The Great Infocom Replay: Planetfall

I am a lousy record keeper. I actually played Planetfall quite a while ago. August, if my filesystem is to be trusted! The problem is that I played it pretty hard, and tried to get to the end, but eventually I gave up. I knew I wasn’t too far from the end, but I just didn’t have it in me to work my way to the end. It’s the same as with Starcross, actually! And, as with Starcross, I kept deluding myself with the idae that I’d really finish it, maybe by finding a walkthrough. I didn’t.

I guess, in the end, there’s less fun in using a walkthrough than in just giving up.

I was mostly really happy with Planetfall, though. The world was interesting, a number of the puzzles were fun, and it seemed to be on the better end of the spectrum so far… but the thing that everybody complains about is what I am going to complain about: the “you have to eat and sleep” problem. I’m not opposed to a time management problem. I really enjoy Pikmin, and I just love Suspended, but the basic “you have to eat or you will die” problem is just too frustrating and not at all fun. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it’s because it boils down to this: Your problem is to find a food object. If you don’t find it, you die, and your last saved state might be useless.

It’s like “find the key,” except it doesn’t open a door to a new area. It just lets you keep playing. And if you were X moves from the food and you saved the game with X-N turns left to live, your save is never going to be in a winnable state.

There are some patches you can apply to the game file to eliminate the hunger and sleep issues, and maybe someday I’ll go back and apply them and try again, but eventually I just gave up on this one. Despite my long-lasting love of interactive fiction, I think I’m going to finally have to admit, at some point, that I don’t really like puzzles. Or: I like the idea of puzzles, but most of the time, I get frustrated with them, in these sorts of games.

Good things in Planetfall:

  • the setting is interesting, including its backstory
  • Floyd, of course, although I don’t think of him in as glowing terms as some do
  • the mystery of how to even win the game; can you escape? call help? fix the planet’s problems?

Bad things in Planetfall:

  • starving to death, passing out
  • waiting for the elevator
  • the incredibly hateful “get the keycard from Floyd” puzzle
  • verb guessing

Next up is Enchanter. I’ve never played the Enchanter series!

Written on January 9, 2015
games   infocom-replay   int-fiction