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A true classic from the Golden Age, February 27, 2008
"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.