“It’s a story with words in it” — Beholder
If you’re not sure what to make of Planetarium, you’re not the only one. It’s certainly the case that far more people start it than finish it — even though you don’t need to solve any of the puzzles to progress from week to week, it’s clear (from our logs) that most readers are tempted to try.
Since its 9/9/99 release, Planetarium has remained a unique and personal experience on the web. Planetarium was designed to be unrushable. We’re actually a little gratified that some people are deterred by its forcing them to wait. In fact, the girl sets off on her journey with the Mathemagician every time somebody new registers, and, once those two friends set off, they won’t be hurried nor will they be kept waiting.
Planetarium is the best kind of entertainment in its purest, most unblemished form; it exists entirely for the enjoyment of its players, and has done so since 1999 . . . Create a username and password, and off you go on your twelve-week journey of whimsy and erudition. Don’t be surprised if this brilliant, unique and beautiful game soon becomes one of your favorites.
—Jay is Games
warning: contains politely concealed spoilers (including solutions) in the discussion that follows
a well-drawn, delightfully-written walk through a landscape of puzzle and mechanism
In short, Planetarium is a journey for both the characters and player with them being able to see things ahead of time with the right mindset. It is also a love story and puzzle game rolled up in one, where everything is interconnected by fate and the droll voice of the narrator. It is, to sum it up, in a category of its own.
warning: contains concealed spoilers together with a very thorough analysis of aspects of Planetarium‘s storytelling
Underneath the clever imaginary travelogue are seams of zen-like
philosophy and a growing feeling of unease and impending tragedy
which builds week by week as chapter twelve looms closer
. . .
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
The story in Planetarium is about the passage of time, which of course is something that’s being deliberately manipulated by its delayed-release format. The web allows us to offer this serialised experience afresh to every reader as and when each one chances upon it. Most people don’t really think about it, but the fact is that having a serial start when you find it (as opposed to when the broadcaster sends it) means that, once you begin, it becomes an especially personal experience. Perhaps this is made even more so because the puzzles involve you — you’re not just a passive reader. As a result, the people who don’t drop out after the second week often stay right to the end, and really love it. The best plaudits for us are when we hear how someone has had scraps of paper or even model ouroboruses on their desk for twelve weeks because, for a while, Planetarium got to them.
When Planetarium was first released, the Daily Telegraph described it as “gorgeously illustrated” and “infuriatingly addictive”. The Guardian said it was “lovingly produced” (which of course is true). The following are just a handful of comments readers have made about Planetarium, usually left on the xiii Forum.
By far the best thing I have come across on the web . . . witty, intelligent, beautifully illustrated.
I have seen many attempts to transform fiction to exploit the potentials inherent in digital media, but no hypertext document as successful as this.
Beholder’s insanely intricate Planetarium . . . will move in and take up primary residence in your mind for twelve weeks (and for free! what more could one ask for?).
This has been one of the most absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable twelve-week periods I’ve ever spent on the web.
. . . humorous, whimsical, pleasantly bizarre, philosophical, puzzling, mysterious . . .
I’ve spent the past few weeks frustrated, elated, and stupefied over these puzzles. Most of all, I’m amazed that something this wonderful exists on the web.
Using your words and your single weekly picture, you kept me returning for 12 weeks — an impressive feat in this age of quick and disposable entertainment.