Sega's (licensed from Activision) 1984 Pitfall II

You are the brave adventurer, Pitfall Harry, just back from several expeditions on numerous home game consoles. You've apparently accumulated quite a wealth of treasures in your travels through murky jungles and scorpion-filled caves so Harry has decided to take the franchise out of the home and into the arcades.

Your new adventures seem to be a combination of the vine swinging, alligator hopping feats of the original Pitfall game along with the balloon riding, bat dodging tricks of Pitfall II for home systems. As in the home console versions you must find certain items to complete your quest. Unlike the home versions of Pitfall II you have a limited amount of time to achieve these goals. If the timer runs out so does your luck which is similar to Harry's first Pitfall quest. Although unlike the adventures launched from your living room, when Harry succumbs to an obstacle in the arcade he is not whisked back to the last checkpoint forcing him to retrace his steps.

Missing Ingredient

The home console.

The home versions of Pitfall II don't force you to complete quests in a limited amount of time and allow you to explore at your own pace. And with multiple items to find in this game it seems impossible to complete on a single quarter. Although the arcade version allows you to drop in more quarters to continue, the overall quest is much less spectacular when you're rushed through the caverns at a cost of your month's allowance.

But now that Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns is playable once again from the comfort of your home through the emulation of MAME, new life and playability is brought to the game. MAME, being essentially a home console for arcade games, allows the original play-at-your-own-pace gameplay back without emptying your pockets. And while you still need to contend with the annoying timer, it's easier to deal with when a continue is a single button click away.

The graphics in the arcade version of Pitfall II are also worth mentioning. While they are undoubtedly more detailed and elaborate than those of any of the home console versions, they also are more colorful and cheerful. It almost gives the impression that Pitfall Harry is exploring Sid & Marty Krofft's Living Island. With colorful, smiling trees and fluffy, white clouds you almost expect to run into H.R. Pufnstuf around the next corner. Even though the original graphics of the home console versions of Pitfall II are less detailed, their minimal shapes against stark, black backgrounds enhance the mysterious adventure and seem to treat the subject more seriously and less like a Saturday morning kid's cartoon.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


All content © Dave Dries unless otherwise stated