E.T. Phone Home!
July 28, 2006 3:48 AM   Subscribe

Nerds travel to the infamous Atari 2600 E.T. video game landfill, dig up hundreds of carts, play them and make a music video of it. (Quicktime video.)
posted by loquacious (37 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Somewhat misleading FPP, as I thought that the genuine site had been discovered and was used in the video. Still a cute concept, though, and well executed.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:55 AM on July 28, 2006

Hah. I was mislead, too. I should have thoroughly read the Wikipedia article I linked to. Color me overly credulous.
posted by loquacious at 4:13 AM on July 28, 2006

Consider yourself forgiven for linking to such a fine music video.
posted by a. at 4:14 AM on July 28, 2006

Indeed, a catchy tune and fun video.
posted by antifuse at 4:28 AM on July 28, 2006

As with loquacious and Faint of Butt, my heart did leap for a moment when I assumed they'd discovered a boxcar buried in the desert filled with alien bodies Atari cartridges...
posted by greycap at 5:09 AM on July 28, 2006

You guys should watch 3 feet deep Its rap but its quite clever.
posted by MrLint at 5:11 AM on July 28, 2006

Keith Schofield is fairly impressive for music videos. I've been following the directors since "Pi" came out a few years ago. Honestly 3 feet deep, Pi, and Loud and Clear are really well done and worth checking out!

As for E.T. I'm so glad I missed the misery of playing that game. Quite possibly the worst game of all time.
posted by samsara at 5:49 AM on July 28, 2006

As for E.T. I'm so glad I missed the misery of playing that game. Quite possibly the worst game of all time.

I would have to disagree there. I played the game when I was young, and remember enjoying it enough to complete it. Dismiss it as nostalgia if you will, but the game wasn't bad at all. I've played far worse, especially on the 2600. I think E.T. has just become an icon to represent Atari's downfall due to poor business decisions.
posted by Dr-Baa at 6:13 AM on July 28, 2006

Dismiss it as nostalgia if you will, but the game wasn't bad at all.

You fell in a hole that you couldn't get out of, and the only button you had made ETs neck grow for no reason! This isn't Combat we're talking about here. Goofy video, thanks for the link!
posted by prostyle at 6:34 AM on July 28, 2006

You fell in a hole that you couldn't get out of,

I'll have to check that. I remember being able to get out of the hole using the neck-extension to levitate. Goofy, but true.
posted by Dr-Baa at 6:35 AM on July 28, 2006

There's actually a shot in the video that shows the escaping-a-hole-via-neck-extension technique.
posted by brain_drain at 6:37 AM on July 28, 2006

*opens crayon box, looks for Credulous Cyan*
posted by cortex at 6:53 AM on July 28, 2006

Well, just goes to show my ET skills were not up to par... thank you for the correction! Aside from getting out of the hole or avoiding abduction via the trenchcoat man, what could you actually do?
posted by prostyle at 6:56 AM on July 28, 2006

Let me see... I remember collecting Reece's Pieces and phone parts. If I remember right, you completed the game when you collected all the parts for the phone and got to the right screen to be picked up by the aliens. Can't you use the candy to distract the trenchcoat guy?
(This may or may not be correct- I'm going on about 15-20 years since I last played.....)
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:01 AM on July 28, 2006

I loved this game. I was 5, but I so didn't want ET to die. I think I actually cried a few times when he did.

The memories. Combine this with the digg story about how they freaking filmed almost all of Back To the Future with Eric stoltz and I'm having a gems of the 80's Friday!
posted by dig_duggler at 7:15 AM on July 28, 2006

I always thought the worst Atari game was Pac-man. I remember enjoying E.T. and even winning it. It was Raiders of the Lost Ark that seemed unplayable.
posted by jefbla at 7:22 AM on July 28, 2006

Raiders of the Lost Ark was freaky-odd. It was neat though how you used the second joystick to control your inventory selection.

RotLA and Riddle of the Sphinx are two games I'd love to sit down and play through with an FAQ one day.
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:30 AM on July 28, 2006

god, why can't you use a fucking caret for Wikipedia links? jeez!
posted by carsonb at 7:34 AM on July 28, 2006

That was really well put together, although I did realise it must be a fake when they found the first cart.
posted by Orange Goblin at 7:40 AM on July 28, 2006

More ol'-timey goodness.
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:40 AM on July 28, 2006

It still amazes me that every one of those games was either 2KB or 4KB in size. (My dad used to burn them to EPROMs for us, so we'd have 30+ games in standard rotation.)

And NO WAY was Pacman the worst!! Granted, it was a pretty heinous rendition of the arcade game (I think the sound effects hurt it a lot), but I burned a lot of hours playing that game.

I never played E.T., but I can't imagine it was any worse than the Swordquest games. Maybe I'm just bitter that I never finished them.
posted by LordSludge at 7:45 AM on July 28, 2006

Played all of those: ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Riddle of the Sphinx. I don't remember solving any of them, but hey, I think I still have the cartridges ...
posted by Songdog at 7:51 AM on July 28, 2006

I thought they cemented in all those carts so that something like this couldn't happen. And, yes, ET *was* a horrible game, and yes, I did play and win it as a kid. Essentially, Dr-Baa has the right of it. Jump down holes and collect phone parts, then get an alien ship to come pick you up.

I actually won Raiders once, too, but I think that was more of A Million Monkeys Typing Hamlet sort of thing. I could never repeat the feat.

As for the *best* Atari 2600 game, it was the subject of my second FPP.
posted by absalom at 8:00 AM on July 28, 2006

I remember that the real problem with getting out of the hole, was that once you levitated out, the game would sometimes place you right back on the edge of the hole and you would unavoidably fall back into the whole. This was the part that made the game "unplayable" to some folks. Also, the goals necessary for completion of the game were not fully communicated via the manual, sort of like Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I would agree with Dr-Baa that this game is far from the worst on the Atari 2600. It wasn't one of my favorites, but I was able to tough it out enough to beat it multiple times.
posted by BoatMeme at 8:23 AM on July 28, 2006

For the record.

My Least Favorite 2600 game.

My Favorite 2600 Game
posted by BoatMeme at 8:28 AM on July 28, 2006

Hard to believe we once settled for those crap graphics. Makes you wonder what the vidgame graphics will be like in another 20 years. (Cortex jackholes with surround odorama, I bet.)

Oh, and cute video, too.
posted by crunchland at 8:53 AM on July 28, 2006

Who are you calling a jackhole?
posted by cortex at 8:59 AM on July 28, 2006

Driveshaft rocks.
posted by fleacircus at 11:54 AM on July 28, 2006

Link seems dead.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:49 PM on July 28, 2006

Wow, that was kind of neat. I thought for sure it was going to be a prop setup, but where else would one get so many ET carts? Also, disturbing that they'll all in such good shape. Kind of neat done as a throwaway, but a documentary of it would be kind of neat too...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:40 PM on July 28, 2006

I beat E.T., and it took years, but I also beat Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's pretty easy once you figure it out.

Don't remember if I beat Riddle of the Sphinx, though.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:43 PM on July 28, 2006

ET, Raiders, whatever.

I escaped from the Mindmaster.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:14 PM on July 28, 2006

FleaCircus: "Driveshaft rocks."

DRIVE SHAFT? You're kidding right? They had, like, one hit and then disappeared off the radar. You All Everybody! You All Everybody!
posted by ZachsMind at 4:42 PM on July 28, 2006

I remember that Mindmaster ad, but I don't think I ever saw the thing in person. And you know, I've been thinking about it all day: I think I did beat Sphinx. I have some memory of it starting over again (but harder) when you beat it. But I didn't beat the other two. I'm starting to want to pull Raiders out again to try my hand.

fleacircus writes "Driveshaft rocks."

That took me for freaking ever. All through the video I was thinking "that dude looks like Dominic Monaghan" but I had no idea what you were were talking about. *opens crayon box, looks for Slow on the Uptake Sienna*
posted by Songdog at 4:46 PM on July 28, 2006

ET, Raiders, whatever.

I escaped from the Mindmaster.

Hell yeah! He found me 'quaint.'
posted by Dirjy at 10:32 PM on July 28, 2006

Trying to remember the details of E.T. yesterday filled me with the urge to play it. So, I dug out the old VCS and fired it up. Here's what I can tell you about the game play:

The goal of the game is to collect the three missing phone parts and "phone home" to get the aliens to pick you up.

There are three items you'll come across. Reece's Pieces, phone parts, and flowers. Reece's Pieces are small dots and are found on the regular map. Phone parts and flowers are only found in pits.

You start with 9999 life. Your life will decrease gradually while you walk. It will decrease more rapidly when you run, use powers, or fall into pits. You can restore your life by eating the Reece's Pieces you find (using the action icon). When you run out of life, Elliot will come and revive you with 1500 life.

You control E.T. by moving the joystick. Holding the button while using the joystick allows you to run. Press the button without using the joystick to use the action listed at the top of the screen.

Other characters:

Trenchcoat guy: FBI, I guess? This guy will chase you around. If he touches you, you will lose a phone piece. You will need to find the piece again in a different location. If you do not have a phone piece when he touches you, he will take your candy.

Elliot's mother: If she catches you, she will drag you back to her house. While she has you in her grasp, you can attempt to break free by running in multiple directions.

Elliot: You summon Elliot by the action icon listed below. He often takes a long time to appear.

Action icons: These icons appear at the top of the screen as you move about. Only certain areas of the screen trigger certain action icons. Press the button to use the specified action.

Arrows pointing left, right, up, or down
: These allow you to teleport one screen in the direction of the arrow. Useful when being pursued.

?: This power designates where to find a phone piece if there is one in the area you're currently in. The phone piece will appear as a flashing rectangle.

Circle with a dot in the center: This icon allows you to eat a piece of candy and regain some life.

Up arrow with a line under it: This icon appears in pits. Press the action button to levitate, and use the joystick to navigate your way. Note that you may have to use this power several times if you are sunk in the mud. While you are levitating out of the pit, you cannot move left or right. But when you appear on the main screen, you will be able to move freely. Be sure to position yourself so you are not over the pit when you set down or else you will fall back in.

: When being pursued by Elliot's mother, use this action to send her home.

e: Use this icon to call Elliot. I don't know what purpose he serves. Maybe he scares away the trenchcoat guys? I don't know because he always took too long to arrive. Whatever he does, he ends up taking all your candy for it.

Smiley: This is only found in a pit with a wilted flower. Use this icon to make the flower grow.

Alien: When you have obtained all three pieces of the phone, activate this icon to phone home.

Rectangle with target in middle
(always in the forest): After phoning home, stand on this icon when the timer runs out to be picked up by the spaceship, thus completing the game.

Phoning Home:
After collecting the three phone pieces, find the alien icon and activate it to phone home. After doing this, a square timer will appear in the upper right hand corner of the screen. It will start to disappear a portion at a time. When this square is completely gone, another appears and disappears much more rapidly. You must find the forest and be standing in the target icon when the timer runs out in order to be picked up. If you are not, you must phone home again. Once you are picked up, the game ends and your score is tallied up.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:54 AM on July 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

"It doesn't make sense.
But it makes no difference."

posted by ZachsMind at 1:09 PM on July 29, 2006

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