Atari’s E.T. It’s Not That Bad!

ET The Extra-Terrestrial Atari2600

ET The Extra-Terrestrial on Atari 2600 has for many years been labelled as the worst video game of all time.  Along with a massive burial of game cartridges that were supposedly found in a landfill site in New Mexico.  As it detailed in the documentary “Atari: Game Over”.  The game ET The Extra-Terrestrial has been also been blamed for the death of Atari.

ET The Extra-Terrestrial on the Atari 2600 was released after the blockbuster movie in late 1982.  Initial sales of the game were excellent and it became one of the best selling Atari 2600 games of all time.  The success didn’t last long though, as many Atari fans complained about the games design, the continuous falling into pits (wells) and not knowing what to do.  News of peoples views and complaints quickly spread leaving millions of copies on retail shelves that attributed to Atari’s massive loses in 1983 of $536 million.

Today I’m going to take a look and see if ET The Extra-Terrestrial on Atari 2600 really was that Naff.

ET Cover

ET Cover

ET The Extra-Terrestrial Credits

  • Published by:  Atari, Inc.
  • Developed by:  Atari, Inc.
  • Programmer:  Howard Scott Warshaw
  • Graphics:  Jerome Domurat
  • Cover artwork by:  Hiro Kimura
  • Released:  1982
  • Genre:  Action, Puzzle, Adventure

ET The Extra-Terrestrial The Game

Like in the movie, E.T. is stuck on Earth and wants to get home.  So we have to help him build an interplanetary phone so he can call for help. We must roam the areas looking for clues to the whereabouts of the three parts needed to build the phone.  After we have built the phone, we must find the area to call the ship and then find the landing the zone for the ship.  Trying to stop us on our quest are Government Agents and Scientists.

There are six screens to navigate, four are filled with pits or wells (whatever you want to call them). One screen is the forest, where we start the game and where the ship will pick us up.  The final screen has Elliott’s house, the FBI building and the Science Institute.

ET The Extra-Terrestrial Characters

In the game there are four characters:  The Scientist.  The scientist roams the screens and will take you to the science institute.  It is more of a hindrance than anything and you can freely walk away from the institute.

The FBI agent is the character you want to avoid.  He also roams the screens and will chase you down and take your items, he will take your phone pieces and even your candy.

Elliott, you friend in the game and the movie.  He will collect candy from you when called, this will increase your points at the end of the game.  He can also find a phone piece and bring it to you and he will also revive you three times if your energy depletes, four if find the wilted flower and revive it.

Not forgetting of course E.T. the protagonist of the game and the character you play as.

ET The Extra-Terrestrial Atari2600 characters

Game Icons

You will see at the top centre of the screen, an icon or symbol.  There are seven icons that change as you move about and each one has a specific function.

ET Find Phone Zone

The question mark is the “Find Phone Piece Zone”.  Pressing the fire/action button when this is icon is visible will show you what “well” a phone piece is hidden in.

ET move to new site

The Arrow icon is the “Move to new site Zone”.  Pressing the fire/action when visible will move you to the nearest site in the direction the arrow is pointing.

ET phone home

The space invader alien looking icon is the “Call Ship Zone”  Pressing fire/action will allow ET to home phone.  It only works once you have assembled the phone and are alone on the screen.  Once pressed a timer will count down, you now need to find the landing zone.

ET Landing ZoneThis icon is called “The Landing Zone”. After you have called the ship you must be on the landing zone to be rescued.  If another character is on screen when the ship appears it will leave without you and you will have to return to the call ship zone.

ET Eat Candy

This is the “Eat Candy Zone”  Pressing the fire/action when visible will allow you to eat the candy you have collected and increase your energy.  The amount of candy and energy is displayed on the bottom of the screen.

ET Call Elliott This icon is “Call Elliott Zone”.  If you have 9 candy pieces and call Elliott he will chase away the bad guys, leave and return with a phone piece.  If you have less than 9 candy pieces, Elliott will come and take the candy home.  This will increase your score and the end of the game.

ET Send humans back The last icon is the “Send Humans Back Zone”.  Pressing the fire/action when visible will send Elliott, the Scientist and the FBI agent back to their respective building.

Is E.T. on the Atari 2600 Naff?

Well E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial on the Atari 2600 isn’t the worst game ever.  It is a little buggy, like when the characters get stuck at the bottom of the screen or E.T. falls back into the wells a little to often.  The bugs and glitches are probably something to be expected as the game was rushed through production.  Should it have been released the way it was?  Only Atari can answer that.

The graphics aren’t too bad, you can make out the characters and what is what.  The music is pretty good and the sound fx are ok (if you can put up with the constant sound of footsteps).  The controls work fine and the gameplay?….well I actually enjoyed it.  E.T. is not the grandest of adventure games and yes it’s a pain in the arse when you keep falling back into a well but the rest of the game is alright.

To be totally honest, I don’t know why this game has been marked as the worst game ever.  Perhaps more was expected of it, especially after the success of the movie.  But how often has a good game been made on the back of a movie?  E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial on the Atari 2600 is overall pretty average.  It’s not the greatest in the world, nor is it the worst.


5/10 rating5 / 10

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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Glitch

Mother Ship Crash

Allow E.T. to die on the landing pad while he is waiting for the mother ship to arrive. If Elliot arrives on the screen but doesn’t save E.T. the game will crash.

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