by Steve Meretzky

Episode 1 of Planetfall series
Science Fiction

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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A fading star lost in time, May 4, 2017
by Form 27b-6 (Southern California)

Oh boy here's a tricky one. Now it's never a good feeling to trample people's memories, or to snatch their pink glasses, but it's necessary to give an honest assessment of the game, in its original context, but also in light of all the achievements made in IF since then.

At its core, Planetfall is a straightforward castaway story, in a science-fiction setting reminiscent of old classics from the sixties. Planetfall has an air of Forbidden Planet, sidekick A.I included, and it's not without charm. You'll be accompanied in your journey by Floyd, a valiant, talkative little robot, who was probably one of the early forays in NPC A.I. Planetfall fans never fail to mention him, along with Steve Meretzky's humour and clever exposure of the planet's backstory. Like I alluded to earlier, all these things are true, if you place them in the context of 1983. Back then, it was impressive to have a NPC deliver a few scripted contextual lines. Back then, it was innovative to force the player to manage fatigue and food. Back then puzzles came down to using the right item at the right place. But the cold reality is that today none of this is new, and frankly, none of it is very much fun anymore. Mechanics aside, I also have a few more personal grudges. I think the author misses the mark at a few crucial moments. The exposure, tone, and pacing are a bit off at times, and the ending seems rushed. (Spoiler - click to show)Reviving Floyd goes against the tonal duality present during the entire story; I have nothing against a Hollywood happy end but it does the game a disservice in that case.

Now the game is not without qualities; whether it is how it conveys a sense of isolation, or how it manages to incorporate humour in an otherwise dramatic setting. And yes Floyd can be cute, without a doubt. The author makes good use of baits and misdirections, yet I found the game very easy, and managed to get the highest score in a few days without hints, so it probably makes a good candidate for newcomers, as long as they're willing to forgive the dated game design;
Among the major problems are a very crude parser, borderline bugged, some frustrating backtracking, and an annoying inventory management. As for Floyd, anything more than basic interaction breaks its code, and you may feel like you're peeking behind the curtain. Score calculation is also questionable. (Spoiler - click to show)For instance you can beat the game without ever having to go to the kitchen, relying only on the survival kit. However, this will only give you a 76 out of 80, in spite of the fact that you completed all the game's objectives, in less time that it would take to go to the kitchen. So the game grants you four points for accessing the useless kitchen, instead of rewarding optimized play.

At this point you've probably understood my point; Planetfall is a decent game, better than most in its time, but it's not the legend some may describe. It's not to say you shouldn't give it a chance, but you'll have to do so with the kind indulgence its venerable age deserves.

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