P. Rawling
Strategy: Management
ZX Spectrum 48K

Chris Bourne

Planetfall comes is a larger sized cassette box containing detailed instructions on what is in fad a trading strategy type game. Between 2 and 12 players may take part, handing one or more cargo ships across the gulfs of space between a maximum of 15 star systems. Your ships can carry up to six commodities which are in demand in varying quantities at different star systems; these are Uranium, Iron Ore, Machinery, Medical Supplies, Computers and Gemstones.

At the outset, if you are not loading a saved game, the players are asked to enter their names, the number of ships they wish to own and then the names of the ships. Next task is to decide on how many star systems are desired by the players and enter that. The display then cuts to the Galaxy Map, a two-dimensional representation showing the relative positions of the star systems chosen with Sol in the centre.

A key-press takes you to the Commodity price list and time display. This list shows the buying and selling prices of all commodities on the various planets- planets never buy and sell a commodity at the same time. Travel time from your current position is also shown, and this is important later on. Each player is allocated some trading cargo at the outset, the number of items being shown and a start cash balance of £5,000. At the base of the display the Captain and Ship are indicated and you are asked to which star you wish to travel next. The star is selected by pressing its Initial letter. The process is repeated for each player, ship by ship.

When this is completed an ETA of planetfall is shown, followed by the first player's ship 's log. This indicates any travel delays and reasons and arrived at destination. Occasionally you may actually discover a new system which will then be displayed on the Galaxy Map.

The ship's log then becomes the Trading Display. A flash tells you whether you are selling or buying, and the commodity in question is displayed, the number of units the planet wishes to buy from you and underneath that you may enter the number you wish to sell. The planet will then make an offer over which you can haggle until a deal is settled or falls through. After selling you can start buying along similar lines. When all is complete you may deposit money at the local bank if you wish and you are then asked which destination you wish to visit next. Pressing the X key will display the menu so that you can have a look at the Commodities and Travel display again to judge the most suitable destination for your cargo.

Additional details are the bank statement which shows deposited money and assets for all players, and the random element of Urgent Messages. This details the urgent need for a commodity on one of the start systems and you must dash to be there first.


'Obviously not a game of much fun for the single player. The program never really supplied enough information on which player was having his or her go I found myself lost in space in what was an uninteresting game.'

'Whatever images the name Planetfall conjures up of intergalactic mega-bug-blasting would be wrong, because this is a trader game and it is one of the best trader games I've played in a long time. The game is fun to play because it is self explanatory and easy to play. The display is well thought out and laid out in an easy to see manner. If you want a trader game, this is definitely one to buy.'

'Planetfall has the advantage of being very flexible, allowing you to determine the length of game and its complexity. It's really designed to let lots of players take part, but I suspect that more than four would tend to drag things out such a lot. Each player doesn't have too much to do, but as the game progresses you begin to realise that careful planning of buying and selling, as well as picking the planets to do it all on, is very important. Input routines are quite rapid and the whole is well thought through.'

Control keys: general input
Use of colour: good
Graphics; text only
Sound: poor, optional on or off
Skill levels: 1
Screens: 11 displays
Features: 2-12 players
Originality: overall concept is not uncommon and originality hardly enters into this type of game
General Rating: Above average to good, with one reviewer not enjoying it at all. Good value for larger groups who like this type of game.


Screenshot Text

The trading screen of Planetfall.