A Retro Review by Steven
E.T. will probably be one of the more well known games that I’ll write about in this series of retro reviews. Many people know about it not because it’s good, like Mario, but because it’s bad–really bad.
As far as gameplay and sound go, you have to dig pretty deep to find anything good to say. The sound consists of a couple short snippets of the E.T. theme (played on the opening screen and when you “die”) and beeps that are annoying even by Atari standards. The game play isn’t any better. You explore a confusing world in hopes of finding 3 dots aka ship parts so that E.T. can go home. The entire time you are chased by a man in a trench coat who will take your precious dots and carry you to a jail that you can simply walk out of. You will also repeatedly fall into holes that are both surprisingly hard to get out of and to avoid. There is also a limited number of steps that E.T. can take before he dies. This ends up being one of my favorite parts of the game because if you lose track or you try to kill yourself by running out, E.T. turns into a pile of ash. Elliot then appears out of nowhere and the theme starts playing. As soon as Elliot reaches E.T. the music comes to a hilariously abrupt end and POOF! he’s gone and E.T. is perfectly fine and has plenty of steps. The game is terrible and you can’t even kill yourself to end it.
What’s actually more interesting than the game itself is it’s place in video game history. The movie E.T. had just come out and Atari gave a man named Howard Scott Warshaw the impossible task of making the game in just 5 weeks so that it would be out for the holiday season. Well, unsurprisingly the game was bad. Many customers demanded refunds, and a huge number of the games went unsold. So many E.T. and other Atari games were going unsold that Atari famously ended up burying them in the Alamogordo desert. (For more information watch the very good documentary Atari: Game Over) This ended up being the last straw that pushed Atari into debt and started the video game industry crash of ’83. Atari never fully recovered from this and it is often cited as being one of the worst financial mistakes in video game history. Atari’s decline left the door open for Sega and Nintendo to get a major foothold in America and in doing so, changed the world of gaming forever.
Although many people call E.T. the worst game ever, I wouldn’t agree with that. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s bad, but at least it’s playable. Even if half the reason to play it is to make fun of it, that’s still more reason than a few games I know of. So I would actually recommend people play this game, if they get the chance. It’s worth playing just to see how bad it is and to experience this small, but important, part of video game history for yourself.