These are the reviews that I wrote while on tumblr. Since there are only a few, they will all be shown on this page. These are being published so readers can get a sense of how my writing style has evolved over time (and also, because I still like these reviews, most are still pretty accurate, if not well-organized).
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (originally published Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 at 3:52:23 AM)
E.T. might have been the straw that broke the camel of an over-saturated game industry’s back, but is it a camel worth riding?
It’s the game with all the blame, and you know it by name. It’s not awfully good, but E.T. the Extra Terrestrial is not the worst game of all time. It’s absolutely foolish to think that. It’s not even the worst game on the Atari 2600, there are plenty of lousy sports games and half-baked space shooters and Pac-Man clones that can contend for that dubious prize. If E.T. deserves any “Worst Of” distinction, it would be “The Worst Game Developed by Howard Scott Warshaw”, who also developed the superior Yars’ Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Ark during his time at Atari. Much like the development of Yars’ Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Ark (the latter of which requires two controllers and an incredible amount of introspection), Warshaw was very ambitious with E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, going beyond typical Atari development norms and actually adding external plot to his games via the game manual.
…And this is where the E.T. hate discourse really began, because I can guarantee you that 99% of the people on the internet who rag on E.T. have never looked at the bloody manual. The manual contains everything that you need to play the game, from items and characters to controls and HUD descriptions. After looking through and understanding the manual, the game is actually quite enjoyable and easy. A lot more enjoyable than Atari Football or Fire Fly, that’s for damn sure. The game looks good as well! The characters are recognizable, there’s no sprite-flickering, and the title screen is an impressive touch for the time. The best way to play the game is with patience, and to wrap your head around the fact that E.T.’s whole body is a hitbox when avoiding the pits. Other than that, a few screen bugs, and a somewhat seething frustration at the FBI agents who relentlessly follow you on harder difficulties, it’s a decent play. It’s just too ambitious for its own good, you really need the manual to help you through it.
I’m not the only one who defends this game, either. (The brilliant) Random Terrain has a virtual guestbook for those who have fond memories of the game (mine is there from 3 or so years ago, just search for “exo” on the page)! My opinion is pretty much the same, but it has rationalized since then. It’s not quite one of the best Atari games of all time, but it’s far from the worst. Is the internet making a meme of E.T. to blame for the hate? Most definitely. Do I care? Yeah, I care when blame and hate at a “this game killed an industry” level is misplaced, but at the end of the day, all I can do is try to influence people otherwise, and enjoy a well above-mediocre game in my collection. That, and wish that Atari didn’t commit corporate suicide by producing so many fucking copies of the game.
Fun Factor: 5
Collector’s Note: The game is dirt-cheap and easy to find at used game shoppes. REAL collectors buy the $1000+ cartridges from the actual landfill!