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A screenshot of Pitfall. Impressive graphics, eh?

Pitfall is a video game, but can also be less specifically identified as an unforeseen or surprising difficulty. Since the latter is something no one cares about, this article will detail the video game. Designed for the Atari video game console in 1982, the game features nameless explorer Dirty Harry searching for treasure while performing ridiculously dangerous feats, liking jumping on the heads of crocodiles and contracting exotic illnesses due his religious beliefs forbidding vaccinations.

Pitfall performed utterly horrible in commercial sales, but gained fame as being mind-numbingly dull. Seriously, how long can you walk back and forth and jump over pits in the ground? I mean, you don't actually get to keep any of the treasure once you win because of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Pitfall is as enjoyable as a lobotomy, with comparable effects on the player.

edit Characters


These dangerous logs were asking for trouble. Now look at them -- mercilessly stabbed with metal claws.

I thought House of the Seven Gables was dull, but then I ran into Pitfall. The main character doesn't even have a name!

For those without comedic tastes, the so-called experts at Wikipedia have an article about Pitfall!.

It takes an entire sequel to establish his name. That would be like living your entire life without a name, and then naming yourself after you die. The difference, however, is that the Pitfall guy was reincarnated in several sequels which nobody played, whereas when you are dead, you are out of extra mans for good. Well, at least there would be something on the tombstone, right?

In any case, there are also some enemies, although they are only enemies in the sense that you run into them and you die. When Pitfall was made, enemy AI meant "move x pixels left, move y pixels right, repeat." I know what you are thinking: brilliance, sheer brilliance. Enemies range from rattlesnakes, scorpions, crocodiles, and logs. By far, logs are the deadliest due to their vicious nature and resemblance to the Lochness monster.

edit Gameplay


Does something look out of place?

Pitfall has a majestic simplicity to it that hearkens back to the old days where controllers had buttons only from the beginning of the alphabet. Then again, a game where you can only go back and forth and jump isn't exactly what people would call entertaining today. Even Mario could shoot fireballs and do other crazy stuff.

Essentially, Pitfall plays like this:

You are stranded in a jungle where, fortunate for you, a perfectly cut trail through an otherwise uncivilized locale exists. Following this trail, you discover numerous treasures that can make you richer beyond your dreams; Tzompantli (skull racks) dust covered in teocuitlatl (gold; and more green stone coke trays than anywhere else in the 80's! Along with these treasures, though, you also find quicksand, crocodile-infested ponds, tar pits, and scorpion-filled caves, worst of all are the knife winds, obsidian rains and blood rivers in the level 9 level of the underworld Xibalbe. There are also some archaic period brick walls randomly in the middle of the jungle you should probably be taking samples of if you were actually an archaeologist and not wanted by Interpol.

Wandering forlornly in this disconsolate wasteland of an Atari-generated jungle, the only redemption from the depths of the tar pits and crocodile ponds hovers above your head: vines. These pendulum-like plants with an impeccable periodicity are perhaps the easiest way of not getting eaten alive by a crocodile or sucked to the bottom of a tar pit, also used by the ancient star gazers and human beat boxers as a metronome. Though the whole-vine swinging thing is reminiscent of Tarzan, your only other option is jumping on top of the crocodiles' heads like in that James Bond movie or daring to cross over the dry land that appears over the tar pits.

edit Technical specifications

The most technical thing about Atari in general is its tank-sized circuit board, large enough to be soldered together by anyone wearing boxing globes and having a seizure. In addition, the poor graphics is outdone by any newborn baby operating Microsoft Paint.


After playing it a few times, most Pitfall owners knew exactly what to do with it.

edit Trivia

  • The music of Pit, when played backwards, was first thought to contain satanic messages. Then it was realized that it sounds basically the same. As a matter of fact, the Atari had two sound channels, one of which was white noise.
  • If you fall in a hole during the game, you lose 100 points. How many points you lose is absurdly irrelevant, because you are in the bottom of a hole, waiting to be eaten by a grue, who does not eat points in any case.
  • You start the game with 2000 points. By performing various complex mathematical calculations, this suggests that you can fall down twenty holes and still break even. Except that you never get out of the first one.

edit See also

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