After the fall of the Second Galactic Union in 1716 GY, a ten-thousand-year dark age settled upon the galaxy. Interstellar travel was nonexistent, and many star systems descended into a near-barbaric state, buring coal and gas for energy, and growing food directly from exposed topsoil. In 11,203 GY, a treaty between the Empires of Tremain and Galium formed the Third Galactic Union. Ships of the Stellar Patrol (a pseudo-military wing of the Union government on Tremain) began exploring the galaxy, searching for the human civilizations that are the remnants of the Second Galactic Union. You are a native of the planet Gallium, one of the most politically powerful but culturally barren worlds in the Union. Your great-great-grandfather was a founding officer of the Stellar Patrol, and for five generations, your family has served in the Patrol. It was always taken for granted that you would sign up as soon as you came of age. Once in the Patrol, you discovered that the exciting career promised in all the Patrol recruitment brochures was nonsense. Your life was drudgery and demerits. The one time you got to see an exotic planet was right after a big parade, when they needed a detail to sweep up all the confetti. Then came your big moment: shipwrecked on a seemingly deserted world, you met an exuberant robotic companion named Floyd. Together, the two of you discovered the secret of that mysterious planet, Resida, and saved it from near destruction. As a result of your heroics, you were offered, and quickly accepted, a juicy promotion. Good-bye Ensign Seventh Class -- hello Lieutenant First Class! No more scrubwork! No more bathroom details! No more cleaning groth cages! Finally, your life in the Stellar Patrol would be as exciting as those brochures had promised! Oh, how naive you'd been. Your daily routine simply replaced tedious scrubwork with tedious paperwork. Since your planetfall on Resida, five long years have dragged by, without a single event worthy of note. Why, just look at today's "thrilling" assignment: scooting over to Space Station Gamma Delta Gamma 777-G 59/59 Sector Alpha-Mu-79 to pick up a supply of Request for Stellar Patrol Issue Regulation Black Form Binders Request Form Forms...
"It's been five years since your planetfall on Resida. Your heroics in saving that doomed world resulted in a big promotion, but your life of dull scrubwork has been replaced by a life of dull paperwork. Today you find yourself amidst the administrative maze of Deck Twelve on a typically exciting task: an emergency mission to Space Station Gamma 777- G 59/59 Sector Alpha-Mu-79 to pick up a supply of Request for Stellar Patrol Issue Regulation Black Form Binders Request Form Forms ... "* Excerpt from the opening of Stationfall copyright Infocom 1987.
And so begins Stationfall, the second adventure in the two part series that began with Planetfall. The series practically plays in real time because as five years elapsed in the story four years elapsed between Infocom's releases of Planetfall and Stationfall. You wouldn't know it, though, because Stationfall has the same feel and appeal that so many loved about Planetfall. Generally a sequel has a hard time living up to the original and Stationfall may not be quite as good as Planetfall was, but if it isn't it is pretty darn close. Stationfall has the same main characters as Planetfall had. It has the same ingenious, often diabolical, sometimes silly, but always sensible inventory puzzles. It has the same type of setting with the same impending doom looming over your existence.
Maybe if there is a criticism that I would have for Stationfall it would be that it is, in fact, too much of the same as what we experienced in Planetfall. If so much time had not elapsed between the releases of the two games I would harp on that a little more but when you have four years to anticipate the next chapter I suppose you can get away with being genuine to the original without bringing much of anything new to the experience. I was ok with it and I suspect you will be too.
Can you play Stationfall without having first experienced Planetfall? Certainly. Should you? Probably not. The reason I say that is because Planetfall did a better job of developing the characters that are common to both stories. If I had played Stationfall first I might not have enjoyed it as much because I wouldn't have known as much about myself, the main character, or Floyd, my dearest robot friend. Oh, I didn't mention that did I? FLOYD LIVES!!! Yes, Floyd, the child-minded robot is back. Unlike Planetfall, however, there is at least a little interaction with other characters in this game. So what if they are robots. At least they can carry on a conversation. Or can they?
It's hard to describe the story in either one of these two games without spoiling something for the player because the main emphasis in playing the game is to discover the story. When you begin you don't have a clue what is happening. But, as you read articles, notes and texts that you discover on Station Gamma, the story unfolds and you discover that once again you have landed yourself unsuspectingly in a pile of you know what. That is really all I can say about that.
In this day and age fully enjoying the text adventures of the eighties is an acquired taste. Some people love them (like me) and some don't get the attraction. That being said, if you have acquired the taste you will enjoy this game. After all, it is more of the same Steve Meretzky goodness that has manifested itself throughout the gaming world. In the text adventure gaming context, Stationfall deserves four out of five stars.
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