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Pitfall

A classic Activision franchise created by David Crane. The original Pitfall! was released on the Atari 2600 in 1982 and established the foundations of the multi-screen Platformer genre: running and jumping over obstacles as you travel from left to right. The only real sequel followed in 1984, also for the 2600; Pitfall II: Lost Caverns introduced elements like exploration, true scrolling, and an interactive soundtrack that reflects how well you're doing.

Super Pitfall occurred in 1987. It was on the NES and terrible. Let us speak no more of it. Besides, The Angry Video Game Nerd has said it all in his video on the game already.

The series was revived on the SNES and Sega Genesis in 1994's Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, a fun if sloppy platformer in the same vein as Aladdin and Earthworm Jim. Two more revivals came later, this time in 3D: 1998's Pitfall 3D Beyond the Jungle on the Play Station, and 2004's Pitfall: The Lost Expedition on the Play Station 2, X Box, and Game Cube (and ported to the Wii in 2008 as Pitfall: The Big Adventure). All of these games include the original Pitfall! as an Easter Egg; Lost Expedition and Big Adventure contain Pitfall II as well.

Pitfall! has also left its mark on television. In its first season, the Ruby-Spears Saturday Supercade cartoon featured segments based on the game, and a 1982 commercial for Pitfall! starred a young Jack Black.


The Pitfall series features examples of:

  • Action Prologue: The Lost Expedition begins with Pitfall Harry fighting for his life against a demonic fiery jaguar while supercharged with powerful magic. After he exchanges a few blows with the beast, it pins him to the ground, and Harry has a flashback to how he got into this mess in the first place which makes up most of the rest of the game.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The arcade game, strangely enough produced by Sega, featured enhanced versions of the overworld of the first Pitfall and the underworld of the second, and added Minecart Madness and Temple of Doom stages. The Atari 800 computer version of Pitfall II was also expanded.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Pitfall Harry and his son.
  • All There in the Manual: ...why in the world are you trying to find a cougar that stands upright like a man in "Lost Caverns?" Well, did you ever see the Saturday Supercade cartoon that was out back during the 80's based on the first game? He was the Team Pet and his name was Quickclaw.
  • Bag of Holding: By the end of The Lost Expedition Harry is carrying around a canteen, sling, raft, torch, shield, gasmask, large book, a pair of pickaxes, unlimited amounts of TNT, various idols and four round artifacts twice the size of his head...in a backpack that's that's smaller than his head.
  • Balloonacy: Harry uses a balloon to traverse a large open area in Pitfall II.
  • Book Ends: The Lost Expedition begins with a Hopeless Boss Fight against the Demon Jaguar, in which Harry is pinned down and about to be killed, then it flashes back to how he got there. Near the end of the game, you fight the Jaguar again, and he pins Harry down like before, but Quickclaw steps in and saves him.
  • Canon Immigrants: Rhonda (Harry's niece), and the aforementioned Quickclaw were originally created for the aforementioned Saturday Supercade adaptation, but appeared in Pitfall II afterwards.
  • The Chief's Daughter: Micay in The Lost Expedition.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Harry in The Lost Expedition.
  • Classic Cheat Code: On the Sega Genesis version of The Mayan Adventure: the level select cheat was B, Right, A, Down, Right, Up, B, Left, A, Up, Right, A. Which, of course, makes one wonder just who Brad and Laura are...
  • Corridor Cubbyhole Run: Pitfall II has at least ten "floors" in a row which entirely consisted of walking across the screen as a bat flew towards Harry and having to run Harry under the bat only if the wings were flapping up.
  • Cowardly Sidekick: Quickclaw.
  • Darker and Edgier: Pitfall 3-D: Beyond the Jungle
  • Dark Reprise: If Harry dies in Pitfall II, a minor version of the Theme Music Power-Up plays.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Nicole in The Lost Expedition.
  • Direct Continuous Levels: The arcade game does this.
  • Distressed Damsel: Nicole, again, in The Lost Expedition. She even refers to herself as one while stuck in a tree.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Pusca in The Lost Expedition.
  • Easter Egg: The Atari 8-bit and 5200 versions of Pitfall II had an entirely new level after you beat the game that was longer than the actual game itself. This may be the largest relative Easter egg in any game.
  • Embedded Precursor: Ever since the 16-bit days, it's traditional for Pitfall games to include the original 2600 game buried in there somewhere. In The Lost Expedition, you are required to play it to a certain point to get an idol.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Actually sort of averted in the first game - I mean, those crocodiles can hardly be blamed if they open their mouths while you're standing on them. Played straight for the rest of the series, though.
  • Excited Show Title: The original game.
  • Faux Action Girl: Nicole in The Lost Expedition, who's said to be a competent explorer, but always ends up getting captured.
  • Flip Screen Scrolling: The first game had nothing but Flip Screen Scrolling. The sequel introduced smooth scrolling, but only when traveling vertically.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Everyone in The Lost Expedition.
  • Freaky Friday Flip: The spirit animal levels in Lost Expedition.
  • French Jerk: St. Claire.
  • Game Within a Game: The Lost Expedition had both the original Pitfall and Pitfall II as bonuses.
  • How We Got Here: The Lost Expedition opens up with you fighting against the demon jaguar, the semifinal boss, only to wind up pinned and about to get your head bitten off, which is when the movie pauses. Harry then says "They say that when a giant demon jaguar is about to terminate your existence, your life flashes before your eyes..." The game then flashes back to twenty-four hours previous, and the game up until you reach the demon jaguar is buildup to that point.
  • Idiot Hero: Harry in The Lost Expedition. he's said to have several PhDs but acts like a complete moron.
  • I'll Kill You!: One guard in the native village in Lost Expedition is a tad obsessed with killing. Played for Laughs though, as he never does make due on this threat.
  • Jungle Japes: Right down to the swinging vines.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Harry and Nicole in The Lost Expedition.
  • Madness Mantra: The explorers you rescue whistle, hum, giggle to themselves, and ramble about the guard at the village.
  • Mayincatec: The Mayan Adventure
  • Minecart Madness: The third area in the arcade game.
  • Money for Nothing: The treasures that Harry finds are only good for Scoring Points, with the exceptions of the original game and The Lost Expedition.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: From The Lost Expedition: "Harry. Some people call me, heh, Pitfall Harry".
  • Parents in Distress: In The Mayan Adventure, the objective is for Harry Jr. to rescue his kidnapped father, who appeared in the original games during the 8-bit era.
  • Pit Trap: Pits just love to open under you. Hence the name, I guess.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: Subverted in The Mayan Adventure. Boomerangs are one of three weapons in the game, follow an improbably far-reaching curved path, and float around in the air upon return. They do disappear if you don't grab them again, however... and they don't return if they hit an enemy.
  • Retraux: In Mayan Adventure, when Harry Jr. finally finds his dad, Harry Sr. looks exactly as he did during the original 8-bit games. As in, literally a few featureless pixels in the rough shape of a man, using only four colors. Strung up on a highly detailed, realistically shaded 16-bit altar. (And remarks "What took you so long?")
  • Shout-Out: "Great, so now I'm a monkey. I bet this never happened to that Jones guy."
    • In the original game, Harry yodels like Tarzan when swinging on a vine.
    • Also in the original game, when you lose a life, the "Danger Ahead" theme plays.
  • Simon Says Mini Game: The Mayan Adventure has a similar game involving pull-levers in some bonus levels.
  • Small Reference Pools
  • Super Drowning Skills: Played straight in the first game.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Pitfall II had elaborate parts where you swim — and this is an Atari 2600 game.
  • Temple of Doom: If you're indoors in a Pitfall game, you're probably inside one of these. The arcade game had one for its final stage.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: In Pitfall II every time you grab a treasure or rescue someone a galvanizing, heroic, upbeat theme vaguely reminiscent of the Indiana Jones anthem plays. One of the oldest ones in the book, as it was the first console game to feature PSG music, in fact the only 2600 game to have a custom sound chip.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: In The Lost Expedition, enemies constantly assault you by throwing TNT. You pass by crates of the stuff throughout the game but can't use any yourself until a friendly character hands you some in a late-game cutscene.
  • Uplifted Animal: Quickclaw in Lost Expedition.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: Pitfall 3D
  • Whip It Good: In Mayan Adventure, Harry Jr. uses a sling like a whip.
  • You Can Talk: Harry's reaction to Quickclaw in The Lost Expedition, when they first meet.
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