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Strategy Guide by kylohk

Version: 1.0 | Updated: 06/09/2008

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial Strategy Guide
Author: Kylohk
Version: 1.0
Platform: Atari 2600
Date: 2008-6-9
|                    PREFACE AND A SHORT HISTORY LESSON                      |
In 1983, the video game market in North America experienced a crash where the
industry was nearly destroyed and resulted in the bankruptcy of many video game
companies. There are many reasons why the crash occurred. For instance, the
market was flooded with a lot of awful titles made by many upstart companies
that intended to cash in on the video craze. At the same time, there was a
fierce marketing campaign by home computer manufacturers (e.g. Commodore),
drawing potential customers away from video game consoles. To make things even
worse, rival console makers reversed engineered each others' consoles, creating
"adapters" which allow their own console to play other consoles' games!

One of the symbolic moments of the crash was the release of the game on Steven
Spielberg's hit movie: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. Atari had spent over US$20
million to secure the rights of the game, multiply that by 2.5 and you get the
equivalent amount today (as of 2008) factoring in inflation. So far so good.
However, the programmer (Howard Scott Warshaw) couldn't have a worse situation
in his hands. He must complete the game by September 1, 1982 so as to allow the
game to be shipped in time for the holiday season. How much development time
was spent on this game? Six weeks, that's right, a meagre six weeks! And how do
you expect a good game to be made in such a short time frame?

Anyway, this game has been considered by many as the worst game ever made. Now,
many people nowadays would have just played this game on an Atari emulator.
However, I decided to go a bit further: I went to eBay and found a seller
packaging a used Atari 2600 system with E.T. and Phoenix for only £20. With 2
games and a console (PAL as well!) for such a price, it's definitely worth it,
I must say.

|                   PLAYING THE "WORST GAME OF ALL TIME"                     |
Having played this game a number of times, I'd say that most people who
dismissed this game were doing so because they didn't really know what to do.
Having read some of the reviews of this game on this site, I found out that a
large number of people bought the game without the manual. As a result, they
move E.T. around aimlessly, falling into wells, climbing out, only to fall in
again! Once you've read the manual, you'd at least know what those icons on top
of the screen meant and what those tiny little dots scattered around the place
are. This guide serves to help you at such and beat the game with a high score.

The story of this game is kind of like that of the movie: E.T. is somehow
stranded on Earth and must find a way to contact his spaceship to pick him up
again. This game will have you searching through numerous wells to find the
phone pieces before you find a place to contact your mothership and return to
the extraction point. The only character from the film that will be involved is
Elliot, who'll be collecting the Reese's Pieces in your possession upon request.

OK, let's get started!
OK, plug your E.T. cartridge into the Atari 2600 console, along with a joystick
controller. Change to the appropriate TV channel and turn the console on. You
are treated to a title screen featuring the green face of E.T. on a blue
background, along with an extremely low pitch version of the E.T. movie theme
droning in the background. Before you do anything, you should select the game
type by pressing the Select button on your console. As you press that button,
the numbers 1, 2 and 3 will cycle on the purple bar at the top of the screen,
denoting the type of game selected.

Game 1 is the hardest: In addition to finding the bits of his phone to call his
spaceship, E.T. must avoid the wrath of a yellow coated FBI agent who'll drag
him away and steal his phone pieces, as well as a scientist who'll catch him
back to his lab for observation; Game 2 is slightly easier: You only have to
worry about the FBI agent; Game 3 is the easiest: Neither of the enemies are
there, so you can take your time and find the phone pieces. Once you've
selected your game type, press the red button on your controller to begin.

The controls in this game are very simple. Use the joystick to move E.T. around:
E.T. can move in 8 directions: Up, down, left, right and the diagonals. The red
button is used to perform different actions depending on the icon on the top of
the screen. If no icons are on top of the screen, press and hold the red button
while moving E.T. to run.

Game layout
The game world is very small, featuring only six different screens. To make
things simpler, the screens are arranged in the shape of the cube. The top
screen is the forest in which E.T. is left stranded (and will be picked up
after you've contacted the spaceship). The bottom screen is the urban area
where the FBI building, science lab and Elliot's house are. What a coincidence.
The 4 screens in the middle have a green background and are filled with
numerous pits. They appear in the following sequence (assuming you keep going
from the left edge of the screen to the right edge):

Screen 1: Two tall wells on the left and right edges of the screen, couples
with two narrow ones between them. The 4 holes are arranged in a rectangle.

Screen 2: 4 large wide wells near the 4 corners of the screen.

Screen 3: 2 chevron shaped wells at the top, with 2 small parallelogram shaped
ones beneath them.

Screen 4: 8 wells arranged in 3 rows, 3 in the top row, 2 in the middle row, 3
in the bottom row. 4 of the wells are connected to the left and right edges of
the screen.

Screen 4 is the most hazardous one of them all. You'll be most likely to fall
into a well upon entering it. This is due to the close proximity of the wells
to the edge of the screen.

Context zones
The context zone is the vital mechanic of this game. While wandering around the
place finding phone pieces, you'll find different icons appearing at the top of
the screen. The icons indicate what will happen when you press the red button
while E.T. is standing at that spot. Here are all the icons and their meanings.

Arrow (in 4 different directions): This is the Teleport Zone. E.T. will
automatically teleport to the nearest screen in the direction pointed by the

Question mark: The question mark indicates a Find Phone Zone. Pressing the red
button when the question mark is at the top of the screen will cause a small
yellow dot to appear in one of the many wells on the screen, telling you where
a phone piece can be found, if there are any. Note that sometimes there may be
more than 1 phone piece in the same screen.

Two concentric circles: This is the Eating Zone. E.T. will eat one of the
Reese's Pieces (those black dots scattered around the place) in his possession
to restore a small amount of health.

Face yelling something: This is the Call Elliot Zone. Elliot will appear on the
screen and retrieve all the Reese's pieces in E.T.'s possession. Each Reese's
Piece adds up to your final score in the end, so try to call Elliot as much as
possible when you've found candy. If you have 9 Reese's Pieces on you, Elliot
will give you a phone piece after he's picked up the sweets! Sweet indeed.

Roman numeral three: Useful only in Game Types 1 and 2, the roman numeral three
indicates a Send Back Zone, which will send both the FBI agent and scientist
back to their buildings at the bottom screen. This is important to avoid
capture by either of the humans and bide you valuable time.

Flying saucer: This is the Phone Home Zone. Once you've collected all 3 phone
pieces, use it to phone home. This zone can be found anywhere, even in the
urban area.

Square with a cross in the centre: This is the landing site. Once you've
contacted E.T.'s spaceship, head back to the forest and search for the landing
site. Once you've found it, stay where you are and wait for the timer to run
out. Once it runs out, the spaceship (which looks more like a purple lift) will
pick E.T. up, ending the game.

Help! I've fallen down a well
The wells, ah yes, the wells, this is one of the most notorious features of
this game. Once a player has fallen in, he's gonna suffer as he tries again and
again to escape, all to no avail. Despite how careful you are, you'll
eventually have to jump in one, since that's where the phone piece is. Now,
don't panic, this guide's here to help.

While in a pit, press and hold the red button and E.T. will extend his neck.
Hold the joystick upwards and he will slowly levitate out of the well. It does
not end here though. Continue holding down the red button at this point. Once
you see the screen change back to the surface, immediately tilt the joystick to
the left or right, otherwise E.T. will fall back into the well. Guide E.T. to
solid ground and release the red button. E.T. is safely out of the pit. This
isn't the most intuitive control, I have to say, but at least you now know how
to do it.

The goal of this game is to help E.T. assemble his phone, contact his spaceship
and return to the extraction point to be picked up before he runs out of energy.
E.T. arrives on Earth with 9999 points of energy, shown at the bottom of the
screen. As E.T. moves around, he loses 1 point of energy with each pace.

Falling into a well results in great damage, a loss of 269 energy. Even more
energy will be lost as you try to get out of the well. Using any context zone
costs 19 energy each time as well. However, E.T. can recover a meagre 341
energy with every Reese's Piece he eats.

E.T. will die when he runs out of energy. When that happens, Elliot will come
and revive him and give him 1500 energy back. E.T. has three lives in this game.
If you happen to fall into a well with a wilted flower, stand next to it and
press the red button. E.T. will revive it and gain an extra life.

General Strategy
Once you know exactly what to do, the gameplay is very simple (at least in Game
Type 3). It may be possible to beat the game in just a few minutes. As soon as
E.T. lands, start exploring Screens 1-4 and look for the Find Phone Zones. Use
the Find Phone Zones to know exactly which wells contain phone pieces. Drop
down into the appropriate wells and collect the pieces before getting out fast.

If you happen to find 2 screens without any phone pieces, one of the remaining
2 screens must have more than 1 phone piece. Search the remaining screens,
taking care to use the Find Phone Zone twice (use it immediately after you've
picked up a phone piece, maybe another piece is in one of the other wells.)

Once you've collected all 3 pieces, search the screens for the Phone Home Zone
and contact your spaceship. An octagonal countdown timer starts. Head back to
the forest and quickly search the place to find the landing site. If you can
find it, stay there and the spaceship will pick E.T. up once the time expires.
If you can't find it before the time expires, keep searching until you find it
and memorise its location. Use the Phone Home Zone again and wait at the
landing site until the spaceship comes.

Yummy sweets
If you have watched the film, Elliot attracted E.T.'s attention with his
Reese's Pieces, scattered on the ground. The sweets are back in this game in
the form of black dots on the screen and can be collected by moving into them.
The number of Reese's Pieces in E.T.'s possession is shown at the bottom of the
screen to the left of the energy meter.

When you use a Call Elliot Zone, indicated by a face yelling something on the
top of the screen, Elliot will come over to retrieve your candy. Each Reese's
Piece retrieved adds up to your final score if you can beat the game. To make
things even better, Elliot will reward you with a phone piece if you call him
after collecting 9 Reese's Pieces! If you are not a fan of the wells, this
trick will be worth looking into.

In addition, the Reese's Pieces tend to appear near the centre of the screens.
A neat trick is to start from the centre of Screen 2, collect the Reese's Piece,
then go straight right into Screen 3, where another piece can be found between
the top and bottom holes. Get that, go straight left to Screen 2 to find
another Reese's Piece in the same position. Keep going left and right until the
sweets stop appearing. This is a surefire way to rack up candy (in conjunction
with more points and maybe another piece of the phone).

One final word: Collecting candy is of second priority in this game. Your first
priority will be to find the phone pieces. Only start collecting candy

Dealing with the humans
If you select Game Types 1 or 2 at the starting screen, you'll be playing much
harder modes of this game. This is due to the presence of two hostile humans
that will disrupt your quest for your phone: The FBI man and the scientist.

The FBI man can be identified by his yellow trench coat. He runs after E.T. and
tries to catch him and send him back to headquarters. In doing so, he steals
one phone piece from E.T., as well as all the Reese's Pieces he's carrying! I
guess these agents have to collect evidence, or are just plain greedy.

The scientist, identified by his white costume tries to catch E.T. so he can
take him back to his lab for observation. He does nothing to E.T., other than
disrupting the flow of the game.

Once you've been caught by either human, you'll be left in one of two buildings
in the urban area (bottom screen). Once you are there, you are free to leave!
Security must be lax in those days. In addition, Elliot's house is just across
the road! Either way, just leave the screen and continue along.

Both humans can be repelled by using a Send Back Zone, indicated by the Roman
numeral three at the top of the screen. Using such zones will send them both to
their headquarters, saving you a lot of time as they make their way towards you
from there. If you can't find a Send Back Zone and the two humans are closing
in, just run into the Scientist and let him carry you off-It's better than
having to lose your phone.

In conclusion, the FBI man and the scientist make the game infinitely harder
for you. You must do everything outlined in the General Strategy Section much
faster than before, along with heavy psychological pressure. Your best bet is
to not get out of your way to collect any unnecessary Reese's Pieces.

You'll be given a score after E.T. is picked up by his spaceship. You'll see a
scene where E.T. stands outside Elliot's house while Elliot walks around and
around it. Meanwhile, E.T. is fed the Reese's Pieces retrieved by Elliot and
you gain points as he chews on those sweets. The total score is given by the
following formula:

Score = Total energy left + bonus score + (Number of Reese's Pieces retrieved
by Elliot)*770 + cumulative score

The more energy you have when E.T.'s picked up, the more points you get in the
end. You get 770 points for each Reese's Piece retrieved by Elliot in the game
through the use of Call Elliot Zones. As for the bonus score, I don't know the
exact formula for it, but something's always added to your final score in the

Press the red button at the scoring screen to start a new round. Once you've
beaten the round, the points gained from that round will be added to the points
gained from the previous round to form a cumulative total. This is what I mean
by the cumulative score above. As you play more rounds, your score will get
higher and higher. So in the end, it's not skill that nets you a high score,
it's pure determination (and masochism in the eyes of most gamers).

|                              THE FINAL WORD                                |
Never mind the awful graphics and wonky sound. Once you figure out what to do
and how to win, E.T. is quite enjoyable. The main problem is that most people
back then could not figure it out themselves, leading to hours of frustration.
Once I know what to do, I was able to beat Game Type 3 again and again in a
timely manner without much difficulty at all. The simple gameplay, once
understood, can easily strike a chord with the player and make him play
additional rounds for a long time. In conclusion, this game is a kuso-ge: A
game so bad that it's actually good.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative reception, the game was actually Platinum.
You heard me, Platinum, having sold 1.5 million copies. There is a small
problem though: 4 million cartridges were manufactured for this game! Due to
the large amount of the unsold stock and the number of cartridges returned to
retailers from disgruntled consumers, Atari had no choice but to dump the
excess cartridges in a landfill somewhere in a New Mexico desert. As a result,
hard copies in this game are very rare. You can try eBay, or you can go on a
day trip to New Mexico. Maybe you can find the burial grounds of this game.
Maybe the cartridges will still work!

This guide is copyright 2008-10 to Kylohk and to be hosted only on GameFAQs. No
provisions will be made for other websites, so don't bother contacting me.

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