Big K


Publisher: Infocom
Machine: Commodore 64/128

Published in Big K #1


Infocom, an American company, have been about for several years. They first made their name by writing the excellent Zork trilogy, a series of adventures so cleverly written and subtly interwoven that it's got its own Zork fan club with stickers and the like.

The Interlogic system that Infocom uses to create the adventures has its critics. It works on text only. People who've played The Hobbit or Valhalla will instantly think "Hah! Garbage!" But look at it this way. Take the pictures out of Habbit or Valhalla, and you're not left with a very good adventure. Infocom have used the memory space graphics adventures would otherwise take up and put it towards making a far better game.

This means that Infocom adventures won't have the instant appeal of the pretty (for a Spectrum) pictures, but (as Infocom point out) well-chosen, carefully-selected words paint a mind-picture that no mere primitive 2D image can compare with.


Because the adventures are large and complex, you have to have a disc drive to run them on. And they're only available for the Commodore 64, Atari 800, Apple II and IBM - all American micros. Pity.

Planetfall is of course written in machine code, but because it's so big the bulk of the program is actually stored on disc and called up when it's needed. On the Commodore 64, the command processing time is reasonable, but a touch slow (this I suspect is due to the unbelievably slow disc drive Commodore sells).

At the start of the game, you are a poor, downtrodden ensign (7th level, your ID card informs you bleakly) aboard a spaceship, the S.P.S. Feinstein. You have only your scrubbing brush, and ordeers from a certain Ensign Cadet First Class Blather, who storms about the ship terrorising innocent ensighs like a cross between a geography teacher and God. You will meet alien ambassadors, a demented robot called Floyd and other characters during your explorations of various planets and deserted institutions. Strange mysteries need to be solved. Identity cards need to be found. And you'll need sleep and food too...

Commands are entered into the computer in full sentences that need almost no modification to be understood. The computer responds intelligently and often very wittily. Another excellent point in Planetfall's favour is that the game is not always exactly the same each time you play it.

The major drawback of Planetfall is its cost of over £30. In fact, in Lion House, Tottenham Court Road, London, it was going for £37. But it's the best adventure game you'll see for quite some time.