It's really not as bad as they say. It's not even the worst game on the 2600 let alone of all time. Yes, Atari paid too much for the rights and produced way too many cartridges so they lost a ton of money on it. Although it still sold 1.5 million carts making it the 8th best selling game on the platform. Despite demanding the game be delivered in just 5 weeks, HSW did a pretty good job in my opinion. 10 year old me loved the game and I still play it occasionally today. It took me all of 10 minutes to master how to get out of the pits and avoid dropping back in. I really don't know why this game gets all the hate.
Tip: try starting with level 3 as you can get to know how to play without the scientist or FBI guy roaming around.
Saw a documentary called "Game Over" based around the Urban legend that this game was so bad that they dumped a million of them into a landfill and covered them with concrete. Well, it wasn't a million, but they did find the land fill with 728,000 various title in it. The programmer worked magic for only having not more than a month to knock out the game, due to a developer overpromising on a Christmas release date. He literally slept in the same room as the programing equipment and worked 7 days a weak, non stop. This game isn't great but it does have surprising depth, making you put together a transmitter to "phone home." The main complaint is you fall into pits and when you get to the top you fall right back in, over and over. Well, it was even in the manual, just go left or right not up or down and you can get out the first time. I had the attention span of a gnat and I was fine with this game as kid. Try it. It's really not that bad, just didn't live up to the hype.
In 1982, Atari was still dominating the home video game market with (mostly) hit-after-hit of arcade conversions, and E.T. was a highly popular movie that had broken all the box office records at the time. Surely the two combined forces would have created an all-time best seller, right?
Everything has been said of what a disaster the game was, and perhaps rightly or wrongly so depending on your POV. I couldn't get into the game back then and still can't get into the game today, even with the benefit of an emulator to save the progress as I go along. (Too frustrating!)
This game is much better than it's reputation. People would have you believe it was such a bad game it destroyed the entire videogame market. Nonsense! There are many many far worse 2600 games. If rushed, bad movie tie in games could really damage the industry, it would have died 1000 deaths by now. The real problem was the glut of low-quality software that meant games could not be sold anywhere near retail that caused the market crash.
The problem with ET was only that it was over-hyped and over-produced. It's playable and winable. Is it annoying that you fall in pits too often? Yeah, but that can be avoided if you're careful.
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