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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 

 

Itís hard to believe, but itís already been 20 years since Steven Spielberg released the classic science fiction film E.T. You probably donít need much of a refresher course, but the adventures of Elliot and his extra-terrestrial friend are as timeless and touching as ever. Of course, this being 2002, thereís bound to be some new merchandise to accompany this much-anticipated release. French Developers Lexis Numťrique and Publisher Ubi Soft have combined forces to bring out a trio of new titles timed to the reissue of the film: Phone Home Adventure, Away From Home and Interplanetary Mission. Despite what you might think, these are all very different from each other. Look inside and find out if theyíre worth phoning home over.

> E.T. Phone Home Adventure

Even though the E.T. license has been troublesome for some game companies in the past (see the tragic results of the Atari 2600 game for a good example), Ubi Soft has decided to tempt fate with not one, but three titles designed for the filmís Re-release. While all three games share the same license and allow you to view the movie trailers as a bonus feature, each has it own plusses and minuses and should be taken as individual games. The best of these PC releases for is by far the adventure title E.T. Phone Home Adventure. This accurately captures the spirit of the movies while not neglecting the gameplay thatís essential. Itís really cool in recreating the movie and many of the most touching sequences, such as Elliot and E.T.ís first meeting in the shed are adequately recreated for this interactive game. While itís not the state-of-the-art title many would expect, itís still pretty decent and the graphics really make you feel like youíre in the movie. This is an action-oriented adventure title is basically a point and click adventure, where you move E.T. around various places and search for the parts he needs to contact his ship and phone home. The game is fairly interesting and unfolds at a decent pace, but the tasks and obstacles are fairly straightforward and easy to understand, yet challenging. There are a variety of environments and a lot of surprises making it hold your interest throughout the adventures. Of course, it doesnít hurt that youíre reliving the events of a classic film, though from E.T.ís perspective, not Elliotís. The action takes place in a variety of places including young Elliotís house, the forest and other locales. Like the movie, the most exciting sequences are when he tries to escape from the government agents and the famous moonlight flying bikes scene. While it closely follows the plot of the movie, Phone Home Adventure also includes some interesting mini-games that add some variety to the gameplay. These allow you to bring a plant back to life, make a candy path for the kids to follow once you leave the house. Of course, the biggest task is to build the phone and then to get it operating. While the original actors are a bit old to play their parts now, the replacements do a good job of recreating the characters in this title. While far from cutting edge, the graphics are decent and itsí nicely presented. Phone Home Adventureís gameplay isnít really challenging, but this is aimed at younger players and should appeal to this audience.




> E.T. Interplanetary Mission (above)

The next release, E.T. Interplanetary Mission makes a nice change of pace from the other titles. While there are some intersections, it doesnít completely follow the plot of the movies. At the start of the game, youíre on E.T.ís home world and you have to go through a series of mazes and puzzles in which you will learn his basic abilities. E.T. has the ability to perform telekinesis, levitation, healing and his infamous heart-burn. It unfolds slowly as you learn the abilities and the initial levels seem a bit drab until you get the hang of things. The good news is that it becomes much more enjoyable as you go along. Making it through some of the later levels can be quite difficult. This is especially true when you get to Earth and have to use all of your powers in order to build your spaceship. It pays to pay attention in the early going because these abilities will help you get through each level but their operation and workings are easy to understand. One interesting thing, is that the game takes place from an angled perspective. This isnít the most aesthetically appealing approach but using this viewpoints allows you to see where you are on each level and unlock the puzzles. There are four main worlds and 25 missions to traverse in Interplanetary Mission. Itís not the cakewalk that the other games are, but itís difficulty lies in knowing when to use certain actions. Unfortunately, The Laser encountered some problems in getting the game to work properly, and the installation process doesnít really help this as much as it could, which is really aggravating. Once this was successfully loaded and ran properly, this was a modestly enjoyable title, though not without some serious problems in the gameplay itself. Too many missions require you to do the same actions repeatedly, which gets old in a hurry. This hurts the gameís replay value and made going through some areas in the game more a chore than a joy. While the gameplay is a bit repetitive, Interplanetary Mission wins points for at least some creativity in its design, since exploring E.T.'s home world was quite interesting.
In the end, the game succeeds despite the predictable gameplay. It has some problems but this is still a decent game with good graphics and the most sophisticated, making it the best choice for older gamers looking to relive their childhoods.




> E.T. Away From Home (above)

Ubi Softís simplest E.T. title is also unfortunately the least enjoyable of the 3 games is E.T. Away from Home, a simplistic board game that doesnít really add much to the series. This is a fairly standard board game, where you roll a dice and move to different squares on a gameboard. When you land on special squares, you can move forward several spaces towards your goal or can also find yourself pushed back a few spaces, which is to reach your space ship and return home. However, some of these allow you to play While playing the 13 mini-games and the ability of the player to play as either of the 2 main characters is fun, thereís more to it than that. Players will find that the co-operative gameplay element makes things a lot more enjoyable. The graphics are pretty decent and some of the mini-games included are a lot of fun. However, this is pretty much a hit or miss game, and some of the pieces are more fun than others. The interface is fairly simple and should allow even younger players to play. This approach means that the gameplay is extremely limited and wonít have a lot of replay value. Unfortunately, this is the least impressive of the E.T. titles because itís basically an electronic board game. While the co-operative mode where you can play as either Elliot or his sister Gertie attempts to mitigate this, itís not enough to significantly deepen itís appeal. Even though the graphics are decent and the user-friendly interface makes Away From Home easy to play. Unfortunately, despite the included mini-games, the actual gameplay is too simplistic and it gets old after a few plays. Itís a big disappointment, especially when you consider what a good job was done with the other titles. For what it is, Away From Home isnít a bad kidsí title since itís non-violent and features familiar characters, but older players may want to look elsewhere.





By M. Palisano

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