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Video Game / Planetfall

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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, where the player must investigate a space station where all the personnel have disappeared, and the machinery seems to be malfunctioning in sinister ways.

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:

  • Acme Products: The raygun in the tool room is an "Akmee Portabul Laazur" (all the Residan orthography is like that.)
  • Canon Name: The Tie In Novels call the Featureless Protagonist Homer B. Hunter.
  • Chase Scene: To get the final item needed to wake the colonists and win the game, you have to enter the lab. The final sequence has you running like hell through the installation with the mutated monsters hot on your heels intent on devouring you.
  • 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.
    • If you turn on the computer in the Computer Library and go to "Technology - Robotics", you get a history of the B-19 series, a possible reference to Suspended.
  • 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 completely inescapable Brig, where you can continue to perform actions until the spaceship blows up. (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.
  • Dying Dream: If you can't get cured of the Disease that's been spreading, then, if you go to sleep on Day 8, you get this message that also counts as a Non-Standard Game Over:
    ...At last, the Feinstein has arrived at the historic Nebulon system. It's been five months since the last shore leave, and you're anxious for Planetfall. You and some other Ensigns Seventh Class enter the shuttle for surfaceside. Suddenly, you're alone on the shuttle, and it's tumbling out of control! It lands in the ocean and begins sinking! You try to clamber out, but you are stuck in a giant spider web. A Giant Spider crawls closer and closer...
    Unfortunately, you don't seem to have survived the night.
  • Escape Pod: You evacuate your ship in one in the beginning.
  • The Federation: The instruction manual mentions the Third Galactic Union formed after the Second Galactic Union collapsed thousands of years before.
  • Foreign Remake: Japanese software development company SystemSoft developed and published a remake for the PC-9801.
  • 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.
  • Nu Speling: Residan orthography, as demonstrated in the examples for Acme Products and Shout-Out.
  • One Last Song: As Floyd dies, the hero cradles him in their lap and quietly sings his favorite song.
  • 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.
    • When you search in the Computer Room for Interlogic Games, you get references to "Zoork", "Dedliin", "[Xe] Witnis", "Starkros" and "Suzpendid" — parodying each of Infocom's games up to the time of Planetfall's release.
  • 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.
  • Third-Person Person: Floyd talks like this in a childish way in both this game and Stationfall.
  • Tie-In Novel: Arthur Byron Cover wrote a novel for Planetfall and Stationfall though they're set after the games with similar events happening again.
  • 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.
  • Video Game Remake: In February 1992, over eight-and-a-half years after the original Planetfall, SystemSoft developed and published its remake for the PC-9801. Unlike the original, this game has some of the most common verb commands ("look", "take", etc.) that can be accessed by pressing a corresponding button (the player still has to type the name of an object, though), and enhanced graphics, especially in the list of objects on which the text is super-imposed.
  • 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:

  • Apocalypse How: This space station is purged of organic life. And once the Zeenak pyramid sends its replicas into space, it will be the end of your civilization.
  • Apocalyptic Log: You'll find many of these in the form of journals, spools, notes, and a tape reader that may soon overheat, but be sure you turn off the reader once it's finished with the log, or else it will explode on you!
  • Bittersweet Ending: You have saved the entire universe by destroying the Zeenak pyramid and its replicas. Unfortunately, you ended up having to kill the brainwashed Floyd so at least he could die peacefully. However, little robot Oliver comes to life as Floyd's reincarnation and gets you to play with him, giving you solace over your old friend's loss.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Floyd after he succumbs to the effect of the Zeenak pyramid.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: If you type in "version" while Floyd is on and present, as soon as the title appears along with the copyright, you get this:
    Floyd looks out at you, right through your computer screen. "See that copyright notice?" he asks in a defiant tone. "If anyone tries pirating this disk, they'll have Floyd to answer to."
  • 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.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Typing in "version" causes the game to display its title and copyright notice—and, in some circumstances, a humorous warning not to try pirating the game.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: At the beginning, if you fall asleep on the job while on the S.P.S. Duffy, you get demoted to Ensign Ninth Class and thrown in the brig; and to make matters worse, you get executed by firing squad the next morning.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: There are berserk welder robots that shoot lasers at you, operating machinery, an overheating tape reader, food dispensers that spit out acid, and many food items that can poison and kill you (barring the vacuum taffy and the Ramosian Fire Nectar).
  • Evil Elevator: The slightly malfunctioning elevator in the Command Module becomes this after Day 2, which may explain why it won't take you to Level 8 or 9, because that's where the Zeenaks' pyramid of destruction resides.
  • Footnote Fever: The footnotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984) carry on to Stationfall.
  • Ghost Ship: The plot involves exploring an empty space station and discovering why it's empty.
  • Homicide Machines: The pyramid devised by the Zeenak race slowly turns all Hunji machinery, intelligent or not, against their creators.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder:
  • 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 Zeenak pyramid and you have to kill him or let the galaxy burn. He's not repairable this time.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the dreams you encounter while you sleep makes a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
    • The footnotes from the video game adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984) are back, and reading one of them leads to sort of a Take That!:
      The author wishes to refute any claims that the use of footnotes is a ripoff from the interactive fiction version of THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. This is not true. Well, maybe it's a little bit true, in which case the author wishes to point out his right to rip off his own ideas. So there.
  • Squashed Flat: If you choose Rex as a robot companion, when you try to leave, he keeps going and squashes you flat like a pancake, killing you.
  • 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.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Plato seems friendly at first, but keeps going off alone with Floyd, who gradually starts acting belligerent from his influence.
  • 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.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: This game really goes into how cruelly sentient robots are treated in the Planetfall universe. When you and Floyd happen upon a "baby" robot who's AI has not come online yet, Floyd wants to be near when he awakes to give him a gentler welcoming to life than Floyd got.
  • 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