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by Steve Meretzky

Episode 1 of Planetfall series
Science Fiction

(based on 91 ratings)
6 member reviews

About the Story

"Join the Patrol, and see the Galaxy!" You took the poster's advice, bait and all, and marched right over to the recruitment station near your home on the backwater planet of Gallium. Images of exotic worlds, strange and colorful aliens, and Deep Space heroism had danced in your head as you signed the dotted line. And since that day the closest you've come to Deep Space heroism was scrubbing down the radioactive leper colony on Ishmael-3.

But suppose that jumbo fortune cookie you got at Qwang's Take-Out Asteroid last shore leave was right. Maybe you will indeed narrowly escape disaster. It's even possible that you'll actually travel to an unknown corner of the Universe, where you'll save a doomed planet - or die in the attempt. In fact, we'll guarantee it - every crumb of it - because that's just the way the cosmic cookie crumbles.

Difficulty: Standard

Game Details

Language: English (en)
Current Version: Unknown
License: Commercial
Development System: ZIL
IFIDs:  ZCODE-20-830708
TUID: xe6kb3cuqwie2q38


34th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2011 edition)

Editorial Reviews

Adventure Classic Gaming

The game's greatest strength is its plot. Although relatively simple in itself, it is developed with control that rivals a novel. The details are revealed slowly. The goal becomes clearer to the careful reader as clues hidden in locations come together to paint a picture of what has happened and what must happen in order for you to return heroically to Stellar Patrol. In contrast, the game's greatest weakness is its inventory management. Inventory juggling has always been a problem in adventures. Most adventure gamers accept the fact that there is a limit to how much the player can carry. In most games, an item is included which allows the player to carry more without destroying the delicate limits of belief. Unfortunately, no such item exists in Planetfall. Worse is the fact that I try to pick up an item but only to find it tumbling to the ground along with some other items of importance. This happens a lot, sometimes in almost endless successions. Moreover, there is a lack of challenging puzzles. Beyond inserting objects in slots most puzzles can be easily solved by dying, working out what has gone wrong, and then trying something different. Floyd is integral to a couple of challenges and should have been used to much greater effect.
-- John Campbell
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Gaming Enthusiast
At least two things makes Planetfall memorable. The first one is certainly our sidekick, Floyd. He is the main source of humour in the game (for instance, when we make a save around him he says: Oh boy, are we gonna try something dangerous now?) but hes not just a comic relief, we grow really attached to him over the course of the adventure.
-- Toddziak
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Planetfall was the first Infocom game I played, and still my favourite. Often billed as a science-fiction comedy, it really is not. There are many amusing sidelights and funny responses from the author to your failed actions, [...] but it is not at all a straight comedy in the same sense that Leather Goddesses of Phobos, or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would be. It merely feels like one because the game is constantly charming you in one way or another.
-- Graeme Cree

Overall, Planetfall is easily one of the best adventure games I've ever played because of the balanced and logical puzzles throughout the game, the humorous writing, and the amusing characters. My only complaint about the game is that the laser wasn't described well enough, making two puzzles difficult.
-- Alex Freeman
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Member Reviews

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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
A true classic from the Golden Age, February 27, 2008
"Planetfall" is undoubtedly one of the finest games in the history of interactive fiction; it may be my favorite Infocom game, to boot.

If you ask someone who played "Planetfall" back in the 80s, it is certainly Floyd, the player's bubbly omnipresent robot sidekick, that will be mentioned first. Floyd was, quite simply, a quantum leap in the category of NPCs, presenting an unforgettable comic personality that played perfect counterpoint to the otherwise dark and foreboding tone.

Beyond Floyd, the game is built on a well-constructed story, having taken enough care in the creation of the game universe to be solidly convincing, and offering as its premise a steadily mounting series of challenges that intertwine the player's fate with that of a seemingly-abandoned planet in a natural and game-appropriate way. As the plot moves from survival to exploration to the intense climax, the reader can't help but be impressed every step of the way.

As a side note, this is the only work of IF I've ever played where eating, drinking, and sleeping are implemented in a manner that not only avoids being annoying, but which is ultimately essential to driving the plot. You must reach the end before your supplies run out, and some of your dreams are hints for solving the tougher puzzles.

If "Planetfall" lacks anything, it is the literary quality that marks the finest works from the new school of IF-writing. I can't hold that against it, since nothing like that existed when this game was released. Indeed, this game may be among the first steps in that direction -- if the prose was a little more flowery, there would be no doubt.

"Planetfall" remains a landmark achievement that is in many ways unequaled today. If you can find a copy, don't give in to the impulse to look at hints. This one should be savored over days or weeks as the rare treat it is.

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Not just a classic - A Legend, June 2, 2012
by starfire (Just beyond Pluto)
This game was everything that an interactive fiction game could be. It was an adventure, and this meant the player would have fun exploring an amazing fictional world, and would plan strategies for the next game session instead of listening to the teacher during class. It was fun, laughable fun, like most of the Infocom classics, so even the thirty or fortieth play through weren't old. And, most important, it touched your emotions. The antics of Floyd, your robot friend and adventuring companion, brought this character to life in the same way that characters in a well written book come alive. You, the real you, not just the you in the story, cared about Floyd. And Floyd cared about you. That is what made this game not just a classic, but a legend. That is what turned game players into fans. That is why we have the IFDB and the competitions and the thousands of games today, because games like this touch our hearts and live in our minds forever. Planetfall was everything an interactive fiction game could be, which means it's more than a playing experience, it's an emotional treasure.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A fading star lost in time, May 4, 2017
by Form 27b-6 (Southern California)
Oh boy here's a tricky one. Now it's never a good feeling to trample people's memories, or to snatch their pink glasses, but it's necessary to give an honest assessment of the game, in its original context, but also in light of all the achievements made in IF since then.

At its core, Planetfall is a straightforward castaway story, in a science-fiction setting reminiscent of old classics from the sixties. Planetfall has an air of Forbidden Planet, sidekick A.I included, and it's not without charm. You'll be accompanied in your journey by Floyd, a valiant, talkative little robot, who was probably one of the early forays in NPC A.I. Planetfall fans never fail to mention him, along with Steve Meretzky's humour and clever exposure of the planet's backstory. Like I alluded to earlier, all these things are true, if you place them in the context of 1983. Back then, it was impressive to have a NPC deliver a few scripted contextual lines. Back then, it was innovative to force the player to manage fatigue and food. Back then puzzles came down to using the right item at the right place. But the cold reality is that today none of this is new, and frankly, none of it is very much fun anymore. Mechanics aside, I also have a few more personal grudges. I think the author misses the mark at a few crucial moments. The exposure, tone, and pacing are a bit off at times, and the ending seems rushed. (Spoiler - click to show)Reviving Floyd goes against the tonal duality present during the entire story; I have nothing against a Hollywood happy end but it does the game a disservice in that case.

Now the game is not without qualities; whether it is how it conveys a sense of isolation, or how it manages to incorporate humour in an otherwise dramatic setting. And yes Floyd can be cute, without a doubt. The author makes good use of baits and misdirections, yet I found the game very easy, and managed to get the highest score in a few days without hints, so it probably makes a good candidate for newcomers, as long as they're willing to forgive the dated game design;
Among the major problems are a very crude parser, borderline bugged, some frustrating backtracking, and an annoying inventory management. As for Floyd, anything more than basic interaction breaks its code, and you may feel like you're peeking behind the curtain. Score calculation is also questionable. (Spoiler - click to show)For instance you can beat the game without ever having to go to the kitchen, relying only on the survival kit. However, this will only give you a 76 out of 80, in spite of the fact that you completed all the game's objectives, in less time that it would take to go to the kitchen. So the game grants you four points for accessing the useless kitchen, instead of rewarding optimized play.

At this point you've probably understood my point; Planetfall is a decent game, better than most in its time, but it's not the legend some may describe. It's not to say you shouldn't give it a chance, but you'll have to do so with the kind indulgence its venerable age deserves.

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The following polls include votes for Planetfall:

Emotional IF by Sorrel
I'm looking for IF that inspires one or more strong emotions in the player an IF that pulls on your heartstrings a little.

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The chase scene, a staple of Scooby Doo and action movies, but how often has it been done in IF?

Canonicity and IF by juliaofbath
I'm interested in determining whether or not a clear canon has emerged within the world of IF/hypertext. Of course, there is a clear critical opinion regarding which works belong to this tentative canon, but I'm interested in what...

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This is version 5 of this page, edited by pwiecz on 27 November 2015 at 10:35am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item