E.T. Review


Dylan Berkowitz, Staff Writer

Does anybody know about this little movie called E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? Of course you do. It was a huge hit and everybody loved it.

Directed by the legendary director Steven Spielberg, the movie depicted an alien who got stuck on Earth and is trying to get back home. The line “E.T. phone home” is one of the most memorable lines in all of cinema. I’m sure everyone has seen the scene where E.T. is in the bike basket and makes Elliots bike fly as well as everyone else’s.  

What do you do when you have a successful movie? You make a video game after it, of course.

Indiana Jones had one for the Atari 2600 and that is considered to be one of the best and most influential games ever.

Why not do one for E.T. as well?

Well they did make an E.T. video game, and it nearly killed video games as a whole.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was a game released in 1982 for the Atari 2600. Atari, Inc. wanted the game to come out for Christmas so they can gain extra sales by the nature of the holiday, so they appointed designer Howard Scott Warshaw. This is the same guy that made the Indiana Jones tie-in game, so of course he should be the one to turn E.T. into a video game.

However, in order to meet a deadline that would allow the game to be released for Christmas, he had to make the game in six weeks.

For those that don’t know, six weeks to make a video game is not reasonable. To make the Indiana Jones game, Warshaw was given about six months. Despite tight deadlines, however, Warshaw pulled through and produced a game by Christmas.

The end result is a broken game that doesn’t do what you want it to or explain anything at all.

Atari, Inc. thought that the game would be a huge hit and to their surprise, it wasn’t. Since they thought it would be really popular, a lot of copies were made. This cost Atari, Inc. a lot of money and they had to bury all the extra copies in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

E.T. is commonly seen as the worst game of all time. This is the game that almost single handedly ruined video games forever. Luckily Nintendo came around and saved it, but that happened a full three years after E.T.

But is the game really that bad?

No, not really.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bad game. It’s confusing, hard to control and nothing makes sense, but all Atari games were like that to some extent. Due to technical limitations, Atari games don’t have a screen that shows what to do. Most people can just figure it out from trial and error. If not, then the manual that came with the game said exactly what to do. This was the first problem with the game coming out on Christmas.

When all the kids got the game, I’m sure that there were maybe five or six people that actually read it. Everyone who didn’t understand it returned the game and that was that.

I can say that in my time playing it, I had no clue what to do, but as soon as I read the manual online it became clear, and I have beaten the game multiple times now.

The goal of the game is to find three pieces of E.T.’s ship after getting stuck on Earth. To find the pieces, he has to go around a six screen map and fall down wells to find them all while avoiding a CIA and a scientist. There are a ton of wells, so to know which ones have a piece in it, you need to find a spot on the map and press the button to know if anything is in there. Once you get the piece, E.T. must fly out of the well by extending his neck.

Why is E.T. extending his neck to fly? Well, when a dragon looked like a chicken head on a tadpole in the game Adventure, anything is possible.

After finding all three pieces, E.T. must go to a random spot on the map and call to be picked up. Once E.T. “phones home”, a timer will start and must get to another random spot on the first screen to get picked up.

There are a couple of catches, however. Firstly, the CIA agent can take E.T.’s phone pieces away and the scientist takes E.T. away. Secondly, to get picked up, there must not be any human on screen. These, as well as the many symbols that show up, would confuse any kid who eagerly wants to play the new game they got for Christmas.

I know if I’d gotten it at Christmas, I wouldn’t have bothered reading the manual. Years later, however, I actually did read it.

Overall, E.T. isn’t that bad of a game. Maybe a bit confusing, but compared to other games on the system as well as games that have come out more recently with more funding and resources, E.T. for the Atari really isn’t as bad as people say.

If you happen to find a copy of it (or emulate it because no one wants to spend money on this), I say give it a try.
But again, don’t get me wrong, it’s still not a good game