The Extra-Terrestrial

Holy shit! It's Columbo!

Help! It's George Washington!

Reviewed by Deathamster

So, I've finally played the game that is largely touted as the "worst game ever made" (mostly by people who also think River City Ransom is the "best game ever made", but nevermind), and the one that crashed the video game industry in the early 80's.

The game seems innocent enough. You guide E.T. around a dark forest while trying to assemble phone pieces so you can phone home and be taken away in the Mothership. The pieces are, inexplicably, hidden inside pits. As you move around the world's surface, the icon at the top of the screen changes. Depending on what the icon shows, E.T. does a different action when you press the button.

Now, the problem is that E.T. constantly loses energy as he walks around. As his hit points decrease, he walks slower and slower until he finally can't move at all. The weird thing is that the game doesn't really end. E.T. will just lay there on his back in rigamortis, but you're never sent back to the title screen. Likewise, if your energy is too low when you try to exit a pit, you won't make it out. You can restore hit points by finding and eating Reese's Pieces candies that are scattered around.

Now, bear in mind, I figured this all out without the manual within about a half hour, so I'm a bit puzzled as to why people think this game is totally impossible to play. As complicated as I've made it sound, it's actually quite easy to beat the third (easiest) difficulty setting. The original Legend of Zelda on the NES was way more difficult to figure out on your own. And that is, actually, the game's weakest point: Difficulty Level 3 is too easy; Levels 2 (medium) and 1 (hardest) become more challenging simply because of the addition of George Washington and Columbo.

Could someone please tell me WHY George Washington and Columbo are following me everywhere? Maybe one of them is supposed to be Peter Coyote's character from the movie, but it's anyone's guess as to which is him, since neither George Washington nor Columbo look anything like Peter Coyote. I get the feeling most people who have played this game only played difficulty setting 3 because hardly anyone ever mentions these guys. (They only show up on settings 1 and 2.)

If George Washington grabs you, he takes you to a bank/jail building that you can immediately walk right out of. This is either to waste your time and energy, or because he really wants a friend. Take your guess. If Columbo touches you, he steals a phone piece and throws it back in a random pit somewhere because, you know, Columbo's always annoying the hell outta people on the show, so why not? The problem is that these guys _never_ _stop_ coming after you, and there's no way to permanently get rid of them! (You can temporarily send them away by standing on the appropriate icon and pressing the button, but they don't stay gone very long.) This is a million times more annoying than falling into the pits. You run from one end of the forest to the other with Columbo on your tail the whole time, only to reach the other side and run smack into George Washington. It's creepy. It's like being in one of those slasher movies where the monster just keeps coming and coming no matter how many times he's been killed.

I finished Level 3 easily in about a half an hour. I finished Level 2 in another half hour, despite many failed attempts to reach the Mothership because of George Washington kidnapping me off the landing pad. I beat Level 1 after several hours of beleagured attempts to outrun both George and Columbo. Columbo even continues to steal the phone pieces as you're waiting for the Mothership. Man, those phone pieces must have some real dirt on him, because he obviously wants them to stay buried in the earth.

So, is this game good? Hardly. Is it the worst game ever made? Not by a longshot. I've played far worse. It's really little more than an Atari-era game that may be fun for awhile, but then gets old quickly. The problem with this one is that it was over-produced and over-hyped. Right now I'm more concerned about the nightmares I'll be having of George Washington and Columbo chasing me through the woods all the time.

Overall Score: 2/5 Stars

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