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Pitfall is a video game, but can also be less specifically identified as an unforeseen or surprising difficulty. Since the latter function of "pitfall" 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 a nameless explorer (ok, he had a name in the literature, but who reads the manual?) searching for treasure while performing ridiculously dangerous feats, liking jumping on the heads of crocodiles.
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. As far as I'm concerned, Pitfall is about as enjoyable as a lobotomy, and the effects on the player are comparable.
I thought House of the Seven Gables was dull, but then I ran into Pitfall. The main character doesn't even have a name!
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. Seriously, those things will hunt you down until all the bones in your ten pixel body are crushed. Logs tend to travel in packs of two, but don't be fooled by the limited size of these hunting parties -- the log population is thought by experts to contain millions, if not billions, of individual logs. And by experts I mean I just made up those figures (citation is for pansies).
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. Along with these treasures, though, you also find quicksand, crocodile-infested ponds, tar pits, and scorpion-filled caves. Oh yeah, there are also some brick walls randomly in the middle of the jungle too. What, you never knew brick walls were naturally occurring phenomena? You thought people built them? Who said you could stop taking your meds?||”|
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. Sure, the whole vine swinging thing is reminiscent of Tarzan, but who cares? 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
<haughty guffaw> Well, the most technical thing about Atari in general is its laughable graphics and tank-sized circuitboard. I am fairly certain that that board is big enough that someone wearing boxing gloves and having a seizure could solder the components on. And the graphics, I've seen babies still covered in fetal slime and having yet to grow fingers do better on Paint.
- 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. Boy, that was a brilliant design, don't you think?
- If you fall in a hole during the game, you lose one hundred points. What this fails to reveal is the fact that you are now stuck in a hole. Because we assume the bottom of this hole is quite dark, you are likely to be eaten by a grue. And by the way, a grue won't care how much gold and diamonds you've collected so far, it eats you no matter what.
- 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. I'm liking those odds.