The Game: In something that would best be described as a very vague homage to the Steven Spielberg film of the same name, E.T. allows you to guide the intrepid (and cute) extra-terrestrial on a quest to find Reese’s Pieces and transmitter pieces (with which one can, presumably, phone home), while avoiding the threatening (but cute) doctors and FBI agents. If you get into a scrape, the helpful (and cute) Elliott may be able to pry you out of a sticky situation. You may then resume your pointless quest until, inevitably, you wind up withering away at the bottom of one of the many pits in the game. (Atari, 1982)
Memories: A few phrases pop into my head when I think about this game, among them: “waste of time,” “cheap licensing cash-in,” and “was there ever anything nearly this lame for the Odyssey2?” As many have noticed, the vast majority of the effort poured, or dripped as the case may be, into E.T. was spent on the opening title screen. Pretty impressive stuff for the 2600, but the game was much more satisfying if one never got past that title screen.
Since this page was originally published, theLogBook.com reader Abel Macias wrote to inform me that he actually managed to finish the game once, rather than dying in the pits like the rest of us. So I guess it wasn’t completely impossible. (In Abel’s defense, I must point out that his letter never said anything about liking the game, just finishing it.)
A spectacular sales failure for Atari, E.T. led to a wildly incorrect legend that stock was returned to Atari in such overwhelming numbers that some five million copies were supposedly crushed and buried in a New Mexico landfill. E.T. programmer Howard Scott Warshaw, who also programmed the vastly superior all-time classic Yars’ Revenge, as well as the Raiders Of The Lost Ark game for the 2600, disputes that claim, though; while he admits that the game didn’t go over well, Warshaw doesn’t think that the destroyed inventory was anywhere near five million copies. (The landfill, exhumed in 2014, turned out to contain exactly what a 1983 New York Times article said it would: unsold inventory from an El Paso warehouse that Atari no longer wanted to lease, including – but not limited to – copies of E.T.)