Monday, January 17, 2011

Game of the Week: Pitfall! for Atari 2600

Back in the early 1980s, the Atari 2600 was the top selling home video game system on the market. But one of its weaknesses was graphics. The 2600 often did not have the greatest graphics for its games. But then along came companies such as Activision and Imagic, made up at least in part of former Atari employees, and suddenly the Atari 2600 had some great games with great graphics.

One such game was Pitfall! by Activision, which came out in 1982.

What was the goal of Pitfall! The player controls an onscreen character known as Pitfall Harry through a jungle while search for 32 treasures. Along the way, Harry has to swing on vines over the heads of crocodiles, jump over scorpions, avoid falling into bog pits and avoid all kinds of other nastiness. And toughest of all, Harry only has 20 minutes to find all 32 treasures.

Pitfall!Believe me, that was no easy task.

One of the great things about Pitfall! was that it was the first really popular Atari 2600 game to have solid graphics for the time period. Sure, that little image of Pitfall Harry on the screen was still a little blocky, but that was better than most former Atari 2600 images of characters which were often just big dots. There wasn't a ton of sound to Pitfall!, but that was uncommon for the time, though there was some and it wasn't too bad. The game play was easy enough.

But I have an admission to make. I never finished a game of Pitfall! all the way to the end. Why? To be honest, I found the game to be a bit tedious. By no means was it the worst Atari 2600 game I played back in the day, but it seemed all Pitfall Harry did was run and jump and swing. Plus, in my opinion, it didn't help that the game had a definite ending. Back then, games generally went on as long as the player could save enough onscreen characters. Plus, being only a 20-minute game, it wasn't as if Pitfall! was going to keep my interest all day long.

But really, I did enjoy Pitfall!, it just wasn't my favorite game.

Here's a bit of trivia for you: Do you know what comedic movie star got his start doing a television commercial for Pitfall! in the early 1980s? If you don't know, take a look at the video below.

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