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Pitfall! Reviewed by Adam Wallace on . Rating: 85%
Pitfall! Pitfall! Pitfall! Pitfall!
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Activision is one of the most important third-party companies in video game history and definitely the oldest. People burned out by the annual Call of Duty games may not realize how much Activision upped the ante back in the second generation. Alongside classics like Freeway, Enduro, and the always awesome River Raid, Activision practically invented the platformer genre with a treasure hunt in the jungle starring a guy named Harry. The original Pitfall! is a gem regardless of which console it's played on, but the Colecovision version is the shiniest gem.

The goal of the game is simply to guide Pitfall Harry from screen to screen collecting treasure. Each screen has a variety of obstacles from rolling logs and sink holes to scorpions and snakes. The jumping is very mechanical. Either Harry can jump straight up or in a very fixed arc. Since mid-air course correction wouldn't go into platformers until Mario came along, some of the jumps can be a little annoying, particularly the spots where Harry has to jump on crocodile heads. The margin for error is extremely slim. I've lost lives by touching snakes by one pixel. Like with River Raid, this is one of those Colecovision games where swapping out the deficient stock controller for an Atari 2600, Sega Master System, or Sega Genesis controller is very ideal. Now, the game ends either after twenty minutes or when all lives are lost, whichever comes first.

Pitfall! (ColecoVision)Click For the Full Picture Archive

After looking at the versions on four of the second gen consoles (the Odyssey 2 didn't get it), the Colecovision version is easily the best-looking. The Atari 5200 version may have nicer backgrounds, but the characters and objects are copies of the Atari 2600 versions. By contrast, the backgrounds are still well-detailed, but the characters are greatly improved, sharper with more colors. It also runs noticeably faster than the other versions making it easier to play. The sound effects are the same in all four versions, but that's fine since they're simple and pleasant. Even the death music when I lose gets me smiling.

Pitfall! is a legend, no matter which console it's played on. The Atari 2600 version may be the most well-known as it shows up as a bonus in almost all the sequels, but the Colecovision one is the best all-around. It plays the best and looks the best. Unlike other genre-starting games from the era that just have historical value now, Pitfall! is still a blast to play today. Load it up, and have fun with history.
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