Thursday, June 3, 2010

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (The Video Game) (1982)

Last week, Chag at Culture Brats made an astonishing pronouncement: Pac-Man was the worst video game for the Atari 2600 console. That's what he says in a post entitled "Worst Video Game Ever?" Nothing could be further from the truth. Really, nothing could be. The worst video game ever for the Atari 2600 console, and in fact, the worst video game in history, is the 1982 tie-in game for E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Bar none. Game over. No contest.

In attempting to justify this opinion, Chag notes as follows:
I remember the hype that led up to its release. I had saved up my allowance, birthday money, and money earned from odd jobs. Finally, I went to Record Town in the mall one Saturday morning and looked at the locked display of video games behind the counter.

Pac-Man was nowhere to be found. It was sold out.

I should have taken it as a sign.

The next week, I tried again. It was there! I talked my Mom into going home immediately so I could play it.

When I popped it into the Atari 2600 and started playing it, I couldn't believe my eyes.

It looked nothing like the arcade version.

The screen was the wrong color. The ghosts flickered.

It looked like a five-year-old kid had created it.

I was devastated.
Such criticism just in time for the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man? Perhaps it's just a publicity stunt, calling one of the most popular video games of all time the worst of the medium. Perhaps the temporary deprivation of such a game at such a young age forever scarred dear Chag, but one thing is for certain: Chag must never have owned or played the E.T. The Extra Terrestrial game cartridge, for if Chag had, his conclusion would be far, far different.

Like all children of the 1980s, I had a fondness for E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, the blockbuster film directed by Steven Spielberg. Like most kids with an Atari 2600, I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to do when playing the home video game based upon that film. Worst game ever.

It was unplayable, unfun, uninteresting, and unworthy of its own existence.

Behold the manual:

There's a great summary and analysis of the game here from Giant Bomb (which goes so far as to note that game's "unintuitive game play," "poor graphics," and "bad sound effects.").

Wikipedia has an extensive entry dedicated to the game, including a four paragraph section entitled "Critical Response," which details the game's many, many flaws. It quotes sources which indicate that the game is almost universally considered to me the worst video game of all time.

I remember receiving this game from my parents sometime in the early 1980s. I quickly tired of it; it was impossible to understand, difficult to play, and completely and totally unfun.

This experience with the game appears to be universal.

What to say to that, Chag?

(Some images courtesy of Vintage Computing).


Ryan S. said...

I saved up my money for Pac-Man and received ET as a Christmas gift. ET was a fever dream of an Atari game, making you feel vaguely as if you'd come down with mono if you played it for any length of time.

Pac-Man was not the arcade game, but it was very playable and couldn't be solved in roughly half an hour (unlike ET). There's just absolutely no comparison to fun vs. "what-the-@#$%-is-this-nonsense?".

I never had a ColecoVision, but I hear the "Smurfs" game for Coleco was on a par with ET.

Chag said...

E.T. was an awful game. I owned it. Definitely the worst movie-based game of all time. And if you put these games side by side and judge them solely on gameplay, graphics, etc., E.T. is definitely worse.

However, you didn't know what you were going to get when you purchased the E.T. game, just something based on the movie. Which it was, vaguely. But with Pac-Man, you thought you knew what you were getting. You pumped countless quarters into the Pac-Man games at the arcade, so you knew that game forwards and backwards. But you felt cheated when you played the Atari game. It wasn't the same. It wasn't even close. It was like listening to the Pixies on the radio, really digging them, and then buying the CD only to find Milli Vanilli coming out of your speakers.

Ryan S. said...

I will always stand by the notion that it is less fun to play a game where 90% of gameplay involves getting out of a hole in the ground.

I will confess, while I had certainly played Pac-Man at the arcade, I was about 6 or 7 when I got Pac-Man, so I likely wasn't hanging out at the arcade enough to have an affinity for the machine.

Shawn Robare said...

When I was a kid the arcade and Atari Pac-Man were interchangeable to me. There was no way I could have put it into words at the time, but I knew there were limitation to the tech int he Atari console and just having the opportunity to play it at home (with annoying dash-pellet eating noises and all) was awesome. I didn't expect it to be as nice as the sit-down table-top version at my local Pizza Hut.

E.T. on the other hand was an exercise in self torture. I never even put that damn phone contraption together...

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