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About the Story
"Join the Patrol, and see the Galaxy!" You took the poster's advice, bait and all, and marched right over to the recruitment station near your home on the backwater planet of Gallium. Images of exotic worlds, strange and colorful aliens, and Deep Space heroism had danced in your head as you signed the dotted line. And since that day the closest you've come to Deep Space heroism was scrubbing down the radioactive leper colony on Ishmael-3.
Language: English (en)
Current Version: Unknown
Development System: ZIL
Spoofed by Coke Is It!, by Lucian P. Smith, Adam Thornton, J. Robinson Wheeler, Michael Fessler, Dan Shiovitz, David Dyte
Followed by sequel Stationfall, by Steve Meretzky
Adventure Classic Gaming
The game's greatest strength is its plot. Although relatively simple in itself, it is developed with control that rivals a novel. The details are revealed slowly. The goal becomes clearer to the careful reader as clues hidden in locations come together to paint a picture of what has happened and what must happen in order for you to return heroically to Stellar Patrol. In contrast, the game's greatest weakness is its inventory management. Inventory juggling has always been a problem in adventures. Most adventure gamers accept the fact that there is a limit to how much the player can carry. In most games, an item is included which allows the player to carry more without destroying the delicate limits of belief. Unfortunately, no such item exists in Planetfall. Worse is the fact that I try to pick up an item but only to find it tumbling to the ground along with some other items of importance. This happens a lot, sometimes in almost endless successions. Moreover, there is a lack of challenging puzzles. Beyond inserting objects in slots most puzzles can be easily solved by dying, working out what has gone wrong, and then trying something different. Floyd is integral to a couple of challenges and should have been used to much greater effect.
-- John Campbell
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At least two things makes Planetfall memorable. The first one is certainly our sidekick, Floyd. He is the main source of humour in the game (for instance, when we make a save around him he says: “Oh boy, are we gonna try something dangerous now?”) but he’s not just a comic relief, we grow really attached to him over the course of the adventure.
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Planetfall was the first Infocom game I played, and still my favourite. Often billed as a science-fiction comedy, it really is not. There are many amusing sidelights and funny responses from the author to your failed actions, [...] but it is not at all a straight comedy in the same sense that Leather Goddesses of Phobos, or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would be. It merely feels like one because the game is constantly charming you in one way or another.
-- Graeme Cree
Overall, Planetfall is easily one of the best adventure games I've ever played because of the balanced and logical puzzles throughout the game, the humorous writing, and the amusing characters. My only complaint about the game is that the laser wasn't described well enough, making two puzzles difficult.
-- Alex Freeman
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Number of Reviews: 8
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
"Planetfall" is undoubtedly one of the finest games in the history of interactive fiction; it may be my favorite Infocom game, to boot.
If you ask someone who played "Planetfall" back in the 80s, it is certainly Floyd, the player's bubbly omnipresent robot sidekick, that will be mentioned first. Floyd was, quite simply, a quantum leap in the category of NPCs, presenting an unforgettable comic personality that played perfect counterpoint to the otherwise dark and foreboding tone.
Beyond Floyd, the game is built on a well-constructed story, having taken enough care in the creation of the game universe to be solidly convincing, and offering as its premise a steadily mounting series of challenges that intertwine the player's fate with that of a seemingly-abandoned planet in a natural and game-appropriate way. As the plot moves from survival to exploration to the intense climax, the reader can't help but be impressed every step of the way.
As a side note, this is the only work of IF I've ever played where eating, drinking, and sleeping are implemented in a manner that not only avoids being annoying, but which is ultimately essential to driving the plot. You must reach the end before your supplies run out, and some of your dreams are hints for solving the tougher puzzles.
If "Planetfall" lacks anything, it is the literary quality that marks the finest works from the new school of IF-writing. I can't hold that against it, since nothing like that existed when this game was released. Indeed, this game may be among the first steps in that direction -- if the prose was a little more flowery, there would be no doubt.
"Planetfall" remains a landmark achievement that is in many ways unequaled today. If you can find a copy, don't give in to the impulse to look at hints. This one should be savored over days or weeks as the rare treat it is.
This game was everything that an interactive fiction game could be. It was an adventure, and this meant the player would have fun exploring an amazing fictional world, and would plan strategies for the next game session instead of listening to the teacher during class. It was fun, laughable fun, like most of the Infocom classics, so even the thirty or fortieth play through weren't old. And, most important, it touched your emotions. The antics of Floyd, your robot friend and adventuring companion, brought this character to life in the same way that characters in a well written book come alive. You, the real you, not just the you in the story, cared about Floyd. And Floyd cared about you. That is what made this game not just a classic, but a legend. That is what turned game players into fans. That is why we have the IFDB and the competitions and the thousands of games today, because games like this touch our hearts and live in our minds forever. Planetfall was everything an interactive fiction game could be, which means it's more than a playing experience, it's an emotional treasure.
This is one of my favorite Infocom games. I think it stands out as an important transitional game in Infocom's early years that was hugely influential on their later games, and we all know Infocom was hugely influential on IF in general. One of Planetfall's best-known innovations is of course Floyd, probably the first attempt at an NPC sidekick. The bag of tricks the game used to make Floyd seem continuously present and interactive formed the basis of NPCs in countless subsequent works. The innovation that was more important to me, though, was less about technology and more about the game design philosophy. Planetfall was deliberately designed to be fair to the player. It probably doesn't qualify as "merciful" by modern standards, as it did let you back yourself into an unwinnable corner, but its puzzles were logical, consistent, and well clued; at no point did you have to read the author's mind or exhaustively try every VERB+OBJECT combination. That was a huge break from the fashion of the time, which conceived of the adventure game as a contest between designer and player without any constraints on the designer's sadistic omnipotence. There was a certain pleasure in beating a game that had such blatantly unfair rules, but even the most obsessive players got tired of that after seeing one or two such games. IF wouldn't have endured (even to the limited extent it has) if the design philosophy behind Planetfall hadn't come about.
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