Help Harry hurtle his heroic heart out!
Pitfall Harry is an adventurer without peer. He’s also an adventurer who doesn’t know the meaning of the word exhaustion. If you’re game, he will run, leap, and swing through 256 different screens in search of danger and, of course, treasure — the Lost Treasure of Enarc!
There is only the one game, a continuing quest from screen to screen. (Note: you can create your own variation by playing Pitfall backward; that is, begin by going left rather than right. This, of course, is cheating, but it will satisfy two needs. First, just in case you don’t get that far on your own, you will get to see the screens which are 256th, 255th, 254th, etc. Second, if you’re finding it difficult to get over, say, the alligators, should you fall in this version you get a new Harry on the other side of the swamp.)
Harry begins his trek with 2,000 points. His tally changes swiftly once you engage the game.
The only way to win points is by snatching up treasure as you find it. This takes various forms, and accounts for different point values. For example, the diamond ring earns you 5,000 points, the bag of money 2,000, the gold ring 5,000, the bar of silver 3,000, the bar of gold bullion 3,000, and so forth.
There are plenty of ways to lose points, however. Every time you are struck by a rolling log you surrender twenty-two points maximum. If you jump a log — rolling or otherwise — and nick it on the way down, you lose only a handful of your total.
Falling into a pit costs you 100 points. Ironically, killing one of your three Harrys does not cost you any points.
While all of the point-scoring is being totalled by the computer, it is also keeping track of your time. The game ends after twenty minutes, though it will keep on going if you’re down to zero points. The object, naturally, is to make the best time with the greatest score.
Harry is maneuvered with the joystick. The action button causes him to jump; when pressed in conjunction with the stick being moved in any direction, Harry will jump in that direction. When only the stick is shifted, Harry runs either left or right.
The treasure is always located on the right of the screen, and new Harrys replace dead ones by dropping from the trees on the left side of the screen.
The best way to win Pitfall is by learning to jump. If you can master that, everything else is secondary.
If you can jump the logs, you won’t lose points there.
If you can jump the alligators with precision, from head-to-head, you’ll lose no Harrys in the swamp.
If you can jump the pits, you won’t find yourself facing the scorpions which lurk in the subterranean passageway (unless you choose to go down there; see below).
If you can jump to the vines which dangle over water, quicksand, earthquakes, and other disasters, you won’t fall short of the rope and perish.
If you can jump the campfires, cobras, and scorpions, you won’t be burned, bitten, or stung to death.
Jumping is a matter of timing and a light touch. Don’t press down on the action button and, that done, push the joystick. This will give you a lumbering, doomed Harry. Rather, flick your wrist so that the joystick is jerked over, at the same time jabbing the action button with your thumb, and then releasing.
As for specifics of play, here are some valuable pointers:
1. If, when you enter a screen, the ground is free of obstacles save for a log or two, stop! It will split momentarily Wait until it closes before you dash across. Further, it’s a good idea always to leap the last leg of your crossing, so that you’ll be in the air should the earth crack beneath you.
2. The alligators’ mouths stay open for 2.1 seconds, and shut for just as long. As it will take you a fraction of a second to leap from the swampbank to the first alligator, do so after the mouth has been open for nearly the full time. By the time you land, it will have shut. This gives you more time to cross. In any case, make it a practice to land on the head rather than mouth of the animals, since that part is always solid. If the mouth opens when you’re on the alligator, it’s so-long Harry.
3. In most cases, whenever there’s an option to travel by vine or run across a vista, use the former. It’s quicker and safer. If you miss the vine, you can always step back and wait for it to return. Having said that, if the earth is just closing up and the vine is on the opposite side of the screen, make a run for it rather than wait. Remember, you’re also racing the clock!
4. Speaking of waiting for the vine, don’t leap haphazardly at a tendril which is starting to swing away from you. Chances are you won’t catch it but will plummet into the quicksand, crevasse, etc.
5. The logs come in ones, twos, or threes. The single logs are the easiest to jump, as you can keep running while you do so. If you try to take the trios at a run, you’ll stumble over the second and probably the third. Best to stop and hop them. The doubles can be taken in one mighty leap. Needless to say, after completing one wave of logs, anticipate the one which follows. In any given screen, the number of logs will always be the same. Note that a new Harry fallen from the trees is immediately vulnerable to rolling logs.
6. If you’re jumping a pit and logs at the same time, jump the trios before taking the pit, as you’ll find it virtually impossible to negotiate four impasses; with doubles, wait until the center of the logs is over the midpoint of the pit and you’ll clear both; with singles, take them as they arrive.
7. Whatever you do, try not to be knocked over by a log while crossing a vanishing obstacle. By the time you rise, the fissure or marsh will usually have returned, swallowing you up. The logs are not affected by any obstacle.
Playing the overground is a matter of timing. Playing the underground is a question of nerve. For one thing, the scorpions are difficult to leap. Their coiled stingers makes them a tall target. Best to jump as close to the arachnid as possible, even later than your instincts dictate.
You will lose one hundred points for descending to the underground, but there is often good reason to do so: you can save a good deal of time. For each underground screen you negotiate, that’s three above-ground panels you don’t have to cross. The only drawback apart from the scorpions is if you encounter a brick wall between tunnels. At these blockades, you have no option but to turn around. Otherwise, go as far as you want until there’s a ladder to ascend.
Another negative aspect of subterranean travel is if there’s treasure above. You won’t be able to get it except by using the next available ladder and backtracking. Not terribly efficient. fn all: stay on rather than in the earth.
This Activision game is full of surprises. Not only has it packed a staggering amount of danger and therefore player-challenge into an Atari-compatible format, it offers several pleasant surprises — such as Harry’s Tarzan-like yell as he swings on his vine.