E.T. For Atari: Too Awesome For You
Two weeks ago my friend and I were asked to beat E.T. for the Atari 2600. I had only played E.T. once before we were asked to to this challenge and from what I remembered, it was a pretty lousy experience. As such, the idea of replaying such an abomination was one that intrigued me, especially since the E.T. phenomenon was back in the spotlight thanks to the documentary that has people digging the cartridges up from their sacred burial ground.
What I discovered, however, was that E.T. is not a terrible game. Actually, it is quite a good game once you learn how to play it. It proved to be rather challenging and it had a very simple goal for the player to achieve.
It's okay. It's okay. You just suffered through a mild heart attack but don't let that cloud what I said. I said that E.T. is actually a good game but I can see why people can be confused and frustrated with the game to the point where they call it bad.
On the surface, E.T. seems rather confusing. It gives you a lot of clashing information from the get-go. None of this information is explained in-game so unless you read the instruction booklet, you have no clue what any of these symbols mean.
Image courtesy from Giantbomb
So allow me to detail the game:
- This is E.T. I know he is supposed to be brown but he is green. Why? No idea.
- This is your Energy. Every time you move, fall into a hole, or hover, you use up this energy. Lose all your energy and you turn white and "Die" only to have Elliot show up to save you. You have 3 lives unless you find a flower which gives you an extra man.
- This is the amount of Reese's Pieces you've collected. Collect 9 of them to get a piece of the phone.
- This little speck is a Reese's Piece.
- This is a pit-fall. I know it looks like a bush but it really is a pit-fall. You will need to look into these to find pieces of the telephone.
- This is probably what confuses players the most. This little symbol changes constantly depending on where you are on the screen. The symbols can be arrows (which will teleport you to the next screen), a "?" which will tell you if there is a Phone Piece inside one of the nearby pits, a Face Symbol which will summon Elliot to give him Reese, a Roman Numeral III to scare the enemies away from you. There is also 2 circles which allow you to eat a Reeses which gives you more energy, and finally a square within a square which is the Target Zone so you can call your spaceship.
- Your Telephone. Collect all 3 to phone home.
- Spaceship Timer. You'll need to wait out the timer before the spaceship shows up.
- Enemy. There are 2 types; a Doctor who takes you to a lab but doesn't cause harm and a Yellow Jacket FBI agent who steals a part of your phone.
Once you realize what everything means, the game is surprisingly easy. In fact it was so easy that we were able to beat Game Mode 1 (no enemies) within 7 minutes. Gamemode 3 (Doctor and FBI Agent will chase you) is a lot more difficult but still doable with patience.
The point of the game is to explore pitfalls to find 3 telephone pieces. Once you get the phone, find the screen with the Square within a Square to summon the ship. You can only summon the ship if there is no enemies on the same screen. Once summoned, you must get to the landing zone (starting screen) before time runs out.
The Landing Zone
The challenge comes with the fact that the space-ship will only show up in there are no enemies on the screen. This is where you use the Roman Numeral III to scare enemies away from the landing zone.
And that's it. If you learn how to use the symbols on top of the screen properly, you'll be able to navigate through the world easily and find the pieces of the phone with little hassle. The only really frustrating issue are the pitfalls which will drop you into them if a single pixel of your body touches it.
However if you learn to hold the Hover Button down until you are 100% away from the pit, you won't fall into the trap of falling, flying out, falling, flying out - that has made this game so infamous.
So there you go. That is how you play E.T.
Too Awesome For You
For over 2 decades, E.T. has been considered the Worst Game Ever Made. This cannot be further from the truth. In fact, I would dare say that E.T. is actually a very good game. The problem is that the era it was released within was one where players couldn't be bothered to read instruction booklets. This entire game is explained within the pages of the booklet and if people would read it, they would understand what everything means.
Was E.T. the worst game on the Atari? Far from it. There were games a lot worse than this and games a lot more complicated in their gameplay (Indiana Jones, anyone?) but those games were not attacked as viciously as this.
So why was E.T. focused upon so fiercely? Could it be because it was one of the last games for the Atari before the big video-game crash? Could it be because it was a licensed game based on a very popular movie at the time? Or could it be because it was produced in such high quantities that just didn't sell?
It could be any of those factors. This does not mean that the game itself is bad. There are many games out there that are a lot worse than this one. Hell, there are games being made today that are a lot worse. E.T. may not be a technological beast but it is playable. The controls make sense and the gameplay is solid. Hell, the game even provides a great sense of challenge and trying to do a speed run in Mode 3 can be quite the rollercoaster ride.
Besides, tt is not like the game is a broken, glitchy mess that is unplayable. There are games today that are a lot more broken than E.T. ever was.
And that is why, my readers, E.T. is simply just Too Awesome for You.