Game Review - by James Allen
Rumor has it that the first movie I saw in a movie theater was E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. The Steven Spielberg blockbuster was a family tale of an alien left accidentally on Earth, and inspired the townspeople to build a ride at Universal Studios in his memory. E.T. has been recently re-released (I hate re-releasing movies SO much) in a 20th anniversary version, and obviously has been the inspiration for E.T.: Away From Home, a combination board game and adventure game for children. Will E.T.: Away From Home capture the magic of the movie, or eat too many Reese's Pieces and get sick?
Like I stated earlier, the game is an adventure game with activities disguised by a board game. I can tell you first hand that, once you play this game once, there is absolutely no reason to play it again. The board game just serves as a method of making the game last longer, and doesn't contain any of the random elements associated with board games that we are used to. We don't play Monopoly once and throw it away (except maybe in frustration). E.T.: Away From Home is more like a BORED game (ha ha ha!). Because there is no reason to play the game more than once, and the game is pretty short to begin with, the features get a low score.
Although the sound may be somewhat accurate to the movie (E.T. sounds pretty close), there isn't much variety in the audio other than the instructions given to the player of the game. This is especially evident when your two leaders spout the same three "clever" sayings over and over again while you play the game. Yuck. And the orchestral music we have become accustomed to is all but gone in the game. So much for creating a believable audio environment.
The gameplay in E.T.: Away From Home boils down to the classical simple activity games for kids. The board game element adds almost nothing overall, as it just serves to prolong the game time wise. The gameplay is full of minor little annoyances that add up to an overall bad experience. On certain squares, you must play a mini-game where you click on candy pieces that have a tendency to slide around. These are used to feed E.T. (no healthy diets in space, I guess) and increase his health. No problem there, but E.T.: Away From Home forces you to play the game even if E.T. has full health. Huh? In other strange happenings, some of the tasks are unclear, and you are given no assistance in completing them above the introductory instructions. Like, in one game, you dress up E.T. to disguise him. If you are missing just one article of clothing from the rudimentary drawing used to serve as a guide, you can't ask Elliott where it may be hiding: he'll just spout the instructions again. A kid's game shouldn't be short on help, ladies and gentlemen. There is also too much delay in completing objectives and the game confirming those actions, especially in the candy game. Also, there is no reason for the second computer player in a one player game: they can land on one of the game squares, but you won't get credit for it. What? In one plus, you can hit people with the die, so that's cool. The games are almost entertaining with original ideas, with basically a mix between clicking and moving objects and sliding your mouse to bounce objects. Actually, all of the games feature a variation of these, just different variations on these themes. So, the games are not informative enough and repetitive, two cardinal sins in children's games.
The graphics aren't half bad in E.T.: Away From Home. The boards and activity areas have graphics, that while not revolutionary, should keep the kids happy and contain some detail. The 3D models of E.T., Elliot, and Gurtie are actually quite good for how much of their heads you see: they have details to them, like wrinkles and emotion. The rooms that you play in are full of various objects and look like real rooms rather than places constructed just for the game. I do have a major beef with the game, however: the board gives absolutely NO indication which spaces are special other than the activity spaces E.T. shows. You don't know which spaces are lose a turn, extra turn, switch places, or get candy until you land on them. Why is that? Is part of the game discovering which spaces do what? If so, I don't like it. Other than that problem, the graphics are fairly good.
E.T.: Away From Home is a substandard game for kids, trying to capitalize on the E.T. license. Although an animated E.T. might capture the imaginations of children playing the games, it just isn't enough: the game is short, monotonous, and unclear in many areas. On top of this, there's no reason to fire it up again after you are done. There are much better children's games out on the et, and I bet you can live without E.T.