E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Review

Developer: Atari Publisher: Atari
Release Date: 1982 Also On: None

Sometimes mistakes are made. Such is a fact of life. However, occasionally a mistake is made that will have major ramifications. Traditionally, the video game crash of 1984 has been attributed to two things: the abundance of third-party titles overloading the market and thus bringing game prices down, and an overabundance of one title that Atari accidentally produced too many copies of, none other than E.T. Indeed, so many copies of this game were made that Atari eventually paid money to bury a few million copies of it in a New Mexico desert. That’s not to say that the game sold poorly, but somehow it should be obvious that you don’t produce more copies of a game than you have sold consoles, a fact that was somehow lost on the Atari people of this time period.

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Opinion is not mixed on the title, with most people saying that it is pure and utter garbage along the same level as games such as Superman 64. Few are the people who defend the title, and there is a good reason for that. The title, although more complex than most Atari 2600 titles up to this time, just isn’t fun to play and shows without remorse the lack of programming time that went into it.

The concept of the game sounds simple, but it really isn’t. You, as E.T., run around the world looking for pieces that you need to construct a phone to telephone your home planet to come back for you. However, these pieces are in pits that you need to fall into to look for them. Once you fall into a pit, you must push the button to extend your neck so you can float out of the pit. If a piece of the phone is in the pit, great. If not, you move on empty handed.

Making matters even more complicated are two other factors. First of all, there will be FBI people who will chase you. If they catch you, you will lose at least some of the phone parts that you have found, meaning that you will have to search for them again. Secondly, there is a number at the bottom of the screen that will decrease whenever E.T. moves. When that number reaches zero, E.T. will collapse, at which point the boy (I forget his name) will come to him and revive him. After a certain quantity of revivals, you lose.

As I mentioned, this game is surprisingly complex for an Atari 2600 game. Indeed, between all of these factors that I already mentioned and the fact that the world that you must search through for the phone pieces is fairly large, this game can take quite a while to beat. However, if you are like most players, you won’t care because you won’t enjoy the game. It is entirely possible to unintentionally fall into the same pit three or four times before you finally get away from it, and sometimes you will fall into a pit that you didn’t even see (although such occurrences are less common than some reviewers would have you believe).

For the most part, the graphics are simple by 1982 standards. The picture of E.T. on the title screen (yes, this game has a title screen, unlike most Atari 2600 games) looks pretty good, but the rest of the graphics are none too impressive, with E.T. in the game looking like a fat dude with a long short head. The graphics aren’t absolutely horrendous, but they aren’t too impressive either. As for the sound, the sound effects are average and get the job done. However, about five seconds of the theme song from E.T. plays on the title screen, and it even sounds good considering the Atari 2600’s audio limitations, so I can raise the sound score on account of that.

Overall, this is a game to own for collection purposes only. It is one of two games I have bought since resurrecting my old Atari 2600, bought because I was curious whether it was as bad as I’d heard. Maybe it isn’t the absolute pile of crap it is made out to be, but, at any rate, it isn’t worth playing. I recommend steering clear of actually playing this game.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 3
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 2
Final: 4.1
Written by Martin Review Guide

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