Review: Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (Atari 5200)

In this review, we jump at the chance to play the Atari 5200 game Pitfall II: the Lost Caverns. We find out if this game is worth trying.

This gaame was released in 1984. It is a port from the Atari 2600. We previously reviewed the prequel to this game, Pitfall! In fact, we reviewed the Atari 2600 version. It was a very good game. We further reviewed the Atari 5200 version. That game also got a pretty good score. So, we thought we’d try the sequel to see what it’s like to play it.

You once again play the roll as the Pitfall guy. The goal appears to be the animal that happens to be just below you.

The controls have largely stayed the same for this game. All you can do is run and jump for the most part. What is new is the use of ladders. That you can use by pushing up or down on the controller as you approach them.

Of course, what has changes significantly is the layout and how the game behaves. Unlike the previous game, this game doesn’t necessarily focus on you jumping over gaps. Instead, you are encourages to explore into the caverns. You still jump over some enemies like scorpions, but jumping takes more of a back seat to what you need to do.

You start on a plus sign. If you get hit by anything, you’ll be immediately transported to it. These plus signs operate like checkpoints throughout the game. While you can’t actually die, you can very easily lose a lot of points by getting hit. Once you get hit, you’ll gradually be taken back to that checkpoint. Along the way, your score will run down. The only thing that replenishes your score are the gold bars. Each bar is worth 5000 points. If you touch another checkpoint, your character will be brought back to the last checkpoint you touched.

The problem I found with this game is the difficulty. Every critical jump or dodge only gives you the most razor thin margin for success. If your jump or position on the platform is off by even a few pixels, you get hit. The only enemy that had a reasonable difficulty that I encountered was the electric eel.

While that is annoying enough, the number of checkpoints are even worse. It takes a lot of effort to make it to the second checkpoint. I failed to even make it to the third checkpoint numerous times before finally making it on one last attempt.

Having said that, this game has a very good amount of level in it. It’s not randomly generated and it’s very easy to spend a great deal of time just exploring the different areas. The size of the game is certainly impressive. It also shows what an improvement it is over the prequel.

Generally speaking, this game is quite difficult. This may be off-putting to a fair number of gamers out there. The game might be reasonable if the number of checkpoints was doubled. Still, the interlocking sections of the game, and the pure number of sections in the game, is certainly impressive for a game of its time. It’s an alright game, but be prepared to get hit a lot and having to rerun the same sections of the game over and over again.

Graphically speaking, this game is fairly average. While it is an improvement over the original Pitfall, it’s not an improvement by much. Other games are already starting to pull off pretty good graphics on these systems by now. The stark black background in the caves is probably the biggest downside in this department.

The music, in the mean time, is pretty interesting. When you start, the tempo is up, but gradually fades down to normal. Every time you collect some gold, the tempo temporarily increases again. When you ride the balloon, the music morphs into a different song. When it pops, you go back to the normal music. This element of the game is something I thought was very well executed. The sound effects are very minimal, so that is the only downfall in this area.

Overall, this is not a bad game. Because of the extremely tight margins for error, this game ends up being particularly difficult. The very spaced checkpoints only add to the difficulty. The game would have been better served if the number of checkpoints doubled. Still, the size of the game is certainly impressive for the time. The interlocking screens throughout the level definitely gets a thumbs up from me. The graphics are a little on the dated side even though this is an improvement over the original Pitfall game. The music is great, but the sound effects a little on the sparse side for my tastes. A decent game all around.

Furthest point in game: Rescued the monkey, but died by the second ant I saw.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 72%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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