The gameplay vastly builds on its predecessor, keeping most of the elements of Pitfall II except for the eel and insect monsters. The game featured omnidirectional scrolling, and was one of the first NES games ever to do so. The layout was far more complex than its predecessor, many new monsters were added, and there were a total of five maps to explore. There were also visible differences in sediment as the player got deeper, a feature ubiquitous with Minecraft style games.
However, the game was also known for its many glitches — things popping in and out of view, clipping issues, and the like. The invisible items were also somewhat base breaking. As a result, the game received mixed reception, and generally fell into obscurity until the Angry Video Game Nerd featured it in 2009. Although generally lambasting it in his review, he went on to play the second quest, reflecting said mixed reception.
Of note, a planned sequel was once considered as a localization of Atlantis no Nazo, another game centered around treasure collection and exploration, but this was abandoned. A video of the prototype can be found here. Finally, a fan-made 30th Anniversary Edition was released in 2016, with improved graphics, visible key items, and numerous other changes. (viewable here)
Tropes for the original game include:
- Anti-Frustration Features: The long waterfall does not appear for several levels of the long climb that surrounds it. With falling ceilings, spikes going up and down, and Goddamn Bats to worry about near where the waterfall would be, this decision by the developers is quite justified.
- Beneath the Earth: The last area most players go to in a successful run is the Underworld, an area with creepy music, undead enemies, and somewhat Eldritch architecture. Ironically, it's accessed from the highest point on the main area's map.
- Damsel in Distress: Heavily downplayed, as one of your goals is to save your cursed niece from the Underworld. You would only know this if you read the manual.
- Dungeon Bypass: A common skip used by speedrunners involves intentionally getting killed by the spider walking around near the long waterfall. The player respawns on the highest level and essentially skips about 10 minutes of climbing back up.
- Every 10,000 Points: The primary way to get extra lives, aside from collecting Pony Canyon logos, is to get points from gold. First life at 50k, then additional lives every 30k after.
- Guide Dang It!: One section of the game has you jumping into an enemy vulture to enter a mandatory area. While it has tells, as it's immune to gunfire and flies lower than most vultures, this was a frequent topic on Nintendo Power.
- Invincibility Power-Up: Six-pointed stars in the Underworld gave the player Mario-style invincibility for about 10 seconds while playing the upbeat endgame music.
- Invincible Minor Minion:
- The flying skeleton ghosts on the same Y axis as the entrance to the underworld are invincible, but relatively easy to avoid. They exist solely to clue the player on the underworld's secret entrance.
- Downplayed with the bats, which are invincible both while hanging upsidedown and while preparing to fly. They become vulnerable once their graphic changes.
- Invisible Block: Excluding the gold, every item in the game is invisible, requiring jumping around a small area to reveal.
- Lava Pit: Various lava pits can be found at all but the highest sediment layer.
- Mood Whiplash: The Underworld qualifies. Every other area involves exploring caves and collecting treasure, while the last area is literally Hell, with undead everywhere and zero gold lying around.
- Nintendo Hard: Difficult to complete, though generally easy to deal with enemies. Due to hidden items and the possibility of entering an area too soon, it's very possible to get lost or stuck.
- One Bullet at a Time: In this case, Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Your rate of fire is once per frame, so as long as no bullets are on screen, spamming B is a viable option for taking out the Underworld minions up close.
- Pet Baby Wild Animal: While its age is never brought up, it's worth mentioning that one of Harry's goals is to rescue his pet lion.
- Second Quest: The second quest has the same layout as the main game, but with all of the item locations moved.
- Secret Level: The game has two short optional areas, both accessed by jumping into weirdly behaving vultures.
- Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness: One of the earliest examples of a level 6, putting it on par with wide-open sandboxes. You can go just literally anywhere from the get go, but you must follow a specific sequence to win.
- Spikes of Doom: The most common environmental hazard, and like most games from its era, spikes can kill the player from the sides. It's worth noting that there is only one place where players can approach spikes from the side.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: So long as he avoids the predictable piranhas and sea snakes, Harry can breathe underwater forever.
- Taken for Granite: Harry's niece was turned to stone before the game began. He needs to find a potion and then head to the underworld to rescue her.
- Unwinnable by Mistake: Sub-areas cannot be reentered, and some sub-areas have parts you can only complete with items from other sub-areas, which means if you don't explore in the proper order, the game is unwinnable.
- Vine Swing: Not as frequent as its predecessors, but vines are littered throughout the main map and the underworld. The player has to touch a vine's tip to grab onto it.
Tropes for the fan-made 30th Anniversary Edition include:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Harry himself gets a cuter, younger, and more androgynous look. Quickclaw and Rhonda also get cuter, more cartoon-like graphics.
- Adapted Out:
- Crosses and invincibility stars have been removed from the underworld, as well as smaller stacks of gold and ammunition, the latter two being no longer relevant.
- The second quest has also been removed, justified as having all collectibles visible along with the secondary objective of collecting all treasures makes it unnecessary.
- Anti-Frustration Features: As if taking notes from the original's Angry Video Game Nerd treatment, the hack removes the opening ladder trap, adds a gun with infinite ammo, an auto-save feature, and makes everything that was once invisible or esoteric far easier to find. Parts of the map have also been modified to reduce backtracking and provide better hints for dealing with problems.
- Auto-Save: Unlike the original, which didn't even have a password system, Super Pitfall autosaves to SRAM whenever the player collects something or loses a life.
- Canon Foreigner: An undead creature that throws its own head and runs off guards the exit to the underworld. As the head is an easy one-hit kill, it's just likely the modder's signature.
- 100% Completion: While six of the seven objectives are mandatory to the story, there are now also 100 treasures to collect: 10 rings in the underworld, 90 treasure chests elsewhere.
- Internal Homage: The main area's music is heavily drawn from Pitfall II's music, mashing up its normal and triumphant themes.
- ROM Hack: It's a hack of the US version of the game, with minor map adjustments, graphics and sound overhauls, and much more.
- Sound Test: As the hack features a custom sound track by the modders, they've included a sound test that includes both their original creations and the dummied out music from the original.