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How to Play E.T. for the Atari 2600

Various videos showing how you can play and finish a round of E.T.

Myths & Misconceptions

All You Do is Jump in Pits!

I can see why the game wouldn't be much fun for those who think that leaping into the wells is a main part of the game. As long as you can keep the FBI agent from confiscating your phone pieces, you only have to enter 3 wells if you use the Find Phone Piece Zone. If you have Elliott bring you a phone piece, you only have to jump in 2 wells. If you're lucky enough to have an abundance of candy, you can have Elliott bring you more than one phone piece.

How to Get Out of the Wells

You Constantly Fall into the Wells!

A common complaint, even from those who claim to be video game masters, is that you can't move around without constantly falling into the wells. People have played the hardest games over the years that required them to do everything perfectly in a specific order if they didn't want to lose a life and get sent back to play the last 5 levels over again, but somehow they can't figure out how to run around a few wells without falling in? Falling into a well is a joy compared to the torture most games put us through. It doesn't take too long to learn how to zip around the wells without falling in. It just takes a little practice.

The Wells: How close can we get?

The Collision Detection is Horrible!

Some people say that the collision detection sucks when it comes to the wells. They say that you can fall into a well when you're not anywhere near it. Whether you play E.T. on a real Atari (which I did for many years) or on a good emulator, the well collision detection is pixel perfect. When you are walking around a site that has wells, you cannot fall into one of those wells unless you touch the dark green part of the well with any part of E.T.'s body.

It's weird that it freaks out so many people when they already played many games with mixed perspectives. The arcade game Pac-Man, the beloved game that everyone and his sister went crazy over, had an overhead view of a maze, but a side view of the characters and they didn't touch each other only when their 'feet' lined up. Games such as Adventure for the Atari 2600 mixed overhead views with side views. And as it says on page 83 of the book The video game explosion: a history from PONG to Playstation and beyond, ". . . the practice of mixed perspectives existed long before video games, and appeared in a variety of places including maps, medieval drawings, and chess diagrams."

If it would be possible to have collision detection only with E.T.'s feet, people would still complain since it would be hard to judge. At least when it's full-body, you get pixel perfect collision detection with no guesswork.

FBI Agent

Playing the game even one time will reveal that the FBI agent takes things away from E.T. (similar to the bat in Adventure). He does not carry E.T. away. Only the scientist can abduct E.T.

Energy Count

The energy count is not your score. Your score is displayed after a round has ended and it can be built upon by completing the game more than once. The energy count is similar to a time limit in sports. You have only so much time to spend before you either win or lose the game. You can go into overtime, but not for long.

Finishing the Game

Some people claim that the game can't be finished, but I've finished it literally hundreds of times. Once you pass the ignorant newbie stage, you can get E.T. home pretty fast. In 1983, I probably could have won a contest for getting E.T. back home the fastest. It's not that hard. (I have videos of me getting E.T. home on this page if anyone needs proof.)

No One Really Likes E.T.

I've been told that nobody can like this game and anyone who says they do is either trying to get attention or just trying to be different. Well, I think most people who say they hate the game just want to fit in. They think everyone hates the game, so they jump on the 'I hate E.T.' bandwagon too. Henry Jacobsen said, "people would rather be wrong than be different" and that really does apply in this case. I'm sure there are some people that have no trouble getting in and out of the wells who truly hate the game as much as I like it, but I bet a lot of people haven't given the game a chance because it's much easier to ignore the manual, play for 5 minutes, then run away screaming into the arms of the anti-E.T. crowd. If that wasn't bad enough, many people that have something bad to say about the game have never played it. There's no doubt that they are blindly following the crowd.

And for any people out there who are studying psychology, I do not like the game because it made me suffer or because I had to justify the expense to my parents or because I had a guilty conscience. When you take the time to read the manual and tips sheet, you understand how amazing E.T. is compared to most games that came before. The power zones were such a unique concept back then.

Reviewers at YouTube

You'd think people would get sick of doing the same type of "I keep falling into the wells!" review, even if they know how to play E.T. and are doing it as a 'joke.' If they decided to review other things, I wonder if they'd be just as obtuse:

 

Ice Cream Cones — When I buy an ice cream cone, I raise it up and splat! Right into my forehead! Who invented these stupid things anyway? Can't they design an ice cream cone that doesn't make a beeline for your forehead? Ice cream cones F-ing suck!

 

Baseball — I swing and miss, swing and miss, swing and miss, then go sit down for a while. I'm sent back out again and swing and miss, swing and miss, swing and miss, but instead of sitting down this time, I take the bat and bash my own skull in! Baseball F-ing sucks!

 

Skiing — I keep falling down! I slide a little, fall, get back up, slide a little, fall . . . Aaaah! Skiing F-ing sucks!

 

Basketball — I throw the ball down and the damn thing comes right back up and hits me in the nuts! I throw the ball down again and wham! My balls resign, detach themselves and run for the nearest exit. All I want to do is throw the ball down. Can't they make a ball that just stays where I throw it and doesn't come after my party pouch like a sack seeking missile? Basketball F-ing sucks!

Play E.T.

If you don't have an Atari 2600 and an E.T. cartridge, you can still try E.T. for yourself. Just download the E.T. ROM file and download an emulator such as Stella and play E.T. on your computer. You can also play the game online at atarimania.com, but be aware that the sound isn't as good as the latest emulators you can download.

Special Video for E.T. Haters

To What Degree Do You Love E.T.?
Opinions, manual scans, map, tips, and videos.

To What Degree Do You Love E.T.?

Opinion page by Duane Alan Hahn.

 

No, this is not a joke. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial by Howard Scott Warshaw for the Atari 2600 is a much better game than most people think. The reason I created this 5 page section is because E.T. was my favorite game back in the early 1980s. I played it over and over again. I didn't even know most people supposedly hated the game until I got Internet access in 1999 and since there is an abundance of anti-E.T. pages and articles out there, including ones that encourage you to destroy E.T. cartridges, I thought it was about time that someone who liked the game spoke up. And for those E.T. haters who got to this page through a link in a forum, the person who posted the link and I are not the only two people on the planet who like the game. Just check out the E.T. Appreciation Page and you will see that more than two people like the game and more personal stories are being added as people who like E.T. find the page and submit their stories.

 

 

 

 

The Hidden Environmentalist Message in E.T.

Howard Scott Warshaw never said this in public, but a few of us in the know understand that the pits in E.T. were put there for a reason. He wanted us to hate the pits. He believed that our hate would subconsciously transfer to the damage that a lot of mining is doing to our planet. Howard Scott Warshaw knew that millions of kids would play E.T., so this was his chance to spread his environmentalist message to as many people as possible and make them feel it down to the core. If we hate pits with a passion in the game, we might hate pits with a passion in real life and finally do something to protect the planet from horrible men who gouge ugly holes into the earth.

 

OK, the paragraph above is complete B.S., but you know you'll end up reading a version of it in a future article or paper that someone will do for school because they skipped over this sentence.

 

 

 

 

A Quick Refresher

A Round of E.T. from Start to Finish

For those who need a quick refresher, E.T. is basically a treasure hunt. The main thing you are looking for is the Phone Home Zone Phone Home Zone. The only other power zone you really need during the main part of the game is the Find Phone Piece Zone Find Phone Piece Zone. The Find Phone Piece Zone shows you where the phone pieces are and that means you only have to jump in three wells at the most as long as you avoid the FBI agent.

 

After you have all three pieces of the phone, you can go back to the already found Phone Home Zone or find it if you haven't yet, call your ship, run to the forest and quickly find the Send Humans Back Zone Send Humans Back Zone and the Landing Zone Landing Zone. If you time it just right when sending the humans back, the ship will land and E.T. will be rescued.

 

If you like games with replay value, E.T. is overflowing with it. The 3 interplanetary telephone pieces, all of the power zones, and the wilted flower are placed randomly at the start of each round.

 

Note: There are some misguided people who think they need to memorize where all of the power zones are, but you only need to memorize the location of the Phone Home Zone Phone Home Zone after you find it. That's all. They'll also say that E.T. is a luck-heavy game, but you can finish round after round for days, if you have the time and you know how to play. Sometimes the Phone Home Zone can be hard to find, but that's part of the fun. You don't need luck to finish a round, you just need to know how to play.

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Adventure Game

Going Home

You must find all three pieces of your interplanetary phone, avoid or fight off an FBI agent and a scientist, call your ship, and get to the landing zone in the forest before time runs out. That might seem difficult, but you're not alone in your struggle to get home. Your friend Elliott will help. Just call out to him and he'll be right there.

E.T. Christmas Commercial (1982)

 

I think E.T. is the best adventure game ever made for the Atari 2600. It's not too hard, not too easy, there's no noticeable flicker, and it's different each time you play. Sure, the wells are hard to get used to the first couple of times you play, but you can soon learn to zip around them in no time (even if you are fairly uncoordinated like I am). No problem falling in a well because you can catch yourself in mid-air before you fall in too far. That saves time and energy.

 

 

Why Is E.T. so Great?

E.T.

Some people claim that there's nothing fun about E.T. Well, here's a list of some of the things that I think make E.T. so much fun:

 

1. The interplanetary telephone pieces and power zones are in different places every time you start a new round. Controlled Randomness gives E.T. replayability, and that means the game will be fun no matter how many times you play it. It's always fresh.

 

Phone Piece  Phone Piece  Phone Piece

a. Finding the randomly placed pieces of the interplanetary telephone is fun. It's like a treasure hunt. There are three ways you can do this. You can use the Find Phone Piece Zone Find Phone Piece Zone to see if a phone piece is in a well, you can give Elliott 9 candy pieces and he will bring you a piece of the phone, or you can look in every well by hopping in, catching yourself in mid-air by quickly hitting the fire button, then levitating right back out.

 

FBI agent

b. Searching for the zones that you'll need to finish the game is fun, almost as much fun as the game Civilization when you explore new territory. You never know where the Phone Home Zone (Call Ship Zone) Phone Home Zone will be. It could be near a well or in the forest or in Washington, D.C. (yes, that dangerous city where the FBI agent can strip you of everything you own before you know what's happening if you're not careful).

 

Scientist

2. Avoiding or fighting off the FBI agent and the scientist is fun. You can run, use an arrow zone Jump Right to jump to another site, use that special zone that will cloud their minds and send them back to Washington, D.C. Send Humans Back Zone, or you can jump into a well as a last resort. You can also use the scientist to your advantage by letting him carry you to Washington, D.C. if you're trying to get away from the FBI agent or you think the Phone Home Zone might be there. And as with other Atari-made adventure games, your enemies know where you are and come right after you. Since your enemies appear to have some type of intelligence, the whole game is more enjoyable and feels more alive than other so-called adventure games where enemies mindlessly bounce up and down or move back and forth as you try to jump over them or duck under them.

 

3. It's extremely fun and exciting at the end of the game when time is ticking down and you're trying to get to the landing zone Landing Zone while making sure no one is on the screen with you.

 

Easter Eggs and Ninja E.T.

4. There are some cool Easter eggs in the game and it's really fun if you find one or two of them on your own. Back when the game was new, I found the "JD" and the Yar. The "JD" wasn't such a big deal, but seeing the Yar fly off the screen was one of the most surprising things I ever saw while playing an Atari 2600 game. It was a real jaw-dropping, 'crap your pants' moment. After playing the game for days without turning the game off, there were strange initials in the energy count after starting a new round. I saw them right after walking off the forest screen and E.T. also turned black. I didn't know how it happened, but it was a fun thing to see, although nothing beats seeing the Yar fly off the screen. I now know from the DP E.T. Easter egg and bug page that E.T. turned black and the strange stuff appeared in the energy count because I got more than 31 pieces of candy.

 

OK, there's my list of all of the fun things in the game. Now if anyone says that there's nothing fun about the game, you can show them that list and maybe they'll change their mind.

 

Spielberg Talks About E.T.

E.T. is also one of the few non-turn-based games that allows you to leave the game during active play and come back later to pick up where you left off. In other words, you can 'pause' the game any time you want. With E.T., there's no waiting until you get to another level or some hard to reach safe spot before you can safely leave the game. Just hop in a well and return to the game whenever you want. It's not an official pause button, it's more like a pause feature, but it sure is handy when you have to drop what you are doing and join the real world. Why was this feature important? It may not mean much to the Nintendo generation and those who have only played Atari 2600 games using an emulator, but back then there were virtually no games for the Atari 2600 that you could pause. It was a welcome feature.

 

 

 

 

Great Graphics and Sound

Elliott Walking

The graphics, music, and sound effects in E.T. are very good for an Atari 2600 game released in 1982. Various people have criticized the graphics, and although the backgrounds are plain looking, most of the characters in the game are reasonably detailed, colorful, and flicker-free. I remember being impressed by how many colors some of the characters had. Many Atari 2600 games back then had characters that were made of only one color, but you can count 5 or 6 colors in some of the characters in E.T. and that was impressive.

 

Sound Comparison

You can say bad things about the graphics of most any Atari 2600 game if you use today's standards, but that's completely unfair. You can only compare E.T. with other Atari 2600 games that were available at the time. I'm sure there are a handful of games that were released by December of 1982 that might beat E.T. in the graphics category, but E.T. wins if you compare it to most other games from that time.

 

Some people claim that the sound effects in E.T. are horrible, but that's because they've only played the game using an emulator. Emulators mangle the sound of many games, and E.T. is one of those games. On the actual Atari 2600, the sound effects are amazing for 1982. The spaceship has one of the most unique and best sound effects ever put into an Atari 2600 game. Another thing I loved back then was that the sound of people walking gets louder as they get closer to E.T. Again, impressive for 1982.

 

 

 

 

An Advanced Adventure

H. S. W. Interview

E.T. is simple and complex at the same time. There are no mazes or tunnels to get lost in, there are just 6 sites wrapped around a cube. Although the landscape is simple, you need to find the 3 phone pieces, find the Phone Home Zone that could be anywhere, then call your ship and get back to the Landing Zone in the forest before you run out of energy (while avoiding or fighting off the FBI agent and the Scientist with your mind powers). Howard Scott Warshaw, the creator of the game, took the best parts of the adventure games that came before and created a little gem of a game.

 

I understand that many people who hate the game were little kids when E.T. came out, so they kept falling into the wells and were confused by the power zones. It's not their fault because kids of 1982 usually weren't as advanced as the kids of the 1990s and beyond who seem to master the most complicated games before they can even tie their own shoes.

 

E.T. is a fairly complex adventure game, so making it seem like a little kid's game was a mistake. Even teens and adults would have a hard time with this game until they played it a few times. Atari did include a nice manual and a tips sheet, but most of the kids who were old enough to read probably ignored that material and started playing the game immediately. Since E.T. is an adventure game, you can't just slap the cartridge in and start playing. You must read the manual and tips sheet that Atari provided or you won't know how to play the game and you'll become frustrated.

 

If you hated E.T. when you were a little kid, you can use this section of my web site to help recover and discard your childhood baggage about the game. If you can let go of those old hate-filled emotions and use your adult brain to discover what you weren't able to as a child, E.T. might become one of your favorite games.

 

 

 

 

Other E.T. Pages in this Subsection

E.T. Manual and Tips Sheet

This page displays scans of the official E.T. tips sheet and manual.

 

E.T. Map Page

I put together a map page for people who might need a little help.

 

E.T. Tips and Reminders

I finally made my own tips page. It also has a few videos that I hope will be helpful.

 

E.T. Appreciation Page

The place where you can read positive things others have to say about the game. You can also add your own praise if you'd like.

 

 

 

 

Related Links

Fixing E.T. The Extra Terrestrial for the Atari 2600

Explores why people hate E.T., and how the game can be fixed. Click here to see how the hack evolved over time at AtariAge.

 

In Defense of E.T.

If you repeat a falsehood often enough, people start to believe that it is true.

 

In Defense of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Let me tell you why E.T. isn't the piece of sh*t everyone is trying to sell it to be. Or for that matter, why it doesn't belong on any "10 Worst…" lists.

 

Reconsidering (and Explaining) E.T. for the Atari 2600

Despite being a symbol of terrible corporate decision-making, E.T. is actually a sweet little Atari game. No, for real!

 

E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial: A Defense

It is very en vogue to say that the E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial game for the Atari 2600 was one of the worst games ever created.

 

Defending the Worst of 2600

There were also some very creative aspects of the game that tend to get overlooked.

 

Once Upon Atari

Howard Scott Warshaw's web site.

 

E.T. Yar Easter Egg

I found the Yar on my own back in '82/'83, but not Indiana Jones. That would have been cool.

 

DP E.T. Easter Egg and Bug Page

Finally, an explanation for E.T. turning black and the initials in the energy count!

 

Jerome Domurat's initials in E.T. uncovered at last!

Uncovered at last? I found those initials back in '82/'83. I could have told them how to do it if I was around at the time. It's the easiest Easter egg to find.

 

AtariAge E.T. Page

 

Wikipedia E.T. Page

 

 

 

Interviews

DP Interview with Howard Scott Warshaw

 

DP Interview with Jerome Domurat

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Disclaimer

View this page and any external web sites at your own risk. I am not responsible for any possible spiritual, emotional, physical, financial or any other damage to you, your friends, family, ancestors, or descendants in the past, present, or future, living or dead, in this dimension or any other.

 

If you thought you hated E.T. and these pages help you learn to like it, then you start hating yourself for liking a game you thought you hated, I am not responsible if you get a sudden urge to jump into a deep well and end your life.