Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Top 3 Best Games About Janitors

The noble janitor. Custodian, if you prefer. He has played the starring role in some of my favorite games. Rather than spend days at my keyboard writing about the hundreds of examples I can think of off the top of my head, I will confine my comments to only the top 3 titles. These are all classics, so if you have never tried them you should a) be quite ashamed, and b) play them as soon as possible to abate said shame.

#3) Planetfall

This classic text adventure was released in 1983 by the king of interactive fiction - Infocom. Yeah that's right - text only. We don't need no stinking graphics! So you direct your player by typing commands such as LOOK UNDER THE TIME MACHINE or DROP THE FURRY ALIEN IN THE BASKET and watch as the story unfolds before you in pure unadulterated monochromatically glowing alphanumeric characters. The game was written by Steve Meretzky who was also known for such Infocom hits as Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Sorcerer, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, A Mind Forever Voyaging, and Stationfall - the sequel to Planetfall, but in that game you have been promoted to a paper-pushing desk jockey and therefore that game has no place in this post.

In Planetfall you are a lowly Ensign Seventh Class in the Stellar Patrol serving on board the Starship S.P.S. Feinstein and it is your job to mop the decks, but as the Patrol says in their recruitment flyers - "There's plenty of opportunity for advancement in the Patrol for those who live up to our motto, 'Boldly Going Where Angels Fear to Tread.'" The manual summarizes the story nicely:

Prepare to be teleported 120 centuries into the future and hurtled out of your Stellar Patrol space-ship mere moments before it explodes.  And if the first five minutes of PLANETFALL don’t kill you, you’ll really have your work cut out for you. Because the planet on which you crash-land is plagued with floods, pestilence and mutant Wild Kingdom. And during the next couple of days or more, you’ll be confronted by the bizarre, the baffling and the inexplicable.What destroyed your vessel? Why are there buildings but no inhabitants? How does one gain entry to the secret recesses of the vast scientifc installations? And who is that little fellow who keeps following you around? (It is, in fact, Floyd, a multi-purpose robot who has the personality of an eight-year-old and whose memory banks may hold the secrets of this strange planet. In short, the ideal companion with whom to brave your new world as you explore its secrets and dare its dangers.) Laughs, thrills, tears and triumph. You’ll find it all in PLANETFALL. Have a swell trip, and don’t forget to drop us a postcard!

Before you embark on the journey you should take the Patrol's self-evaluation to make sure that you qualify for their elite squadron. Here is the 2-page questionnaire. Please complete and mail into your local Patrol recruiting station.


You can occasionally track down the original Planetfall for PC (that's the one I have) on eBay, but it will be on the 5 1/4" floppy disk - do you still have one of those drives in a bay? Probably not. It is included in the compilations the Lost Treasure of Infocom and the Masterpieces of Infocom (one of my favorite possessions) which you can occasionally find on eBay but they usually go for about $40 and up. You can give it a go online at, but I never figured out how to save your place on their online games which makes these games an exercise in futility unless you are determined to knock it out in a single textacular sitting.

So - you might consider downloading a copy of the PC file from one of those shady abandonware websites (cough! Abandonia) and playing it in DOSBox or WinFrotz instead. Not that I'm advocating piracy. Oh wait - that's precisely what I just did. Well whatever, just play it wiseguy!

OK, my plan was to put all 3 games on here but this one ran LONG so I guess I'll split it up to one per day.  Tomorrow is #2. And remember, In Space No One Can Hear You Clean.

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gnome said...

A most excellent read indeed and a fantastic idea for a series of posts. And what a beautiful game too. Long live Floyd!

MadPlanet said...

Thanks Gnome. It might be difficult for modern gamers to comprehend the bond that developed with Floyd 27 years ago through just the power of prose alone. I'm guessing you can predict what my #2 post will be - but maybe not #1!

Fallguy40 said...

I played a ton of the Infocom games, but this classic is one that I never tried. One of these days...

MadPlanet said...

Give it a try Fallguy - it's well worth the $0 price tag. Hell, I would even go so far as to say it is worth 100 times that much!