Under The Radar: Comedy Games (Sci-Fi) A Retro look by Cola Powered Gamer


Planetfall and Stationfall are two interactive fiction games developed by Infocom and Planetfall is the first game to be designed by video game legend Steve Meretzky. Released in 1983 and 1987. Both games are fantastically written text-adventures, and you can expect witty dialog, funny jokes and similar things if you played any Steve Meretzky game. Despite similarities with Space Quest (both games feature a janitor that saves the day), in several interviews, the creators of Space Quest stated that they were unaware of the games.

The games like many other Infocom games at the time came with the so-called “feelies”, which were packaged bonuses that came with the box release, and would explain the universe and backstory. Fortunately, all of these are available on-line and are quite fun to read.


In Planetfall, you play as Ensign Seventh Class on the S.P.S Feinstein (basically a space janitor), a starship of Stellar Patrol. According to the journal you get with the game, you didn’t exactly get the adventure you expected, and to make things worse, you’re on the deserting ship. Suddenly after a series of explosions, you manage to get to the escape pod and crash land on a nearby planet. While on the planet you befriend a child-like robot Floyd and begin to explore the only, apparently deserted structure on the planet. Once the plot continues to unfold, a time limit is implemented. Floyd, your sidekick will offer you hints and suggestions, but the game is full of red herrings, maybe a bit too much. There are also a lot of useless rooms to explore, like closets, dormitories, and such, but this only adds to the feeling that you are exploring a large place.

Stationfall set five years after the end of the first game, you are promoted from Ensign Seventh Class to Lieutenant First Class. Unfortunately, you are now stuck behind a desk and have to deal with a mountain of paperwork, instead of doing something important. All of this will change when a routine assignment comes in. You are to accompany a space truck on its way to the space station and pick up “Request for Stellar Patrol Issue Regulation Black Form Binders Request Form Forms”. Once you arrive at your destination, you and Floyd find the station deserted and must figure out what happened.

There was supposed to be the third game in the series but unfortunately was never made. Both games are a good read, and can easily be played in DOSBox, and most importantly they can be found easily on-line. Give this one a try, if you are looking for a good read and good sci-fi comedy.

Orion Burger


The premise of Orion Burger is certainly unique. The intergalactic fast-food Orion Burger is in trouble. Under the environmentalist pressure, their premise of using only unintelligent lifeforms is about to fall. Using their only alien meat supplier Zlarg, he devises a plan to use humans, as new raw, protein-rich material. However, Intergalactic law forbids using sentient species as food. Every raw ingredient needs to pass tests for sentience. Zlarg knows this, so he rigs the test, in such a way that no species can pass it.

You play as Wilbur Wafflemeier, a pet shop owner, who is abducted by Zlarg, to take the tests. Wilbur, of course, fails miserably, but due to teleportation glitch, he arrives intact, one hour before his abduction, and can now cheat his way through tests.

The game was released in 1996 and developed by Sanctuary Woods, and plays in the same manner as most adventure games at the time. You use simple verb commands like “Talk”, “Use”, etc. Orion Burger’s graphics, animation, and interface are all nicely done and fit well with its cartoonish art style. The game also has voice acting, which is decent and background effects, but features very little music. Fortunately, you cannot get stuck or die in this game, due to the games time-loop mechanic. Most of the tests are puzzles, while others are just cutscenes. You can also choose to give up on a test or skip straight to abduction.

The game isn’t available on any of the major game stores, but fortunately can be found easily on-line. If you are looking for a nicely drawn and animated comedy, give this one a try.

Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender


Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender can be considered MicroProse’s answer to Space Quest and adventure games in general. The game is inspired somewhat by Leisure Suit Larry and Space Quest. Released in 1992, Rex Nebular is also the first game that Brian Reynolds worked on.

The plot follows Rex Nebular is a bumbling Casanova wannabe, is hired by Colonel Stone to go and retrieve a vase that holds a sentimental value to him. Naturally, Rex heads to the location where the vase was last seen. On the way, his ship is attacked and Rex crash-lands on an unknown planet. Soon, he discovers that the planet is populated exclusively by women. Due to a war of genders, the females annihilate the males by using the biological weapon, and now the only way to procreate is to use the device called the Cosmic Gender Bender or simply the Gender Bender. Rex is soon captured by elite forces and now must find a way to escape, preferably with vase and his body intact.

The game, for the most part, plays as a standard adventure game, but with comedy and some erotic elements. You use the verb commands interact with things, and most of the puzzles are inventory-based. There are also three difficulty levels, and the higher difficulty offers more puzzles and death scenes. Even though you can die, you have unlimited chances and Rex’s last safe position will be restored, after his death. The game also features four endings, but the true ending is probably the funniest. Rex Nebular features nice graphics and sound for the time and uses rotoscoped animation.

The game is unfortunately short, and the planned sequel was never made. The manual, which is cleverly written, by Steve Meretzky. Rex Nebular is available on both Steam and GOG and will provide you with good comedy, even though it may seem short.

The Space Bar


Developed by Boffo Games and released in 1997, The Space Bar is another game designed by Steve Meretzky. The game is played from the first-person perspective, and you use the mouse to navigate and interact with the world. It is played in a similar way to Myst and Zork, your movement is restricted between panoramic screens, and you can rotate the camera 360° on each screen.

The game is set on a rich mining planet Armpit VI, and the planet is owned by a corporation named Amalgamated Vacuum. The corporation is powerful enough to run a police force called AVSF. You play as a detective Alias Node (the only human on the planet) and you and your partner Maksh, witness the murder of a fellow police officer while investigating an apparent break-in. The trace leads you to the space bar “The Thirsty Tentacle”. The problem is that the killer is a shape-shifting alien, and is capable of assuming the likeness of any alien in the bar. To make things worse, Maksh is kidnapped and you only have a few hours before the killer escapes on a space shuttle.

The game is set on a rich mining planet Armpit VI, and the planet is owned by a corporation named Amalgamated Vacuum. The corporation is powerful enough to run a police force called AVSF. You play as a detective Alias Node (the only human on the planet) and you and your partner Maksh, witness the murder of a fellow police officer while investigating an apparent break-in. The trace leads you to the space bar “The Thirsty Tentacle”. The problem is that the killer is a shape-shifting alien, and is capable of assuming the likeness of any of the many aliens in the bar. To make things worse, Maksh is kidnapped and you only have a few hours before the killer escapes on a space shuttle.

Unfortunately, the game was a commercial disaster. Boffo Games attempted to create a text-adventure experience, but with visuals. The humor is good, the alien memories and perspectives are unique and memorable, and there is clever puzzle design. Give this one a try if you want to play something unique.

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