We’re all heaven’s beautiful children living together in paradise

Man, it sure is annoying how limited 1UP’s blogging system is sometimes. I mean that in the sense that if I post multiple articles within a single day, my stupid face clogs up the main page of the site. And no one wants that! So, I guess my Bionic Commando-themed countdown of the most awesomest games about swinging ever will have to show up here instead of there, since over there is occupied with my residual Famicom stuff. Alas.

Dev: David Crane | Pub: Activision | System: Atari 2600 | Date: 1982

Where would swinging be without Pitfall!, eh? Heck, for that matter, where would gaming be? Why, it was downright essential to the medium’s development, for many reasons.

But who cares about all that. The important thing is that Pitfall Harry could swing like a crazy person. He even made a charming little bloopy Tarzan cry when he did it. (Note: Charming when Pitfall Harry did it, frickin’ embarrassing when any wookiee does it.) Of course, vine-grappling was hardly the game’s core mechanic; it was simply an incidental benefit. This is a game that appeared early enough in the medium’s life cycle that the mere act of being able to run freely from screen to screen was liberating and exciting enough to make it a must-buy even as the industry began to crumble around it. The great-for-the-time graphics didn’t hurt, either.

Pitfall Harry had a ridiculous amount of fat lewt to collect from the recesses of dozens of procedurally-generated screens, and he had to leap over tons of scorpions and jump on a whole lot of crocodile heads to do it. And, of course, he had to leap onto vines and swing over pits and stuff, too. I was never any good at that back in the day, but it made good practice for Bionic Commando. So that’s good! Thanks, Harry. Shame about all the crappy sequels that followed after Pitfall II.

14 thoughts on “We’re all heaven’s beautiful children living together in paradise

  1. Great job on the entry! It’s a shame that 1up’s blogs can’t let you do what you always want, though.

  2. “The company earned a reputation for excellence, and has generally retained the respect of gamers and media alike through the years with a steady flow of quality content.”

    Wow, the Essential 50 hasn’t dated well.

  3. Played pitfall just the other day with my two-year-old daughter in tow (Activision collection on the PS2). She was rapt what with them gators and gold bars and such. Because she lacks manual dexterity, we made a game where she would chirp, “jump!” and then I would oblige. We both sighed when the timer ran out. Say, what was the deal with that timer anyhow?

    I coulda swung forever.

  4. kronsk –

    I think I read something over at digital press about Crane adding the timer in later after being told to by a higher up. There was a thread about a proto cart someone had where the trees had branches up among the leaves that aren’t in the final version to free up memory for the timer. I _think_. Maybe it was a different feature he had to add.

    I would hunt for this thread and see if I’m remembering it right, but digitpress.com has long been blocked from work, I assume due to rom talk.

  5. Mapping out the tunnels which travel three screens at a time (vs. one screen at a time up top) allow you to collect all the treasures within the time limit. Unfortunately you end up spending way too much time with the scorpions…

  6. Speaking of Pitfall II… besides that game, how many other 2600 games were there with continuous background music? I’m having trouble thinking of any at the moment.

  7. Great idea, Jeremy!

    I’ve been playing all things swingy as of late, anyway (Pixeljunk Eden, both Bionic Commandos), and thought you might be up to something describing the beauty of the mechanism.

    Looking forward to more.

  8. Mister Raroo: precisely zero. Of course, Pitfall II cheated: it contained a custom chip to enable the multi-channel sound.

  9. hey dySyndrome,

    Actually I can think of one, Secret Quest released late in the 2nd era of 2600 jr in the late 80s, but man that music was horrible.

  10. I look forward to seeing Lester the Unlikely somewhere on this “best swinging games” list.

    Oh, that Ultimate Spider-Man game probably deserves a spot too.

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