Stationfall (Infocom) Review | Computer & Video Games - Everygamegoing

C&VG


Stationfall
By Infocom
Amstrad CPC464

 
Published in Computer & Video Games #72

Stationfall

Here I am, a Lieutenant in the Stellar Patrol's Paperwork Taskforce, just arrived on space station Gamma Delta Gamma 77-G 59/59.

I travelled with my faithful robot companion Floyd in a space truck, on a top priority assignment to pick up 24 pallets of forms.

Without them, my base is unable to request the forms necessary to acquire some urgently needed black form binders, so you can understand the urgency of my task.

The space station has the forms in stock, of that I have no doubt, since it is here that all forms are made, printed, packaged, and recycled, using the great forests of nearby plants as raw material.

Indeed, forms are the raison d'etre of the entire station - and how fortunate we are indeed to have such a facility.

With a scenario like that, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a satirical or comic adventure. You'd be wrong. A more gripping sci-fi thriller I have yet to play!

Your average thriller-adventure single-mindedly concentrates on the plot, with perhaps a few funnies thrown in for good measure, the above mentioned sub-plot runs strongly throughout Stationfall, and it is of such stuff that Infocom games are made.

As I step out of the docking bay, I notice the station is unusually quiet. Where is everyone? A look in on the Commander's log reveals that there has recently been trouble in the "village" - a sort of shanty town of assorted spacecraft connected to the station by flexible pressurised tubes.

Fuel cells have gone missing, Village Access forms have been falsely validated, and ID cards have been faked.

The Commander has obviously had a trying time recently, since as if that wasn't enough, a ship of unknown origin was spotted drifting in space in the vicinity of the station.

It was towed in, and found to contain nothing but the decaying skeleton of an alien being, and a small pyramid on a pedestal.

The pyramid was put in quarantine in the science quarters, while attempt were made to decipher a series of strange dots marking the hull's interior.

These attempts were unsuccessful, despite being run through the most powerful computer programs available.

The space station is huge - and a full set of detailed plans are provided in the package. Exploration is therefore an easy matter, from the garden dome, down through the mess hall and library, theatre, laundry and chapel, past the crew accommodation levels to the nerve centre of the shop at level five.

All is not well aboard. The station's monitors indicate that Printing is at conditioon red. It seems that one of the collating machines, the very machine scheduled to process the request forms you need, has inexplicably broken down.

Other important functions are deteriorating to condition yellow. Not to worry, though, for computer control is at green, and so for sure it will all be sorted out before long.

Down more levels, then, to seven, which houses the all-important printing centre. It is here that perhaps the first sinister overtones appear.

You can't go any further, since the levels below which house life support, power, and computer control, have been sealed off - from underneath! And from time to time some very strange noises and throbbing vibrations are heard through the floor...

Meanwhile, quite unconcerned, Floyd, that irrepressible little robot you teamed up with in Planetfall, has palled up with a local poetry-reading robot by the name of Plato.

Their incessant light-hearted chat about matters personal to robots, is constantly in the background - and before long it begins to unnerve me, as I struggle against time to solve the mystery of what is going on, more anxious by the minute to put a stop to it.

As a precaution, the captain has locked up the village access forms, and hidden the validation stamp. This is a problem worth pressing, for once entered, the village proves to be a large sprawling area, housing many essential objects.

But as far as life goes, it, too, is deserted, save for an ostrich and an Arcturian balloon creature.

Arcturian balloon creatures, as you are probably aware, propel themselves by the expulsion of digestive gases.

I've been stuck now for some six play-hours, over half way through, and I still keep coming back for more!