To What Degree Do You Love E.T.?
Opinions, manual scans, map, tips, & videos about the Atari 2600 game.
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. Since there was an abundance of anti-E.T. pages and articles out there, including ones that encouraged you to destroy E.T. cartridges, I thought it was about time that someone who liked the game spoke up.
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.
A Quick Refresher
A Round of E.T. from Start to Finish
The video above is not a speed run. And it's not a "look what I can do" video; it's a "look what YOU can do" video. If you don't suck at most games and have basic video game skills, you can do this too. I've been basically playing like this since early 1983. It didn't take years of practice. I spent a little time getting used to the game and learned what to do and what not to do on my own, but thanks to the Internet, you can watch my videos and read the tips on my web site and learn even faster. If it's still too hard, you can always play the hacked version.
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 . The only other power zone you really need during the main part of the game is the 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 and the 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 care about points, your score will increase every time you finish a round (as long as you don't turn off your Atari). Just press the fire button to play another round. Try to see how many times you can get E.T. back home and watch your score climb.
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 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. It also helps if you don't have the reflexes of a three-toed tree sloth.
My Favorite Adventure Game
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?
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.
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 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. Using the Find Phone Piece Zone is quickest option, though.
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) 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).
2. Avoiding or fighting off the FBI agent and the scientist is fun. You can run, use an arrow zone to jump to another site, use that special zone that will cloud their minds and send them back to Washington, D.C. , 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 while making sure no human 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
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.
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, 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. You can also look at my map page and my tips and reminders page to hopefully learn more than you could from the manual and tips sheet.
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.
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.
Other E.T. Pages in this Subsection
Downlad a hacked version of the game that might turn E.T. haters into E.T. lovers. Click here to see how the hack evolved over time at AtariAge.
If you repeat a falsehood often enough, people start to believe that it is true.
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.
Despite being a symbol of terrible corporate decision-making, E.T. is actually a sweet little Atari game. No, for real!
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.
There were also some very creative aspects of the game that tend to get overlooked.
Howard Scott Warshaw's web site.
I found the Yar on my own back in '82/'83, but not Indiana Jones. That would have been cool.
Finally, an explanation for E.T. turning black and the initials in the energy count!
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.
Spread the Word
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