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SummaryWitty, atmospheric and emotional
The GoodSteve Meretzky's first game is still one of the my favourite Infocom games ever.
First of all, it's because of Floyd -- of course! Meretzky had the marvelous idea to give the player a sidekick, in form of this little robot, giving him a childish personality that you simply cannot dislike. He doesn't really become part of the plot until far into the game, but he makes you emotionally attached to the game, and he makes the exploration of the planet very enjoyable. (Besides giving some valuable hints.)
However, later in the game, he BECOMES an integral part of the plot. I don't want to disclose too much, but if you get far enough, I can assure there will one of those rare moments in computer gaming where you (if you have a heart or two) will feel truly sad and moved by the game. For this alone, this game deserves its place in the pantheon of great computer games.
But it's not just Floyd who is responsible for the great atmosphere of this game. The building complex that you'll explore is wide and realistic. First, you need to eat and sleep from time to time. (Some people hat that; I don't. I would have loved it if you had to go to the toilets too!) Then, there are lots of useless rooms -- dormitories, toilets etc. -- but they add to the feeling that you're exploring a large building that has been struck by disaster. I especially liked the native language that is used on the whole station -- a distorted kind of English, which is understandable, but only with some effort. A genial way of conveying a feeling of strangeness.
And of course, there's this great humor of Meretzky -- one of the wittiest writers and game designers in gaming history, IMO. Not that there's one gag after the other -- the whole game is actually serious and dramatic; as you get further, you'll discover that you have caught a deadly disease, and your condition will get worse and worse, unless you can solve the game. There are even some horror elements at the end of the game, when you are chased by mutants through the empty station. But still, every few minutes, you'll find some little hidden joke that'll make you chuckle.
The BadThe only thing that I really, really didn't like is the very last puzzle -- how to escape from the mutants. Normally, Infocom gives you at least a minor hint somewhere, but here, it's all luck to find the way. Well, maybe I missed something... (EDIT: I did... still, the hint is *very* subtle.)
Another thing I'm not too fond of is that massive use of red herrings. I haven't got anything against a few red herrings, but here it's gotten too much. Like the helicopter -- you'll even find a manual how to operate it, but you'll never be able to.
The Bottom LineThis is a really great introductory IF adventure, especially for fans of humorous science fiction. It has everything -- a dramatic plot, a big, logical, realistic world to explore, and, best of all -- the loveable NPC robot Floyd. The game has one of the most memorable and emotional scenes in computing history. The game is very funny, dramatic, and horrible, and the difficulty level is OK (with a few exceptions). Together with Infocom's unique parser, this is definitely recommended -- nay, a must -- for each retrogamer.
And I'm sure that the Space Quest writers were heavily inspired by Planetfall...