Pitfall II – The Second Level

by Gerald Kloos (www.drumstudio.de.vu)

20 years ago I read a very interesting letter to the editor in a TeleMatch issue (if I remember correctly). This letter indicated that there is supposedly a difference between the popular Atari 2600 version and the Atari 8 Bit computer version of Pitfall II Lost Caverns. The Atari computer version would load a second, different structured level after completion of the normal game. This level would even feature new creatures like ants.

A friend of mine played the VCS version extensively back then, and we glazed enviously to the few owners of Atari home computers, who allegedly were provided with a new level in their version of Pitfall II. Then again there were disbelievers who could not imagine that such a complex and extensive game could have been yet expanded.

Many many years later however, walkthroughs for the first level of Pitfall II appeared on the internet, with notes that there really appears another level after completion of the first level in the home computer versions.

Today (26th July 2003) I managed to play through the complete second level, discover all its features, and to gaze in wonder at the final credits that were pretty visionary for those times. Here are also some screen shots of the special features.

Differences from the first official Pitfall II level

1. The design of the maze is completely different

2. In addition to the regular bats, there are also much more aggressive bats with a significantly extended operation range

3. The ants, already mentioned in 1984

4. Biting fishes (which are also cognizable as such)

5. There is no balloon sequence

6. A second score appears beside the final score of the first level. For me that is an absolute novelty in video games. The second score is not starting from zero, but is added to the score of the first level and appears next to it

7. Significantly increased difficulty level!

New bonus items

1. Basket

2. Golden Rope

3. Key (at least looks like it)

4. A person who is graphically very different from the one that is to rescue in the first level

The final credits start after reaching a basket along with a snake charmer. The words “Charming the golden rope is Pitfall Hary’s only hope” appear scrolling at the bottom of the screen.

Crossing the basket opens it and an animation appears for several seconds which shows the figures of the first level that “climb” the rope to the top together with Pitfall Harry.

Then a final screen appears, with the actors of the first level along with the gold treasures.

Remains only to mention that I like the new level much more than the already impressive official “old” VCS level.

And to prevent any rumors: After the second level of the computer version there is unfortunately NO third level. The game is over.

Enjoy playing the first and second level of Pitfall II!

Update November 2018

In November 2018 Gerald Kloos sent me an eMail with new information regarding the second level of Pitfall II. He had been contacted by Brad Fregger:

Brad Fregger: Are you the Gerald Kloos that wrote the review of Pitfall II?

Gerald Kloos: I think so … ;-) Brad you seem genetically close to Sherlock Holmes. Fantastic! Best wishes from Germany.

Brad Fregger: It appears you are. I wanted to thank you. I was the producer on Pitfall II for the Atari computers and the one basically responsible for what we called, “the biggest computer game Easter egg in history”. I’m writing a book and I was looking for any pictures I could find out of what I think you called the second level. And, there were your screen shots! Perfect! For your information, the entire story of why and how that happened is in my book, “Lucky That Way”. Or, if you’re interested, I could post a summary here.

Gerald Kloos: Brad … congratz for your marvelous work. I was and still am deeply impressed. The implementation of that “second level” was so fantastic that when I first read about the existance – in a German video game magazine in the early eighties – I had certain doubts … but always wanted to find out for myself. Many years later I found out. The marvelous level existed! You must have been one of the coolest guys in video gaming history. There is a German word that is understood in many languages because most letters are identical: RESPEKT! I feel really honored that you contacted me. Your nice words mean a lot to me. I’m glad to be a tiny super-small part in your endeavours ;-) … A big hug for you!

Here is how everything happened, in the words of Brad Fregger:

David Crane, the developer of Pitfall, had broken all records when he’d programmed Pitfall II. This was the first 8K game for the Atari 2600 … But, it was still only 8K. I was the producer for Pitfall II on the C64 and the Atari 800 and we, all of a sudden, had 64K, eight times more than David had when he programmed the Atari 2600 version.

The two programmers doing the conversions were Tim for the C64 and Mike for the Atari 800. At our development meeting I asked Tim how he was going to take advantage of the extra K.
He replied, “I’m going to create the finest graphics ever seen in a computer game.”
“Sounds great. How about you Mike?”
“I can’t improve the graphics, the graphic chip in the 800 is the same as the chip in the 2600. So, I’m going to create a brand-new game that will be tacked on to the current game and end with the character and his treasures on top waiting for a helicopter to come pick him up.”
“That sounds like a lot of work. We are supposed to have the conversions done in about a month. Can to do that much that fast?”
“I’ll have it finished on time, I promise you.”

Mike was true to his word but it almost killed him. He brought a sleeping bag into the offices and almost never left his office. At one point he got very sick and I called an ambulance. He was dehydrated! I made sure he had plenty of water after that. That was the last time I ever allowed a programmer to work that hard with so few breaks. But, it was worth the effort, the extra game was actually better than the original. What an accomplishment.

When the two products were done, I went over to marketing to fill them in on the development and the way the two games differed.
The Marketing VP said, “The two games are different?”
“Yes, the C64 has dramatically improved graphics and the 800 has a new game attached to the original game.”
“What?”
“When the player is finished with the original game, he is taken into a brand new game and when he finishes that he ends up back on the surface waiting for a helicopter to come and pick him up.”
“We can’t have the, Brad. We are marketing the two products together and they need to have the exact same game play. You are going to have to strip that second game out of the product.”

I couldn’t change his mind, none of my arguments worked. I drove back to the office trying to figure out how I was going to give Mike this terrible news. He had just spent a month working 18 hour days and it looked like all of the work would go for naught. Then the solution came to me.
Back at the office I called the two guys together and said, “Tim they loved the new graphics, you did a great job.”
“Mike, I’ve got good news and bad news, which do you want first?”
“What’s the bad news?”
“They are marketing the products together and demand they have equal game play. They insisted that I pull the extra game out of your version of Pitfall II.”
“GOD! … What’s the good news?”
“We are going to have the best damn Easter egg ever!”

And that’s what we did. We made the extra game an Easter egg that would appear if the player collected all of the treasures in the proper order, the first treasure first, second treasure second, and so on.

Every once in awhile I’d get a call from customer service telling me that a C64 customer was complaining about not having the extra game that his friend with the Atari 800 version had.
“He’s just confused because of the different graphics.” I’d reply.

Trouble is, we did such a good job of hiding it that there are very few people in the world who know that the world’s biggest Easter egg is in the Atari 800 version of Pitfall II …

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