E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Away From Home
Designed for children ages five and up, E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Away From Home is a non-traditional type of board game featuring activities that are initiated when you land on specific squares. Instead of moving "pieces" around the board, you move Elliott and Gertie as they go from room to room or in the backyard, picking up inventory items on three different boards. What seems simple, isn't always so, especially for 5-year olds.
While not overly challenging, some of the activities, such as clicking on candy that slides away from the cursor during a matching game or pushing planets into the right slots on an astral chart, may frustrate younger, less coordinated kids. None of the activities are over-the-top difficult, though, and will easily be managed with some practice. Most activities focus on pattern matching, sorting, or searching for items to pave the way to help E. T. get what he needs to return to his home planet.
At times, the interface that shows the three characters and function keys (quit, validate and save) blocks the view of items, but fortunately it can be dragged around the screen and placed out of the way. Although gameplay is fairly smooth during the activities, in one instance the characters blinked out of existence when taken to the edge of a dark room-like maze, with no indication of how to bring them back. Only by continually hitting arrow keys did they finally reappear to continue the search for the exit.
Bonuses and traps, in addition to mini-game squares, are encountered when moving around the board portion of the game, but rather than getting a visual clue as to what occurs in these instances, often you have to rely on comments by Elliott or Gertie to understand what happened. Like Pachesi or Sorry, you often have to roll the dice numerous times to get the exact number to land on a specific space, especially when only one is left, which can unnecessarily prolong the game.
Installation is a breeze and the rules of the mini-games are nicely explained by Elliott as you find them. Unfortunately, comments by the two characters when you fail to complete a game or move around the board are more disparaging than helpful, and become repetitive to the point of irritation. In one game, which required covering E. T. with stuffed animals to hide him from "mom," even though the activity was successfully accomplished, it had to be replayed three times before it "took." No explanation was provided as to why the activity failed the first two times.
Despite the niggling problems, gameplay is mostly fluid and the cut-scenes with E. T., Elliott and Gertie will captivate children as did the original movie. An especially good introduction sequence shows the first encounter between Elliott and E. T., where the alien is taken into the house and meets Gertie. The sequence sets up the premise of the game nicely while providing a nostalgic look at what started E.T.-mania.
Two-player action is more cooperative than competitive, and playing against the computer will often result in the computer-controlled player simply passing the turn on to the human player, even when landing on a mini-game square. In this way, the human player feels more in control of the action, which eliminates the problem of sitting back and watching the computer play the game but oddly enough negates the purpose of having a computer-player in the first place.
E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Away From Home will provide a few hours of entertainment but the long-term effect is limited. Repetitive commentary and games that don't offer too much challenge and rely on eye-hand coordination lose their appeal once mastered. Kids new to E. T. will be enamoured for awhile, but the luster will eventually fade like the light on E. T.'s fingertip. ~ Michael L. House, All Game Guide
Excellent board layouts with good detail and colors, though the top-down view can often make objects tough to recognize at first glance. Animated sequences are nicely done, but some glitches encountered with characters blinking out of existence. ~ Michael L. House, All Game Guide
Commentary is repetitive and the initial appeal of E. T.'s gravelly-sweet voice eventually wears on you, especially when he continually repeats himself. Music is not a factor. ~ Michael L. House, All Game Guide
Initially appealing gameplay will keep kids interested in the short-term, but the mini-games remain the same with little change on replay. Long-term playability is questionable, since unlike standard board games, movement on the board isn't the bottom line. ~ Michael L. House, All Game Guide
Probably less replay value than a standard board game like Monopoly, Sorry or Pachesi, since the action is tied too much to the set activities. ~ Michael L. House, All Game Guide
The white print on red background is easier to see than the white print on blue manual of E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Interplanetary Mission (a companion 20th anniversary release by Ubi Soft). Hints and tips for each activity provide just enough information without spoiling any surprises. ~ Michael L. House, All Game Guide