E.T. Tips and Reminders
Information and videos to help you master E.T.
Opinion page by Duane Alan Hahn.
If you are new to E.T., you'll probably want to start with game 3 as the tips sheet recommends. Some of the tips on this page can be applied to any variation, but most tips you'll find here are for game 1.
An important thing to remember from the start is that E.T. can run. Move the joystick in the direction you want to run, then press the fire button. It's great for escaping from the FBI agent and the scientist, but I try to zip around whenever I can to save time. The manual claims that running eats up more energy than walking, but that's not true. You are not penalized for running.
There are only 6 sites to memorize (wrapped around a cube). Each site has a unique design, so it's not difficult to tell them apart.
For more information, visit my E.T. Map Page.
The Power Zones
Every site has many power zones and some zone areas are larger than others. You can tell which type of zone you are standing in by looking at the symbol near the top of the screen in the middle. To use a power zone, all you have to do is stop moving and press the fire button (E.T.'s neck will stretch). Using a power zone eats up 19 energy units.
Find Phone Piece Zone
Looks like a question mark as in "Where is a phone piece?" This is one of the most important power zones and one you'll want to use often. It tells you if any wells contain a phone piece. It will only show the location of one phone piece at a time, so it's a good idea to check again after collecting the phone piece you just found since a well site can have all three phone pieces. So use the Find Phone Piece Zone, get the phone piece and repeat until the Find Phone Piece Zone shows no more pieces. You might get lucky and find two or three of the phone pieces on one screen.
Send Humans Back Zone
Looks like one of those Washington, D.C. buildings with the fluted Doric columns. Use it to send any human back to Washington, D.C., including Elliott. See The Scientist and the FBI Agent for more information.
Jump Zone (A.K.A. Move to a New Site Zone)
Looks like arrows because that's what they are. Instantly jump to a new site in the direction the arrow is pointing. This is similar to hyperspace in Asteroids, except you know where you are going to end up. If you have looked at my E.T. Map Page, you can see that it's pretty easy to know which site any arrow is point to. You'll also know the exact spot on the other site where you will land since your starting and ending points are the same. If you jump from the left corner of a site, you'll land in the left corner of the other site. If you jump from the middle of a site, you'll land in the middle of the other site. Since it's possible to know exactly where you will land, you'll have a pretty good idea if you are going to fall into a well and can be ready for it.
Using any power zone eats up 19 energy units, but walking or running horizontally across a site uses up around 118 energy units, so if you're going for a single-round high score, be sure to use a Jump Zone whenever you're near one that will take you where you want to go. If you don't have a good placement of Jump Zones that let you easily and safely jump from one site to the next, it will be nearly impossible to get a high score, so you might want to press reset if it looks like most of the Jump Zones are in useless places.
Eat Candy Zone
Looks like a mouth eating a piece of candy. E.T. gets 341 energy units from eating one piece of candy. This zone is only necessary if when are desperate. If you are having a hard time finding the Phone Home Zone, eating candy pieces to give you more energy is much better than letting Elliott revive you. It's best to keep Elliot as a safety net for those times when everything seems to go wrong at once. Yes, that even happens to me once in a while. That's why this game is so much fun. You never know what is going to happen from one round to the next.
If you are going for a single-round high score, you'll need to give at least 20 pieces of candy to Elliott and have Elliott give you two phone pieces.
Call Elliott Zone
Looks like an e for Elliott and lines that symbolize calling out. If you care about building up a high score, you can call Elliott and he'll take any candy pieces you are holding. You'll get 770 points for each candy piece that you give to Elliott. The points will be added to your score after you get E.T. back home. If you collect 9 candy pieces then call Elliott, he'll bring you back a phone piece if you don't already have them all. Instead of waiting for Elliott to return, you can call him back immediately and he'll give you the phone piece right away. (E.T. must not be the only one with magical powers. )
If you're trying to get a single-round high score, you'll need to have Elliott give you two phone pieces and you must give Elliott at least 20 pieces of candy.
Phone Home Zone (A.K.A. Call Ship Zone)
Looks like a Space Invaders type of alien. This zone could be anywhere, and unlike the zones mentioned above, there's just one in the whole game. You should always be looking for this zone as you search for phone pieces so you won't waste time and precious energy.
The Phone Home Zone also acts like a more powerful version of the Send Humans Back Zone. All humans are sent back to the city no matter where they are. This gives you a little free time to find the Send Humans Back Zone and the Landing Zone in the forest. If you call Elliott before phoning home, you'll need to call him again.
There is only one Landing Zone in the game and you'll find it somewhere in the forest. E.T. must be within this zone for the spaceship to land. If the Scientist or the FBI agent is on the screen when time runs out, the ship will be scared off and will not land, so try to get your timing right by adjusting when you send the humans back to Washington, D.C.
Do not allow Elliott to enter the forest when it's time for the ship to appear. When E.T. is within the Landing Zone and Elliott is in the forest, the spaceship will slam down on Elliott instead landing to pick up E.T. and the game will freeze.
In the Beginning
Do not trust the placement of the zones in the forest when a round first starts. Things could look a lot different when you return. It's best to go looking for phone pieces and come back later.
You'll want to be on the lookout for the Phone Home Zone when you are zipping around looking for those Find Phone Piece Zones . When you see the Phone Home Zone, remember where it is. You won't have to waste energy looking for it later. If you don't see the Phone Home Zone, there is a good chance that it is in the forest or Washington, D.C. If it's in Washington, D.C., you'll probably need to call Elliott. You can only phone home when you are alone or when Elliott is on the screen, so you can see why it can be hard to phone home in the city without Elliott's help.
One of your most important tasks is to find the three pieces of E.T.'s interplanetary phone that are hidden in the wells.
Interplanetary Phone Pieces
You must have all three pieces to phone home. The telephone construction site near the top left side of the screen shows how many pieces you have. Notice how it looks like an E and a T when finished.
Remember that more than one phone piece can be hidden on a well site, so check the Find Phone Piece Zone one more time after collecting a phone piece before you move on. I have had all three pieces on one well site before.
When I play, I usually check the 4 well sites first and run around the wells in quick straight line spurts, making an imaginary rectangle around each well. That way I can quickly find the Find Phone Piece Zone and the Send Humans Back Zone . Those are the only normal zones that I care about. I'll usually get lucky and find the Phone Home Zone on one of the 4 well sites during my normal search. If I don't find the Phone Home Zone during my normal search of the well sites, it should be in Washington, D.C. or the forest . If I check those two sites and can't find it, I know that the sneaky little zone will be hiding in the top row or bottom row of the Log Screen (the site with a bunch of wells).
The good news is that the Phone Home Zone is usually in a place where you're going to be walking/running anyway if you draw imaginary rectangles around the wells with E.T. like I do.
How to Handle the Wells
Never let E.T. drop fast and smack hard into the bottom of a well (you'll lose around 270 energy units). You can save a lot of energy by releasing the joystick and pressing the fire button to catch yourself in mid air as soon as you start to fall. You can then gently lower yourself to the bottom (or float out if you didn't mean to fall in). Whether you gently land or float back out, you'll save around 200 energy units every time and that can add up. Note: Remember that you need to stop pressing the joystick before you hit the fire button or you will not be able to stop E.T. from falling all the way in.
As the official tips sheet says, when levitating out of a well, stop moving up as soon as the scene changes. Move down, left, or right (whichever looks safest at the time). If you keep moving up, you'll fall back in. It's also best to avoid the sharp side edges that some wells have. When E.T.'s head drops down on an edge, he'll fall back in. I try to enter and leave a well by using the largest, flattest side I can get to.
Do not curse those times when you mistakenly fall into a well. You already know that you can catch yourself, and besides that, you might find a phone piece or the wilted flower.
There is a hidden wilted flower every round. You will get an extra emergency merge with Elliott if you find the wilted flower and revive it. The wilted flower can be in any well on any screen, even in a well that contains a phone piece (and you won't know it's there until you have removed the phone piece and have dropped back in). If you're lucky, you might even discover the Yar and Indiana Jones.
The Scientist and the FBI Agent
In case you don't already know, using a Send Humans Back Zone on the scientist or FBI agent brainwashes them so completely that they are harmless until they return to Washington, D.C. (you can touch them and nothing bad will happen). Since only one human can be on a site at the same time, a human will often mindlessly walk in place waiting to go back to Washington, D.C. if another human is blocking their path. While the human is stuck, you are free to search the site for any useful zones.
As you run around a site looking for the Phone Home Zone (Call Ship Zone) , you'll often find the Send Humans Back Zone . When the FBI agent or the scientist comes after you, don't run screaming and don't try to run directly for the Send Humans Back Zone; just calmly run to a corner that is far enough away from him and let him come to you. When he gets fairly close, you can safely take off running to the Send Humans Back Zone or anywhere you want to go without falling into a well. You know that the FBI agent and the scientist will come directly after you and that means you are always in control.
If you need to go to Washington, D.C. to look for the Phone Home Zone or because you already know it's there, take a free ride in the arms of the Scientist. You'll conserve energy and if you pay attention to the zones that he passes through, you might find something useful along the way (I have found the Phone Home Zone many times while on a free ride). If you ever need to stop your free ride prematurely, you can escape from the scientist by trying to run away just as he is about to walk off the screen. You do that by pushing up on the joystick and pressing the fire button when the scientist gets near the bottom of a site and is about to carry you to the next. Get ready to catch yourself because you might fall into a well, depending on where you are when you escape.
How Are the Humans Able to Walk Over the Wells?
E.T. doesn't belong to the first alien race that the government has tried to exploit. The U.S. government has been experimenting with various alien technologies for decades. The wells were dug by the government to trap E.T. Each well contains an alien force field that repels humans. These force fields were originally used by a different alien race to keep humans out of their hidden observation posts, but now the government uses the stolen technology to their advantage. The government guys or any human can walk over these special wells as if the wells don't exist. Only aliens can fall in.
The Power of Science
When the scientist grabs E.T., the rest of the humans are sent back to the city. If you call Elliott or Elliott is on his way with a phone piece, you'll need to call him again if the scientist grabs E.T.
Do not give Elliott any candy pieces until you know where the Phone Home Zone is. If the Phone Home Zone is in a really hard to find place, you might need to eat every candy piece you can get your hands on.
Keep Elliott away from the forest while waiting for the ship. If the ship lands when Elliott is on the screen, you can kiss your high score goodbye. The ship will land on Elliott, making him an instant bloody corpse, then the game will freeze (you don't see Elliott's bloody corpse, but when a spaceship lands on a boy, there's usually a bloody corpse underneath). Keep Elliott and your game alive by making sure he doesn't wander into the forest.
After you know where the Phone Home Zone is and you have found 2 phone pieces and you have 9 candy pieces, you can stand on a Call Elliott Zone to call Elliott and he will come take the candy pieces from you. Do not let Elliott leave. You don't have to wait for him to come back, just call him right after he takes the candy and he will give you the last phone piece. So now you have all three phone pieces and bonus points for giving Elliott the candy. Just call your ship and go home.
Obviously, if you can collect an extra 9 pieces of candy, you can have Elliott give you another phone piece instead of just getting one from him, but there is no guarantee that you'll be able to find 18 pieces of candy.
If you're going for a single-round high score, you must get two phone pieces from Elliott. Getting those two phone pieces from him saves a lot of energy and you'll need to give him every piece of candy for the extra points anyway. Also remember that you'll need to find at least 20 pieces of candy to get close to a high score.
After you phone home, don't just sit on the Landing Zone in the forest, also find the Send Humans Back Zone . After you have both zone locations burned into your brain, it's a good idea to stand on the Send Humans Back Zone as long as possible, then zip over to the Landing Zone.
When standing on the Send Humans Back Zone while waiting for your ship, don't fool around with the FBI agent. Send him away as soon as he pops on the screen. If you let him take a phone piece, it will be harder to finish the game if your timing is off. It's better to use the Scientist as a plaything to help you time things out just right. Don't worry if you miss the ship. If you didn't waste a ton of energy earlier in the game and you remember where the Phone Home Zone is, you can keep trying to reach your ship. Missed it three times? No problem, try again. Your timing should be perfect by then.
If you are playing for a multiple-round high score, the most important thing is to get E.T. home so you can continue playing. Try not to get more than 21 candy pieces since you would end up with less energy to start the next round. Unless you are a very good player, starting with less energy usually means that round will be your last.
After you get E.T. back home, remember to press the fire button to continue. You will lose your score if you hit the reset switch. And if you play using the Stella Atari 2600 VCS emulator, remember not to press the escape key out of habit.
Single-Round High Scores
When attempting to get a single-round high score, Northcoastgamer at AtariAge says that pressing reset after the candy first appears seems to increase the chances of getting more candy. So if you're using Stella and press Ctrl + R for a fresh game, press the fire button and wait about 11 seconds after E.T. lands, then move down to the Arrow Screen to see if candy has appeared. If it hasn't, move up to leave the screen then move back down and check again. Once the candy is on the screen, press reset and start playing.
Northcoastgamer also reminded us that since we need to give every piece of candy to Elliott for bonus points anyway, we should get two of the three phone pieces from Elliott to save precious energy units that we'd normally waste hunting for those two pieces on our own.
Another thing to remember, confirmed by Northcoastgamer in another post, is that you need a good placement of Jump Zones (arrows) that let you easily and safely jump from one site to the next or it will be nearly impossible to get a high score. You might want to press reset if it looks like most of the Jump Zones are in useless places.
Random Terrain's E.T. Videos
Many people seemed to need to watch someone play E.T. to speed up learning, so I made the following videos. Some people claim that it is impossible to get E.T. home, so these videos should finally end that kind of talk.
- I fell back into a well.
- I escaped from the scientist more than once.
- I found the wilted flower.
- I gave Elliott some candy for more points.
- My timing was off, so it took many tries to get E.T. back home. (The Scientist and the FBI Agent scare away the ship. They must not be on the screen or the ship will not be able to land.)
E.T. Tutorial: How to Get Out of the Wells
I have E.T. jump in all of the wells to show how quick and easy it can be to get in and out. I also included a mini-tutorial.
E.T. Goes Home (A Quick 'Walk Through')
This is a general example. A fairly quick one where I just get E.T. home.
To the Ship: The Battle for Home (How to Recover from Mistakes)
I played this round of E.T. while I was half-asleep to simulate how a newbie might play. It shows that even if you make many mistakes, you can get E.T. back home. I added text comments and pop up Power Zone images in case they might be helpful. Here are some things that happen in this video:
Easter Eggs and Ninja E.T.
Shows Jerome Domurat's initials, the Yar, Indiana Jones, HSW3 and Ninja E.T.
A Little Help from Elliott
E.T. finds two phone pieces on his own and gets the last piece from Elliott.
More Help from Elliott
E.T. finds one phone piece and gets the other two pieces from Elliott. This was made while trying to get a single-round high score for the AtariAge Atari 2600 High Score Club.
Faster humans in this video with the right difficulty switch set to A. After you know how to play, the game can be more fun with faster humans.
How Close Can We Get to the Wells?
Some people complain that you cannot get close to the wells in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600 without falling in, so I made this simple video of E.T. moving around some of the wells to show just how close E.T. can get. All this video shows is how close you can get to the wells without falling in. It does not represent actual gameplay.
Let's Play With the FBI Agent and the Scientist
This video shows how you can control of the humans instead of letting them control you.
Check out the Imaginary Rectangles section to learn more.
The Cube World of E.T.
The world of E.T. for the Atari 2600 is wrapped around a 3D cube. This is a spinning representation of that world to help you visualize where the 6 sites are on the cube. I also display a few flattened out views on top of the spinning cube to help even more.