Review: Pitfall! (Atari 5200)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we check out the Atari 5200 port of the adventure game Pitfall. We jump on this review to bring you what makes or breaks this game.

This particular port was released in 1984. It was released on many other platforms at around this time.

The basic objective of this game is to traverse the dangerous terrain – many of which contains ponds or pits. You lose a life is you fall into a pond or a pit (hence the name “Pitfall”). You have three lives to work with.

There are numerous obstacles throughout this game. They include logs, rolling logs, snakes, alligators, and even pits that open and close on you. You have one button to allow you to jump and the joystick to move around.

Along the way, you can obtain gold. While this helps the score, the more helpful object you can encounter is the swinging vine. You jump up to this swinging vine. From there, you can safely swing across one of the larger pits found in the game. To get off, move the joystick down (I thought it was just the jump button again, but I was wrong on that assumption).

There is a time limit, but I never needed to use all of it because I died long before the time was up.

I found that the most difficult obstacle was the alligator pond. You have to time your attempt in such a way that the alligators close their jaws just as you land on the first one. From there, you have to pick an alligator to do slight backtracking. If you don’t, you’ll very likely jump too far at some point and fall into the pond.

Generally, I thought this game was quite enjoyable. While basic in nature, it keeps you entertained as there’s always seemingly something new with each screen. When you use up all of your lives, I found that you want to simply try again because you feel that you can do better as you perfect your jumping and timing.

Graphically, this game was good. While the larger pixels do make the vines look a little odd, the larger pixels do not necessarily get in the way of being able to see what everything else is. The whole screen was graphically utilized. So, overall, the graphics were good.

There wasn’t really much in the way of music. There’s a quasi jingle when you successfully grab one of the swinging vines. In addition, you get another jingle once you die which I thought was a good choice. Otherwise, the sound effects were present, but seemingly just a sound for the sake of sound rather than having any thought put into it. The death music is the only thing that allows me to give this game a passing grade in the sound department.

Overall, this game was, in spite of the limitations in here, a pretty good game. The mechanics is what makes this game quite playable. While it isn’t necessarily a side scroller, it’s as close to a side scrolling adventure game as I’ve seen in the pre-NES era. Certainly a game worth playing.


Furthest point in game: Second alligator pool.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 74%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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