Pitfall! was designed by Activision programmer David Crane and originally released for the Atari VCS in 1982. It features Pitfall Harry climbing, falling and swinging his way around the screen in his quest to find all the lost treasures against a 20 minute countdown. It is often credited with giving birth to the scrolling platform format although the game itself didn’t scroll as such, you just walked off the edge of the screen into another one. It was the second biggest selling game of all time for the Atari 2600 behind Pac-Man and along with releases for ColecoVision and Intellivision, it was ported to home computer formats including the Commodore 64, MSX, TRS-80 and Atari 800. It also spawned a plethora of sequels down the years starting with Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns in 1983 and ending with the latest, Pitfall: The Big Adventure being released for the Nintendo Wii in 2008.
This was surprisingly hard to judge actually. Most people would take one glance at the screenshots and immediately say Colecovision, but Pitfall! is an iconic game and that iconicism has arisen not from it’s ColecoVision port but from the immediately recognisable 2600 graphics. Whilst the CV version has more detail, especially with Pitfall Harry himself, the 2600 version has a naive charm which just says “I am Pitfall!, all others are copies”. in the meantime the Intellivision version is just a paler looking alternative, and in complete contrast the CV version is a like a completely upgraded version worthy of a different generation of consoles. Hard to choose between iconic 2600 and revamp Coleco version here but grudgingly the first round goes to ColecoVision – just…
An obvious choice this one. The Intellivision and 2600 versions both share the same lack of sound effects. For most part the game is silent with minor sound effects being triggered when jumping, falling, being hit by logs etc. and swinging (the Tarzan cry). The ColecoVision on the other hand has sound in the game intro, where you hear the Tarzan cry as Pitfall Harry swings from his vine. During gameplay the sound effects are much more evident, with footsteps and even a separate sound for when he hits the ground after a jump. The sound of a fall fades as he descends during a fall and the Tarzan call is much nicer, all in all a much more detailed and rounder audio experience akin to an arcade machine. And so it is that the Colecovision is the easy winner here.
Probably the hardest of all categories to judge, all three versions play almost identically. If we are to take the three respective controllers into consideration then the 2600 would win hands-down. As is often the case the Intellivision and ColecoVision controllers make hard-work of moving and jumping in quick succession whilst the standard Atari stick seems made for the job. Take the controllers out of the equation and we are left with two games that play identically in the 2600 and Intellivision versions and a ColecoVision version that is much more pedantic about accuracy and timing of jumps. Tough call, but as there is no difference I can distinguish between them, it’s a draw between the 2600 and Intellivision.