E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Atari 2600)

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Written by  :  Ashley Pomeroy (233)
Written on  :  Jun 11, 2005

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Infamous; merely dull

The Good

I first played this game a couple of years after it came out, when I was ten years old or so. It didn't seem all that bad at the time, and a lot of the subsequent criticism which has been heaped on the game just seems to be bandwagon-jumping. It's no worse than any of the other 2600 adventure-style games, such as 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and... well, 'Adventure', I suppose, although the latter has historical interest. It has a nice theme tune and a good picture of ET, the game is simple enough to play, and passes the time well enough. The graphic of ET during the game captures his likeness effectively. If you get bored, you can make his head go up and down, and up and down. Up. And down.

The Bad

However, ET is nowadays a notorious software failure; Atari paid a lot of money for the ET licence, and when the game underperformed, thousands of unsold cartridges were buried in landfill, as there was no demand for them and it was cheaper than storing them or selling them at a loss. The major gameplay element involves exploring a set of holes in the ground - something which wasn't in the film - but perhaps due to a lack of testing, it's very easy to fall back into the holes after you have clambered out; furthermore, several of the screens have holes in such a position that, if you enter the screen from a certain direction, you tend to automatically fall into them. It's frustrating. Fandango trombone. The basic gameplay makes no sense if you don't have the instructions, as it is based around a set of icons which are meaningless in themselves.

The Bottom Line

ET is a notorious flop. As a game, it's so-so; frustrating and hard to follow, but easier to complete than most of the few other 2600 adventures ('Haunted House', however, thrashes it in every respect).However, the tale of surplus cartridges being pulped and buried gives it a certain cultural resonance, and along with the shoddy conversion of 'Pac-Man' it's an icon of the 1983 video games crash.