Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A TRAIL OF REESE'S PIECES LEADING TO A NEW MEXICO LANDFILL:  The AV Club's "Flops" series covers one of the most reviled video games of all time, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600.  Yes, I owned it. Yes, it was that bad, the exact opposite of Activision's Decathlon across every metric of awesomeness.


  1. Tosy and Cosh10:55 AM

    I got blisters between the thumb and index finger from the 1600 in Decathalon. That was a long time to frantically wiggle a joystick back and forth. Also ripped the rubber off the joystick, making it even more painful. God, I loved that game.

  2. Marsha11:47 AM

    I may not have mentioned this here - my husband cleaned out his parents' crawl space recently and found his old Atari and the game cartridges. IT STILL WORKS. He bought a cable at Radio Shack (the next time someone asks you why RS still exists - that's why) and we plugged it in and played Space Invaders. It. Is. Awesome.

  3. <span>Way back when my family had an Atari 2600, we'd trade cartridges with other families. We swapped Donkey Kong for Space Invaders and my mom got completely addicted.  As in, neglected laundry, ignored dinner, forgot to shower. We'd wander in, looking like waifs and pitifully ask about dinner and Mom would snarl, "GO AWAY THEY'RE COMING DOWN FASTER."  Longest month of our lives.   </span>
    <span> </span>
    <span>My dad still swears that the bridge game for Atari is his favorite computer bridge game.</span>

  4. your mom = awesome

  5. Adam C.1:03 PM

    My wife found and re-appropriated hers - the Sears-licensed version - several years back when her mom was moving.  Still works too (and yes, Space Invaders is among the cartridges, as is Frogger).

  6. Jordan1:34 PM

    Wow.  I thought it was kind of like an urban legend.  Everyone always said it was the worst game of all time, and everyone had heard the bit about the landfill, but no one knew anyone who had actually played it.  Of course someone here had it.

  7. Joseph J. Finn1:47 PM

    I still believe the Indiana Jones game for the 2600 was just as bad.  Incomprehensible gameplay, boring graphics and music that was an embaressment even for 8-bit music.

  8. <span>ET and Indiana Jones were both awful.  You knew in your heart you'd been had pretty much as soon as you plugged them in.  The best thing about those cartirdges was the sticker labels ("cover art"?) and those stickers were intentional dirty little lies.  
    But, in retrospect, being disappointed by the big titles was part of the Atari experience.  How many replays did it take you to admit to yourself that the Atari 2600 Pac Man port was about as much like arcade Pac Man as dishwater was like a milkshake?  That was hard.  And, though you knew it already in your heart, how many more plays did it take before you set it aside entirely and went back to playing KaBOOM! because the only reason it had ever seemed fun was that it was supposed to be Pac Man?  It wasn't, in the end.  It just wasn't.  And your poor father chased all over town to get it for you on release, despite scarcity, despite the premium he'd have to pay, because you'd staked your 10-year-old soul to the idea that you'd lose all your 10-year-old credibility if you weren't among the first to have it.  
    Back in the '80s you could do a lot of growing up on a couple of supposedly "big" Atari cartridges.</span>

  9. Watts2:12 PM

    I'm blaming this comment for having Ringo Starr on a loop in my head saying, "I've got blisters on my fingers."

  10. Atari Pac-Man didn't rotate when he turned. That was bullshit.

    Can we argue that Activision helped instill the indie ethos in a lot of us?  Because that's where the great games were -- Decathlon, River Raid, Megamania, Stampede, Ice Hockey ...

  11. No argument.  Pitfall and River Raid never seemed to get old.  You didn't get bored, the boundaries of your world just shrank until there was nothing but the screen scrolling by and the plastic of the controller squeaking and clicking beneath the sound effects.  Then a voice from nowhere -- someone's mom -- your mom, maybe -- would be all "Turn that off.  It's time for dinner."  And you'd snarl "GO AWAY I'M ALMOST TO THE NEXT BRIDGE!"

  12. Marsha3:06 PM

    Infocom. I miss Infocom games.

    (And yes, I know you can play them online now. (a) it's not the same and (b) I do not have 20 hours of my life to give up to that this week so please don't post the link.)

  13. Well, if you want to show your love for Infocom, this is always an option.

  14. lisased6:34 PM

    Pitfall and the Superman game were my favorites. I nearly sprained my wrist getting Clark Kent in and out of that phone booth so I could shave milliseconds off my time.

    I had three older brothers, so my parents would make them ask around before we bought a game. E.T. was not approved.

  15. Joseph J, Finn7:26 PM

    I immediately tried typing on the shirt, Matt.

  16. That's interesting.  I really liked the Indiana Jones game, and I recall that I "won" it.  I think that, aside from the easier levels on Adventure, that's the only game for which I can say it.  I also recall a few fun Easter Eggs in that game.

  17. Devin McCullen7:55 PM

    No idea about the Atari game, but the Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom stand-up arcade game was one of my all-time favorites.  I'm still prone to a poor imitation of "We walk from here."  whenever it's appropriate.

  18. isaac_spaceman8:05 PM

    You can't blame Atari 2600 for the bad games -- it was the developers.  Indiana Jones was just a ripoff of the original Atari Pitfall, and Pitfall was awesome.  And what was that game with the dragon that looked like a duck?  I loved that game.  You could do great things with what was probably a 60x80 matrix, so you could have done greater things with the 2600.  That the didn't, well, that's not the console's fault. 

    Meanwhile, my family's leap-forward came with the Colecovision. 

  19. Eric J.9:08 PM

    Adventure. The game that invented the Easter Egg.

    And while Pac-Man sucked hard, Ms. Pac-Man was surprisingly good.

    And I always thought that Asteroids was better on the 2600 than in the arcades. I really like the "Sheild" option instead of Hyperspace.

  20. Marsha9:53 PM

    That shirt is AWESOME.

    There is also this: (lyrics here:

  21. I wouldn't go as far as Eric, but Asteroids was totally worthy.  You couldn't rapid-fire quite the way you could in the arcade, and the pass-through shield mechanic wasn't as fun as the bounce-off shield in Asteroids Deluxe, but with all the variations on that cartridge it was pretty much endlessly playable.

    Isaac's last confuses me. 

    Pitfall was indeed awesome, but it was from Activision.  Raiders (which we've called "Indiana Jones" above) is nothing like Pitfall, though it might be read as a poor attempt to update Adventure (of the classic ducky dragons). 

    Both Raiders and E.T. (and Pac Man, too) were developed and published by Atari, Inc.  Maybe I can't blame the console itself, like I frequently did when I lost a man on improbably early screens of Space Invaders, but I can definitely blame the company.