The Atari 2600 was a home gaming console from 1977. The 2600 was a rather primitive machine compared to the later Commodore 64 (1982), but it supported hardware sprites and color graphics, which the Sinclair ZX didn’t. But the introduction price was rather high. $199 back then corresponds to more than $800 today.
Many games were released for the 2600, but one of the most talked about, E.T., was a huge commercial failure. You play as the alien E.T. on Earth, and the objective of the game is to help E.T. get home. Every move you make costs energy, but you can pick up pieces of candy to gain energy.
First, you need to pick up three parts that make up a special phone that can be used to contact the home planet. You can swap 9 pieces of candy for a part, if you like. The parts are found in pits that you fall into, and can levitate out of. To levitate, press fire so that E.T.’s neck is stretched, and when the neck is stretched, you simply levitate higher by pushing the joystick forward.
E.T. has three lives. E.T.’s friend Elliot can bring him back to life when he dies. There is a special object that persuades Elliot to give E.T. a fourth life if it is carried. The game contains two protagonists, a scientist and an FBI agent, who can capture E.T. or steal phone parts from him. If you manage to find all three phone parts, you need to locate a place where the phone works. And after finding this place, you have to locate the place where the spaceship lands, and stay there and await the ship. If you succeed, you progress to the next level where the objective is the same, but the conditions are harder.
The game looks quite good for its time, but it is it is rather buggy and unpredictable. You can fall into a pit without any warning, and it is sometimes rather hard to get out of a pit without falling in again. The best thing about this game, is that you can chat with a friend while playing – the game does not require full attention. This video shows how to complete the first level: