|Source // Abandonia|
I haven't come across Planetfall on my journeys and that's a shame, because it doesn't take too long before this text adventure gets interesting. Unfortunately, I can't interact with the interactive entertainment that is Planetfall, so I'm going to have to resort to watching it instead. Hopefully it's just as fun (though with far fewer deaths, faffing about and getting lost).
As you've probably worked out, Planetfall is a space adventure. Well, science fiction really, as it isn't long before you, a low ranking Ensign aboard the S.P.S. Feinstein, find yourself less in space and more falling towards the ground awfully quickly.
Text adventures live or die based on their input and output. If you've got yourself a game that understands all manner or inputs, both long and short, but the story is as dull as dishwater, then what's the point in investing the time into pushing that text parser to its limits? Similarly, if your story can grab a reader like any old regular novel, but all your interactive readers can do is move in a few directions and take things, why go to the lengths of making it interactive?
Planetfall looks to be an example of both interaction and story done right, and is often said to be a great introduction to text adventures in general. It helps to have the likes of the Zork series lay out the groundwork for Planetfall to stand on and build from, and in a period where an interactive version of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy isn't too far away, you can see that writer and designer Steve Meretzky would be on to a winner with Planetfall.
And that's before the inclusion of Floyd.
Floyd is a short robot companion who seems to be the only animated thing on the planet. There is nobody to see and talk to and nothing to look at but abandoned and decaying ruins of whatever there once was. All you really know of the beings that were here is the strange language written on whatever they've left behind, which would come off as somewhat offensive to someone, somewhere, were it not to be done right.
Funny writing, empty rooms and Floyd. After stumbling into the robot shop, Floyd wants to follow you and so you find yourself with a companion - one that really makes for a great story (spoilers available for those of you who want to look it up).
But I don't get to play through it right now. I don't get to meet Floyd. I don't get to have someone to share a journey with, to explore the mysteries of the planet, to help me out of a tricky spot. I've just got access to a YouTube play-though from someone who is going through the game with a purpose, having previously played it themselves. I'm a tag-along, like Floyd, only I'm no help whatsoever.
I can't know for sure whether it is as easy to get used to as they say it is. I won't really know what it's like as a game until I'm in control of something more than a play button. The text parser doesn't know 'Use' though, so that could catch you out. Like any text adventure though, it helps if you've got an idea of what you can and can't do with your inputs before you start.
I can comment on the output though, the writing and early story at least, but I have unfortunately also read the plot description on Wikipedia and have spoiled Planetfall for myself. Maybe by the time I'm able to play it I'll have forgotten all about it. Here's hoping.
Planetfall goes onto the mental list of 'yeah, no, really do try to get round to playing that'. The world seems to be a bit more alive, thanks I'm sure to Floyd. You read the room description and then a sentence about how Floyd has caught up with you and is keeping himself busy, as if you've forgotten that Floyd is following you.
That little reminder that you're not alone in this goes a little way towards breaking down the barrier that sits between you and the game. You might have taken a while to arrive at a puzzle solution, but don't worry, because Floyd isn't worrying, Floyd isn't impatient with you. It's an adventure, discover something. Do save yourself from an unwanted death, of which there are many, but don't fret about any of it.
It is at this point in the review that I've remembered about The Hobbit, and its NPCs making the world feel alive by interacting with it in the same way you do. They do bring the world to life, yes, but Floyd doesn't bug out and cost you the game. Reminds me of Ellie from The Last of Us, if anything. Anyway, back on track.
If you're mad for text adventures, you've probably already played Planetfall, because it is that good. I don't know for sure, but I have high hopes. I think I'm safe in saying it's good. It is after all on a list of 1001 must play games, so it must have done something right.
Get playing, get watching, get reading, whatever it takes.
There are 41 ways to meet your demise in Planetfall. I guess having 42 ways would be too much of a nod towards Douglas Adams...
Planetfall, developed by Infocom, first released in 1983.
Version watched: Unknown, via YouTube (MysteriousJG).