when Harry Jr. finally finds his dad, Harry Sr. looks exactly as he did during the original 8-bit games. As in, literally a few featureless pixels in the rough shape of a man, using only four colors. Strung up on a highly detailed, realistically shaded 16-bit altar. (And remarks "What took you so long?")
  • Shout-Out: In the original game, Harry yodels like Tarzan when swinging on a vine.
    • Also in the original game, when you lose a life, the "Danger Ahead" theme plays.
  • "Simon Says" Mini-Game: The Mayan Adventure has a similar game involving pull-levers in some bonus levels.
  • Small Reference Pools
  • So Near, Yet So Far: Can happen in Pitfall! 2. You only need to pick up three things to finish the game: Quickclaw, Rhonda, and the diamond ring. The game automatically ends when you pick up the last one of these. Quickclaw is visible from the beginning of the game, right below your starting position, but you have to go around the long way to get to him, making Quickclaw the last thing most people pick up.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Played straight in the first game.
  • Super Mode: The pepper in Mayan Adventure gives extra speed and high enough jumps to flip.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Pitfall II had elaborate parts where you swim and this is an Atari 2600 game.
  • Temple of Doom: If you're indoors in a Pitfall game, you're probably inside one of these. The arcade game had one for its final stage.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: In Pitfall II every time you grab a treasure or rescue someone a galvanizing, heroic, upbeat theme vaguely reminiscent of the Indiana Jones anthem plays. (It's based on some of the Pitfall cartoon's incidental music) One of the oldest ones in the book, as it was the first console game to feature PSG music, and in fact the only 2600 game to have a custom sound chip.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: Pitfall 3D
  • Vine Swing: Pitfall Harry occasionally runs into vines to swing over ponds and bottomless pits that open up in the ground. The sound effects replicate the Tarzan yell whenever he does this.

Alternative Title(s): Pitfall The Mayan Adventure