E.T. for the Atari 2600 is a favorite of all-time worst video game lists. I was only six or seven years old when the video game came out. I asked for it for my birthday to complement my ET pillow, pajamas, clothes, shoes, etc. ET gets blamed as the video game which sent Atari on a downward spiral. The massive amounts of unsold ET cartridges were eventually buried in a New Mexico landfill, adding to the hilarity surrounding this game. But most of the bashing should be reserved for its gameplay, which is truly mind-boggling, even for the 2600.
The goal is to find the pieces of your space telephone to call home and summon your spaceship. Your character is ET, although an extremely pale, horribly unwieldy version of the beloved character from the movie. To put it lightly, he don’t move well. the pieces of your telephone are at the bottom of pits. There are several pits per screen. To find the pieces, you have to fall into every dumb pit just to see if there is something in it. this would not be such a big deal, except there are a lot of pits and they aren’t very easy to levitate out of.
Meanwhile, your energy bar is depleting. You can refill it with the most unappetizing-looking Reese’s Pieces ever.
Once you find all of the pieces, you have to find the right spot to call the spaceship from. There is also a sinister, pixelated FBI agent appearing sporadically, trying to grab them back from you. The call spot was very hard for me to find. I remember that it shifted and the only way to find it was to stand on the right place, waiting for the symbol to appear at the top of the screen. But the right place could be anywhere and it changed each time.
As a kid, I did not hate this game the way people hate it now. Pitfall! it wasn’t. But I also wasn’t shelling out my own money for a game that failed to live up to the promise of the movie–another funny thought, that an Atari 2600 game was going to deliver an experience worthy of a film–and things like clunky gameplay didn’t bother me that much. I was happy to waste time.
Still, if I revisited it today I’d probably feel like most of the people who revile it as one of the worst Atari games ever, if not the worst. Maybe I’ll go see it at the landfill!
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