Whereas in traditional Zork games the battery power of the lantern is the limiting factor, Planetfall replaced this element with the somewhat more realistic requirement that the player sleep and eat regularly. The requirement that the adventurer complete the puzzles while returning to the dormitory each night makes the game more difficult, in a way, than the infinite-day format of Zork. Inaccessible dark areas were added to taunt fans of the original Zork games. The only moveable light source, the famous lantern, is in the Radiation Lab, and thus the adventurer dies before even having a chance to see if it works.
Reaction to Floyd's in-game death was hailed at the time as a telling sign of the emotional power of Infocom's games. Many players, it was widely reported, wept openly at the scene of Floyd's "death". Apparently, it was previously unthinkable that "a simple game" could move people to such a degree.
The success of this game inspired a sequel called Stationfall. The 1987 sequel once again incorporated a revived Floyd, but in a slightly less prominent role. Stationfall was much more grim in tone than Planetfall, and did not sell as well as the more light-hearted original.
Both Planetfall and Stationfall were novelized by Arthur Byron Cover.
In the mid-1990s, Activision (which purchased Infocom), had planned on making a graphical sequel called Planetfall: The Search for Floyd or Planetfall 2: Floyd's Next Thing, but it was canceled. It promised a "refined storyline by Star Trek: Next Generation" screenwriters.
Planetfall was Infocom's first game to make extensive use of red herrings. Unlike previous titles, it contains a number of useless items, inaccessible locations, and other false clues.
Beginning with 1982's Deadline, Infocom included extra novelty items with their packaged games called feelies. Included with Planetfall was:
A Stellar Patrol "Special Assignment Task Force" ID card (about the size and shape of a credit card).
3 interstellar postcards.
A Stellar Patrol recruiting manual, "Today's Stellar Patrol: Boldly Going Where Angels Fear to Tread".
A short diary kept by the player's character (in the Solid Gold release, an in-game object included in the player's starting inventory rather than the packaging).
The level of main character backstory contained in the feelies is a noted departure from the AFGNCAAP endemic to the other games in the Zork genre.
players: single player
distribution: 3,5 floppy disk, 5,25 floppy disk
graphics: 80 columns text
Abandonware DOS popularity: low