|Which bed to sleep in tonight?|
But before I go, a word of advice: if you haven’t played Planetfall before, you may want to stop reading and pick this up. I won’t have any of the best spoilers in this post, but this is a game that is worth experiencing for yourself unspoiled. Another challenge I have is properly communicating the tone of the game. Much of what I have glossed over, the mundane exploration of the alien base mixed and the slow realization that you will die without rescue, creates a tension that adds to the solving of typical adventure puzzles. It’s well-written in a way that I doubt I can capture very well. I’m having a ton of fun and I hope you do as well.
|A subway tunnel to adventure!|
Here are the puzzles I am trying to solve:
- I need to find several access cards; these are the “colored rods” of Planetfall (to steal an idea from Starcross) and much of the base is locked to me. I have the “lower elevator” card, but I found other access slots for the upper elevators, the reactor elevator, the kitchen, and a teleport booth. Why this science fiction future still uses elevators and trains when they invented teleporters, I have no idea.
- I also found two locked doors without cards: a combination lock in the rec center and a padlock on a door in the hallway near the dorms. The combo lock doesn’t seem to be solvable yet as there is no feedback that might allow us to zero in on a correct solution.
- There is a machine that dispenses several kinds of acids, bases, and coolants in the robot repair area, plus a number of parts scattered between two maintenance rooms but nothing obvious to do with any of them.
- The administrative area (north of the robot repair) has a hall that has been split in two by an earthquake and now features a chasm I cannot cross. It also has a crack in the floor containing a key but my fingers are too big to retrieve it.
- A portable laser I found in the robot repair area fires colored beams based on a dial setting: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. None of them seem to do much, possibly because the laser’s battery is old and needs to be replaced.
I’ll spare you the random trial and error but I quickly gave up on brute forcing the combination and tried more destructive approaches. Neither acid nor lasers accomplished what I wanted but I did manage to melt the outside of the lock off. That leaves the key as the most likely puzzle to solve but neither Floyd nor I can reach in and the pliers are also too big.
|I am so attracted to you.|
I recognize immediately what I can use the ladder for: with it, I may be able to cross the large chasm in the middle of the administrative hallway. Since it is so big, I have to drop nearly everything to pick it up, but I manage to get it to the chasm and lay it across. The first time, I’m an idiot and forgot to extend it so all I get is a ladder at the bottom of a crevice. I try it again and now I have a rickety way across to a new section of the base! That reveals three more rooms: a small office containing access cards for the upper elevator and kitchens, a dark room (more grues!), and a planning room with a map of the complex. The latter is more proof that we’re only in half of the base with the “Lawanda” complex on another island. Once I figure out how to use the train, I should be able to get there.
In all of this puzzle-solving, I forgot to mention that I’m starting to feel feverish. Is it radiation poisoning? Something from the food? There’s nothing I can do now but I suspect this is a second time limit I will need to manage. I use the kitchen access to get behind the cafeteria and while I do not find a can opener, I find one better: a food dispenser! I fill up my canteen with delicious brown goo (eating a bit first) feel confident that at least I won’t die of hunger. (The classic Zork “diagnose” command is surprisingly useful this game.)
With nothing further to see in the kitchen, I make for the upper elevators next. That takes me to a tower at the top of the complex containing a helipad (with helicopter!), an observation deck, and a communications room. The communications room is the most interesting as I find both the outgoing and incoming message systems are active. For incoming, I press a button to hear the call for help from my own doomed ship before it exploded. The outgoing side is more pertinent as I learn that the planet suffered from a great plague (possibly what I am catching now) and the population wanted to warn everyone to stay away. So where is everyone-except-Floyd now? Are they all dead? That would be a dark place for a comedy game, but I don’t put it past Mr. Meretzky. In any event, no one ever received that message because the outbound system is broken and requires a “coolant override”. I try pouring a coolant in a nearby nozzle and it just breaks the machine worse so I restore and will come back when I have a gameplan.
|Because races with teleporters need helicopters.|
Blocked in my explorations, I resume trial-and-error to find something that will budge but ultimately come up with nothing. I guess I’ll have to take the communication system brute force after all. Fortunately there are only a few options: four coolants marked yellow, green, blue and red; three catalysts marked as gray, brown, and black, plus buttons for an acid and a base. I end up cycling through all of them and on my seventh attempt I discover that the black catalysts solved the problem. Just as I started to ask what I missed that I had to brute force, a black light turns off on the control panel and is replaced by a yellow one. I head back down and grab the yellow coolant this time and that repairs the machine completely. It successfully sends its ancient distress call, but I am left to wonder: does that help me or hinder me? Sure, someone may find the message odd, but how many ships in that case would go to a known plague zone? I hope I did the right thing.
Unfortunately, solving that puzzle didn’t drop me with any new access cards or keys so I find myself stuck once again. I haven’t been updating you each time I eat or sleep, but it’s now morning on day four and I’m long-since subsisting only on the brown goo from the kitchen. With no better ideas, I replay the game from scratch both for in-game speed as well as searching for exits that I missed. I find a doozy: there is a fourth room in the administrative zone past the chasm and it’s not hidden at all; I just missed it. I also notice that if you hold the access cards at the same time as the magnets, the cards are broken. I love 1980s technology in the future! That would have been another clue as to the nature of the magnet, but I missed it. Oh well.
That room contains the long-awaited shuttle access card so I head downstairs to finally take the train. The controls seem easy enough with a lever to speed up or down. It’s a bit of a puzzle, but every few seconds a sign appears that tells me the speed limit or when it’s time to slow down. I follow all of the posted signs and soon arrive at the Lawanda Platform with no problems. Time to explore… next week.
Inventory: Lots of stuff squirreled away in the dorm, but I am carrying my uniform, scrub brush, and id card, the lower elevator and shuttle access cards, and a canteen of brown goo as I cross to Lawanda.
Time played: 6 hr 40 min
Total time: 8 hr 05 min