Retro Monday “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”

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Title: “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Developer: Atari. Inc

Publisher: Atari. Inc

Released: December 1982


Not much has happened this week. Not just was this article made rather later then planned, but also with in the game world. It is GDC (Game Developer Conference) time and so not much happens except for technology stuff. Look at ‘Project Morpheus’, Sony’s entry into the virtual headset world. It’s really interesting for me and as a piece of technology but does nothing to make writing a retroactive game review any easier. But then I saw this news story. The two film groups that where going to make a documentary about the game “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” were halted because of their not very detailed plans to dig up the New Mexico desert. Why do they need to dig a hole in New Mexico? Well, let me explain…

Back in the yonder years of the early 1980’s, there was a filmmaker called Steven making a film called “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”. When it was released, it’s safe to say it was a success. Because of the films success, game companies fought over the rights to make a tie-in video game for arcades and home consoles. With a price tag of $20 – $25 million of their best 1982 American dollars, Atari bought the rights and started making the game. Because Spielberg wanted the game out for a Christmas release, so finished and ready for publishing by September 1st that year, they had only just over 5 weeks to make the game from start to finish.

With a lot of money already spent and with a very short time scale for production, they brought in hotshot programmer Howard Scott Warshaw to make the game. Spielberg even asked for him specifically. Well, Howard did make the tie-in game for Steven’s other film “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. After a paid vacation to Hawaii because Howard had spent the last year making two games non-stop, the game went in to production.

Because the film was such a huge success, game retailers ordered up more units then they thought they would need because of the projected demand, but quite a few cancelled at the last minute leading Atari to have ‘select distributors’ which lead to more cancellations excreta, excreta.

So came Christmas 1982 and the release of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” for the Atari 2600. The arcade version was dropped because there wasn’t enough time to make the boxes. I have actually played the game (totally legitimately) through an emulator as it was released before I was born and I can say that the game is absolutely horrendous! It looks bad, the sound is terrible, and the game play is abysmal. For those un-knowing of the game, you play as E.T. who lands; at least I think its lands, in a field somewhere on Earth. He could be crashing but his one-person shop flies off afterwards so I’m not entirely sure. Now your quest begins! You must assemble your space phone to ‘phone home’ and call back your ship. A whole game built on the line “E.T. phone home” I suppose. You find the surprisingly detailed but not resembling a phone pieces randomly in pits in the area. There are a few dozen pits and only three phone pieces so get looking. The process is; you walk into a pit, fall down and check the pit floor, and then extend your neck and levitate (yes, you can fly) out of the pit and repeat until you have all three pieces. Not only that, you have a limiter in the form a life bar. Every time you walk, fall, fly and generally move it depletes. It hits zero, you die, game over.

The game is called by many, “The Worst Game of all Time” for good reason. Apart from being the most brain-melting boring game ever, it is often cited as the instigating game that led to the video game industry crash of 1983. It was so bad people say it crashed not just Atari but the whole video game industry!

It is the most boring, uninteresting, most awful game I have ever played. So it will always be remembered. This game will live on for eternity in infamy and that is what all games want. Its more they 30 years after the game was released and people are still talking about it. Out of the 4 million units that where shipped around 3.5 million units where returned and buried in the New Mexico desert in a landfill near Alamogordo, New Mexico. This is why these two film groups want to dig a hole in New Mexico. Apparently, there are 3.5 million units of the worst game ever made hidden somewhere in what I like to think is called the ‘Pit of Despair’. Its one pit E.T. won’t be flying out of any time soon.

Retro Score: 1/5 (Only because it is possible to finish it. Other wise it would be a 0.5/5)

Modern Score: 1/5

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