Atari User

By Infocom
Atari ST

Published in Atari User #29


"Let's play a game of Hider-and-Seeker". Now who would say that? Who could almost drive you to drink one minute and in the next stimulate an overwhelming sense of affection?

Who would carry out an act of heroic proportions and lay down his life for you? And who, if you were so unkind as to give him an undeserved kick, would mutter "Why did you do that? I think a wire's shaken loose", and go off into a corner and sulk?

It could be no-one but Floyd, the scatterbrained robot from Infocom's Planetfall. No-one who has met Floyd is ever likely to forget him. And if you haven't had the pleasure, now's your chance.


For the good news is... Floyd's back! That loveable, maddening mass of mischief returns with a bang in Steve Meretsky's brilliant sequel, Stationfall.

The author of Planetfall, in which Floyd made his illustrious debut, won an award for Best Computer Software Designer. Make no mistake, we are talking real quality here.

You don't need to have played Planetfall to enjoy Stationfall (but why play one superb game when you can play two?). As a result of your heroism in Planetfall, you have been promoted.

Before you were just a scrubber of decks and cleaner of grotch cages. In Stationfall, you are now... well, although you're a much higher rank, the job is just as mind-numbingly boring.

Your tedious scrubwork has been replaced with tedious paperwork. Forms, forms and more forms. Take today's thrill-a-minute assignment, for example.

You have to pop over to Gamma Delta Gamma 777-G Space Station and pick up a supply of Regulation Black Form Binders Request Forms. Ho, hum.

Aboard your ship the SPS Duffy is your former archtormentor Blather (who has since been demoted to desk-scrubbing duties) and a trio of robots in the robot pool. There's Rex and Helen and - yippee! - your old playmate Floyd. You can only take one from the pool and, of course, it's got to be Floyd.

Try picking one of the others and just see what happens. Even if it were technically right to pick Rex or Helen, could you bear to see Floyd's lower jaw begin to quiver as though he were about to cry? I couldn't.

With the aid of the documentation included in the package, it doesn't take too much effort to plot your course and find the way to the massive Space Station complex. The ten blueprints that are also included with the game certainly come in handy with the mapping once you've arrived.

You and Floyd are not alone on the station for long. In walks another robot, a bit of a bookworm apparently since he's reading a volume of poetry.

Turns out this is Plato who is rather like an older, wiser version of Floyd - fortunately he's just as friendly.

Floyd and Plato are very much in the mould of all good comedy double-acts - R2D2 and C3PO spring to mind. It is one of the great pleasures of this game to watch them at work and play (which they do incessantly, mostly without taking any notice of you).

There are other inhabitants, too - an ostrich and an Arturian balloon creature (shades of Dark Star?). Your mission is certainly turning out to be a far cry from the prosaic paper hunt you thought it would be, even if it does at the moment seem to be lacking in mystery and mayhem.

But it soon becomes apparent that all is not well. The Commander's detailed log makes uneasy reading as it charts a gradual decline of the normally smooth running of machinery and procedures. The problems all seemed to begin with the arrival of that strange alien craft...

You discover at first hand that things are indeed going very wrong. Automatic sliding doors begin to open much more slowly as you approach but slam shut with an alarming suddenness as you pass, endangering your life.

Roving android mechanics start mistaking you for something that needs a quick bit of spot-welding. And even Floyd acts more strangely than normal.

Stationfall has much going for it. As well as the expected deep level of detail, fulsome prose, wide vocabulary, superb parser, and the usual high standard of Infocom packaging (a Stellar patrol patch and three pieces of bureaucratic bumph are included in addition to the items mentioned above), the adventure itself is a cracker.

There are Footnotes to read (remember Hitchhiker?) and even our old friends the Grues put in an appearance. But above all, Stationfall has the single ingredient which, with one exception, no other Infocom adventure has - Floyd!

Try to Save your game position and Floyd's eyes will light up as he exclaims, "Oh boy, are we gonna try something dangerous now?"

Attempt a Restore and Floyd looks disappointed but understanding- "That part of the story was more fun," he sighs. He has equally cheeky comments about quitting, restarting, and many other topics.

Just when you think Infocom has reached the high peak in quality and humour, leaving the rest of the competition in the dust, it ups the stakes. Stationfall is going to take some beating.

Let the last word by Floyd's. When you next go into your local computer store and spy Stationfall, heed these words, when you first clapped eyes on him in the robot pool: "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, pick Floyd, pick Floyd!"

Bob Chappell