Video Game / Planetfall

Planetfall is an Interactive Fiction game published by Infocom in 1983. It is Steve Meretzky's first game. The plot has the player crashlanding on an alien planet and exploring with the assistance of a Robot Buddy named Floyd.

It was followed in 1987 by a sequel, Stationfall.

The games are still fondly remembered for their humor and storytelling, and Floyd is commonly cited as a notable early example of a computer game NPC not made of 100% cardboard.

This game provides examples of:

  • Almighty Janitor: Well, just look at the box art.
  • Continuity Nod: As Floyd lays dying, you sing his favorite song to him — "The Ballad of the Starcrossed Miner". It's a blatant reference to the events of Starcross as humanity's discovery of FTL travel, setting it earlier in the Planetfall/Stationfall continuity.
  • Controllable Helplessness: If you do something wrong early in the game and get your overzealous superior officer mad enough at you, he'll throw you in the Brig, where you can continue to perform actions but none of them will get you anywhere. (Typing 'escape' tells you that 'Houdini himself would be stumped by this cell'.)
  • Cute Machines: Floyd is one of the earliest examples in videogame history.
  • Disney Death: Floyd makes a moving Heroic Sacrifice, but at the end of the game — if you get the good ending — it's revealed he can be repaired.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Blather, your commanding officer who keeps giving you demerits in the beginning of the game. In the sequel you've been promoted over him and he's terrified of you.
  • Gesundheit: The game's response if you type "zork".
  • Golden Ending: Planetfall has three endings: one where you fail to save the planet and it is doomed to plunge into the sun; another where you save the planet but fail to fix the communication system or the planetary defense system and therefore are stuck there (but given the consolation prize of an unlimited bank account and a home in the country); and the best ending, where not only is the planet saved and you are found by the Stellar Patrol, but all the loose ends are tied up. Not to mention that Floyd gets repaired.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle:
    • Picking up too many items causes the item you last tried to pick up, as well as a random item from your inventory, to go tumbling to the floor. If you try to pick them up again without doing something with the situation, it'll just happen all over again — with another item.
    • Hauling a magnetic object around for too long while also carrying a magnetic ID card will blank the latter, rendering the game unwinnable.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The plot involves finding out what happened to the people on the planet you've made landfall on.
  • Non-Player Companion: Floyd, from the time you activate him until his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Red Herring: About half the objects look important but are useless. There are several dark rooms, and the only lantern is in a room you can never enter and live. And a helicopter the game leads you to believe you can pilot. At the end Floyd brings you some of the keys to these and remarks that maybe they'll be useful in the sequel.
  • Robot Buddy: Floyd
  • Save Scumming: Parodied; whenever you save the game with Floyd around, he says "Oh boy! Are we going to try something dangerous now?"
  • Shout-Out: One of the games in the Castle's Rec Hall is Double Fanucci.
  • Stalked by the Bell: If you stick around on the planet too long (8 days in-game time), the Disease will get you.
  • Stealth Sequel: Planetfall has a few references to Infocom's previous sci-fi work Starcross that imply it is set within the same universe several centuries later.
  • Unwinnable by Design:
    • Entering the rad labs turns the game unwinnable. That's fair, since the game explicitly tells you not to do so. But it also taunts you by having important-looking items in there. These items could be useful, but you won't live long enough to use them.
    • Keeping a magnet close to any of your cards longer than absolutely necessary will blank the cards without warning.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: Planetfall notoriously had a lack-of-food timer and a lack-of-sleep timer. There's also a disease in the game, with the symptoms being an increased need for food and sleep, making the timers even shorter.

Stationfall provides examples of:

  • Adorkable: Plato, before he turns on you.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy/Homicide Machines: The pyramid slowly turns all machinery, intelligent or not, against their creators. And that includes your robot buddy, Floyd.
  • Character Select Forcing: You are given a choice of three robot companions: your plucky robot buddy Floyd from the previous game, a tank-like utility robot, and a secretarybot. Choosing the utility robot results in instant death, and the secretarybot can't copilot the shuttle that is the only means of reaching 95% of the game.
  • Controllable Helplessness: When Plato shoots you with the stun gun and is delivering his Hannibal Lecture, the only thing you're capable of doing is speaking.
  • Darker and Edgier: The trademark humor is still there, but Stationfall is considerably darker in tone. You're facing a threat that slaughtered a space station and is slowly but inexorably brainwashing your Robot Buddy.
  • Ghost Ship: The plot involves exploring an empty space station and discovering why it's empty.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle:
    • Hauling a magnetic object around for too long while also carrying a magnetic ID card will blank the latter, rendering the game unwinnable.
    • The slowly evaporating explosive... which would invisibly evaporate if you have it inside a container.
  • Non-Player Companion: Floyd, once again. The other robots in the robot pool act as such if you choose them, until they render the game Unwinnable within a handful of turns. Plato also temporarily shares the role with Floyd.
  • Obstructive Bureaucracy: The Stellar Patrol administers an enormous galaxy-wide bureaucracy. Your mission at the start of Stationfall is to pick up a supply of Request for Stellar Patrol Issue Regulation Black Form Binders Request Form Forms.
  • Robot Buddy: Floyd
  • Shoot the Dog: At the end Floyd becomes fully corrupted by the pyramid and you have to kill him or let the galaxy burn. He's not repairable this time.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: A rather extreme one at that. Planetfall was one of Infocom's easier games, but Stationfall is closer to expert level. A much larger map, the time limit is considerably tighter, and the station becomes deadly as the game progresses.
  • Stalked by the Bell: There isn't enough food around to last you more than a few days, as the food dispensers seem to be more interested in killing you. If you manage to ration your food long enough to last four days, the station explodes anyway.
  • Unwinnable by Design:
    • It feels like the boots will scramble your card in a single turn.
    • Putting the explosive in the thermos doesn't stop that item from evaporating; it merely slows it down by a factor of four while silencing the messages you would otherwise get about it. This is no fun if you decide to stash your safecracker tools in one location one by one as you get them; when you've got them all some hundred turns later, you'll find out that one thing has silently evaporated on you.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: Stationfall has a lack-of-food timer, requiring the player character to eat every hour. Lampshaded with the explanation that highly-processed future food just isn't very nutritious. The supply of food is also very limited.

Alternative Title(s): Stationfall