The game play is simple, help the hero Pitfall Harry collect up to 30 plus lost treasures of the unforgiving jungle filled with deadly scorpions, quick sand, rolling logs, and lots more. You earn points by collecting the lost treasures but you can also lose these points every time Harry is hit by a rolling log which you have to be careful of. Since this is the first ever side scrolling 2D platformer of it's kind you have to remember that there is no way to kill your enemies, earn any power ups or anything special like that, but you still need a lot of skill to survive and the fact that you only get three lives and you also have to start with a 20 minute time limit that doesn't help matters much either. You are in for a tough fight for survival in Pitfall! especially when the controls are so bad.
The controls are pretty easy to understand. One of the action buttons makes Harry jump and the joystick is used to move him left or right and up and down for the ladders. It sounds easy enough but it's really hard to get Harry to stop when you want him (making jumping on alligator heads nearly impossible) to and even getting off the vines is difficult.
Harry can either try his luck in the jungles or he can go into the underground caves below to find a safer passage but be careful because there could be deadly enemies or just dead ends waiting for you if you choose to go this route so there is some variety. There are no difficulty options to change the game play neither so what you see is what you get.
Speaking of seeing what you get; the game looks quite pathetic. The game does have a bit of added detail in the background trees and now they have some branches (great freaking deal!) as well. Other than that Harry and the enemies look exactly like what they did on the 2600 plus the ground and caves are as bland as ever! The 5200 version just doesn't measure up to other games on the system.
You can forget about any background music here but if you have an Atari than you know that's a way of life for most of their games! There are some sound effects when Harry jumps there's some sound and when he grabs a vine he does a really poor Tarzan impression and that's pretty much it. Like the graphics they are pretty much untouched.
Pitfall! can also be found in certain other games other than the one for the 5200. When Activision released Pitfall The Mayan Adventure for the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Atari Jaguar, Sega CD, and Sega 32x it also included the original Pitfall! as a secret game. Pitfall 3D for the Sony Playstation also has the 2600 game hidden inside plus you can find it on Activision's Classics and Activision Anthology. Hey, if you're one of those few persons, like me, who has a old system from the earlier eighties then who can find Pitfall! and Pitfall II for the Atari 2600, Intellivision, and more. All these version are better than this edition.
The bottomline is Pitfall! was years ahead of its time in terms of game play but adventure games have come a long way since, especially in terms of options. The 5200 version could have easily added meat to the bones to spice things up but like most of their 5200 games they hardly did anything here. The graphics and sounds are not really upgraded, the game play is still challenging but it isn't any better, and the controls just stink worse then year old milk. Perhaps the worse part about this game is that it won't work on the 2 port Atari 5200 system, but may be this can be seen as a positive since it means you don't have to play it. I don't know how Activision could screw one of their best known games but they taking a fun and Action/Adventure titles and turned it into this turd.