Review: E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (Atari 2600)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we check out a game that was famous for being an extremely bad game. We find out just how much these criticisms are warranted by actually playing the adventure game E.T. – The Extraterrestrial ourselves.

This game was released in 1982. It was made famous by being what many critics say as a horrible game. It wasn’t judged as being a horrible game, but it was judged as being one of the worst games ever produced even to this day. Apparently, Atari put a lot of faith into this game because the movie was such a huge success back in the day. rightly so, there were huge expectations that this game would be the next big thing. Unfortunately, the game tanked in a very serious manner. It caused many to demand refunds and sales after sales were well below expectations. In fact, the game gained legendary status because of the rumors that millions of unsold copies went into a landfill to be buried and forgotten. Some even suggest that this game caused the entire game industry to collapse because people started to distrust the industry thanks to this game. So, with this in mind, we find ourselves delving into this game to see first hand whether or not this game was merely the victim of overly high expectations or if it really is as bad as others say it was.

You play ET and your objective seems to be that you have to collect the occasional little dots found on the green field. A little digging in my research revealed that these were supposed to be Reece’s Pieces which was an object of product placement found in the movie. Beyond that, you have to find other objects. These were apparently phone parts so you could, as ET famously said, “phone home”. I was able to find a flower that I seemingly was able to grow in one of the pits, though I didn’t know what purpose it served at the time of playing.

There were enemies in this game. The greatest threat seems to be the bonus points timer. If you run out of points, you simply keel over and die only to be resuscitated by someone wearing a black hat. From there, you get about 1500 points more to continue your, erm, quest for survival I guess.

The next big threat were seemingly the random people that pop up out of nowhere. Some will carry you to what looks like some sort of Acropolis type building which you can just walk back out of again if you do get caught. Sometimes, the AI would cause the enemies to just get stuck in corners.

Throughout the fields, there are apparently pits that you can explore. Some of these pits have what you are apparently looking for. You can look around by activating your power to make a flashing light appear inside one of them. Sometimes, this button causes you to warp. If you do go into one of these pits (which all look the same), you can use this button to fly out with the help of moving up once you do confusingly take flight.

Unfortunately, these pits are quite glitchy. Sometimes, I found myself repeatedly falling back into the same pit over and over again because ET just randomly decides to land – sometimes too early. This makes this game quite difficult to play in and of itself because of the glitchyness of this game. Sometimes, walking from one field to the next automatically caused you to fall into one of these pits for seemingly no reason. What?

Graphically, it looks like there was efforts to get characters and enemies to look presentable, but beyond that, it’s hard to really decipher what is going on and what the objects even were. Most peculiar was the fact that the Reece’s Pieces were all green when the trademark look is brown, orange, and yellow. The rest of the game looked like there was hardly any effort put into it.

There was the theme song put in the beginning, but it was basically played with one wave form. Beyond that, the only sound effect were footsteps and the footsteps hardly even resembled a footstep sound. So, no way is that even passable in my books.

Overall, it’s like the developers has the idea of making this an item collecting adventure game. They took an idea used in other games at the time (using points as a time limit) and then a large mess ensued. I don’t know why this game was released in it’s current state. Did anyone even bother looking at this game before pushing it out the door? This should have been sent back to the development area and re-worked because, in it’s current form, it was as if hardly anyone on the team even cared about producing a quality game. Sure, it happens, but on a hotly anticipated game? Should never have happened. I would say this game was deserving of a vast majority of the flack it received. It’s a very bad game.


Furthest point in game: Obtained 5 Reece’s Pieces and obtained one phone part.

General gameplay: 4/25
Replay value: 1/10
Graphics: 2/10
Audio: 1/5

Overall rating: 16%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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