Posts Tagged ‘Atari’


8-Bit Mondays: Pitfall II: Lost Caverns – “Theme” (David Crane)

June 29, 2010

Here is a classic: one of the best songs on the Atari 2600, the main theme from Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (1984). This game is pretty amazing coming from a machine that was only designed to play two games: Pong and Combat. The musical score rivals early NES games, and the melody holds well on its own as a nice piece of adventure music. However, what really stood the soundtrack apart was the adaptive audio: upbeat music would play after gold was collected, sad music would play when the player hit an enemy, and if nothing happened for an extended period, background music would play. When the player collects a balloon, the game also plays “Sobre las Olas” (Over the Waves), a famous Mexican song (skip to about 1:35 in this video). The video below contains the three main tunes in the game in a medley. Download link is broken, but here is a different version. It’s entirely in three-channel audio (only three instruments or ‘voices’).

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns – “Theme” (David Crane)

The version I uploaded is an arrange of the main theme and background music. The main theme is very adventurous and immediately hummable. There is even a little of Mickey Mousing here with flutes reflecting Pitfall Harry’s jumping and rope swinging abilities. The second half is a slower version of the theme, and these fifteen seconds get pretty monotonous, so I arranged the track to loop back to the more exciting main theme. The short track lengths are fairly typical in length for vgm of the time, and it’s not like the Atari could store tons of music data in the first place, which makes the theme even more amazing.

Oddly, there have not appear to have been any remixes of this theme. Pitfall II was released for several other systems though, and the version for the arcade by Sega has a remixed soundtrack. Unlike the Atari 2600 version though, it plays the main theme throughout and the background theme in Stage 2. SEGA Arcade 80s Vol. 2 (2003) contains the soundtrack to the arcade version. The game is kind of a mix between the first two games and standard platformer fare.

Though David Crane is a programmer rather than a composer, Pitfall II‘s theme is a notch above most programmer music, which is often either poor in quality or renditions of public domain music (such as Sousa marches, Bach, or Beethoven). Crane’s work includes Little Computer People, A Boy and His Blob, and the infamous Night Trap.


8-Bit Tuesday: Marble Madness – Stage 3 (Hal Canon & Brad Fuller)

December 9, 2009

Marble Madness was an incredibly awesome game. I can remember playing this for days on end on the Amiga back when the disk still worked. I got pretty good at this game and one time managed to clear the game with 0 seconds left (the points kept on going up – must have been a math error – and I eventually shut it down). Anyway, not only was it a lot of fun to move the marbles around through in the mazes and obstacles with the physics of Mark Cerny‘s masterpiece, but the music was also VERY impressive and atmospheric for the time. The game was released by Atari in 1984, and while I have always been familiar with the Amiga mod versions of the songs, the original arcade is outstanding. Note that this song is in OGG format. I recommend using Winamp on the PC or Cog on the Mac, as Apple refuses to support open audio formats. Or just click here and skip to about 1:00.

Marble Madness – “Stage 3” (Hal Canon & Brad Fuller)

There are a few things to note about this soundtrack. First, it is in stereo, which was pretty unique for the time: you can hear the music pan from one speaker to the other. Second, the  Stage 3 is the “Intermediate” level of the game and at this point things get darker and a lot harder. The level is gray in design and full of mazes and bottomless pits. It also has a lot more of those green marble-eating worms, acid that can melt the marbles, and wave blocks that can sweep you into the abyss. The composition is wonderfully fitting with its dark atmosphere and fiendishly brewing strings and bubbling notes (perfectly fitting for the acid and block waves) – this is kind of like hades for marbles.

The third striking thing is that if you were really good at the game, you could finish the level by the time the song was completed – meaning that these tracks appear to be composed with the player’s performance and the level’s design in mind! Read the rest of this entry ?