Duke0619's Blog

Posted on Jul 30th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (Duke0619)
Posted under Pitfall, Atari 2600, 2600, Atari, Pitfall!

Anyone in the RF Generation community, or anyone even remotely familiar with 80s pop culture is sure to have heard of an Atari game called Pitfall!.  You know, Its the one where you swing on a vine over the alligators. The one that makes that funny sound when you touch the logs... the game that made David Crane a household name. Yes, Im sure you have all heard of Pitfall!. But did you know that you could beat it?  Well, I sure didnt, until recently that is. 

Now, I've been playing Pitfall! since 1982 when I was a scrawny, messy-haired 7 year-old, hunkered down in my basement, mesmerized by this new phenomenon that was the home video game console. Fresh off the heals of the blockbuster film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pitfall! was eager to find its way into childrens' homes and allow them to continue the excitement of treasure hunting and jungle adventures right in their living room.  The game did not disappoint, and millions of kids across America were leaping over scorpions and grabbing diamond rings and gold bars for the high score!  But few of us, it seems, realized that the real treasure was hiding within the game, right in front of our eyes!  It wasn't the high score we should've been after, it was the perfect score.

The perfect score of 114,000 points is achieved by collecting all 32 treasures in under 20 minutes and avoiding any point loss you would get by falling into pits or touching logs. Given the mechanics of the game and the seemingly simplistic gameplay, this wouldn't seem like too difficult a challenge. You should be able to spend some time mastering your jumping and swinging techniques and just keep moving and grabbing treasures. But alas, it never works. In fact, you cant even come close to getting all 32 treasures before the time runs out, even with impeccable joystick skills.  What was the key to solving the mystery?  How could anyone possibly pull this off in under 20 minutes? Millions of kids would never find out. But at least one adult did.

The moment I discovered that Pitfall! was able to be beaten, I knew that one final jungle adventure awaited me. After over 35 years of playing, I would set out to finally discover the secret that had eluded Pitfall Harry and I for all those years. And no, the answer wasn't found on Google or Wikipedia.  The answer was found in much more primitive means: a piece of paper and a pencil.  Like a true gritty and determined adventurer I would make a map and plot out the route that would allow me to get all 32 treasures in under 20 minutes.  A map that is made necessary due to a peculiar thing that many Pitfall! players may have noticed: when you traverse the underground passages, the adjacent screen is different than if you were to travel above. Specifically, the underground passages will skip ahead three of the above screens, and mapping out which underground paths to take, when to go right and when to go left, and doing it all without touching a log or falling in a pit is the only way to get the perfect score.  And I did it.

The satisfaction in achieving this goal was probably the most rewarding retro gaming experience I've ever had.  To connect the present to my past with a nostalgic journey through a classic video game, especially using original hardware on my wood-grained Radio Shack CRT, was nothing short of magical.  Refusing to look on the Internet or ask for any help was the icing on the cake. I earned it on my own, just like I had to when I was a kid. There was no Atari Power or an Atari hotline to call; we had to figure it out all by ourselves, and it was all the more rewarding when we did.  Reliving a moment like that at 44 years old was a wonderful experience that I will cherish forever. I documented the entire experience in a three video series on Youtube.  Milestones like this wouldnt be nearly as exciting without a community to share it with. It's never about bragging or showing off,  it's about sharing in the memories and experiences we had as children and using them to bring us together in a community that can express and relate to each other in a special and unique way.  Thank you for going on this adventure with me. I hope we can go on many more together.

Speaking of other adventures, I just played through my favorite 2600 game, H.E.R.O. For the first time and documented that as well. The first two videos are up and I am editing the third and final video now. Feel free to give it a whirl.

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I really had a great time following your adventure to attain a perfect score and the reason I asked you to share this with our community.  I tried this several years ago when I ran the Playcast's 2600 Activision month. I was fine with the gameplay, I just always seemed to mess up screen counts at some point. Congrats on such a great feat and good luck with H.E.R.O!  Any plans to do Pitfall II?
Very nice, and I enjoyed the videos.  I remember the whole "going left" thing blew my mind ("What the heck?  Mario doesn't go left!").  Glad you made it though.  Such an epic struggle at the end.
@bombatomba: The real question is, "Does Mario swipe left?" Wink
Rich: thanks so much for asking me to write this; I really enjoyed trying my hand at a blog post. As for Pitfall 2, I actually played through and beat that earlier this year.  It's an unbelievable game and way ahead if it's time. I didn't record anything but I took a few pictures of the end screen. It was a blast.

Bombatabomb:  thanks so much for watching and for you're comments. It was definitely quite the struggle to pull this off.
I absolutely loved watching your Pitfall videos. My favorite part is when you filmed going over the maps in your truck (I assume during your work lunch). It conveyed an added later of dedication.
Thanks Caleb. I was quite obsessed with figuring it out, lol.

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