The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (video game)
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|The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy|
|Designer(s)||Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky|
|Release date(s)||Release 47: September 14, 1984
Release 56: December 21, 1984
Release 58: October 2, 1985
Release 59: November 8, 1985
Solid Gold: November 19, 1987
|Media/distribution||3½" or 5¼" disk|
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an interactive fiction video game based on the comedic science fiction series of the same name. It was designed by series creator Douglas Adams and Infocom's Steve Meretzky, and was first released in 1984 for the Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore 64, DOS, Amiga, Atari 8-bit and Atari ST. It is Infocom's fourteenth game.
After being rescued from open space by the Heart of Gold and figuring out how to activate the Infinite Improbability Drive, the player is hurled through space and time, assuming the roles of Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian at various intervals. (The question of the player character's identity at any time can be answered by the WHO AM I command.) For the majority of the game, Arthur Dent is the main player character.
An in-game virtual edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy provides a variety of major and minor characters, locations, and miscellany from the series that can be referenced, if not directly encountered. Topics ranging from Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters to Galaxia Woonbeam can be looked up with the command CONSULT GUIDE ABOUT <topic>.
The ultimate goal of the game is mentioned by Zaphod in an offhand manner: finding the legendary lost planet of Magrathea. While the other characters relax in the ship's sauna, however, Arthur has to jump through a number of hoops to collect a bizarre array of tools and four types of fluff before the Heart of Gold gets anywhere near the planet. The problem of managing this burgeoning inventory is neatly handled by a humorously ill-defined object called "That thing your aunt gave you which you don't know what it is", which has two important attributes: a nearly limitless capacity for holding other objects, and a penchant for showing up in the player's inventory after seemingly being lost.
When the characters finally set foot on Magrathea, the game ends with the never-fulfilled promise of a thrilling sequel.
Most Infocom games contained "feelies", bonus novelty items included to enhance the immersiveness of the game. The feelies provided with this game included:
- A pin-on button with "Don't Panic!" printed in large, friendly letters
- A small plastic packet containing "pocket fluff" (a cottonball)
- Order for destruction of Arthur Dent's house
- Order for destruction of Earth written in "Vogon" (actually an English cryptogram written in a thinly-disguised Cyrillic alphabet. The text was nearly identical to that of the English Order for Destruction, so it was not hard to solve.)
- Official Microscopic Space Fleet (an empty plastic bag)
- "Peril Sensitive Sunglasses" (a pair of opaque black cardboard "sunglasses")
- How Many Times Has This Happened to You?, an advertising brochure for the fictional guidebook/encyclopedia The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- A liquid that is almost, but not quite, entirely un-like tea
HHGTTG gained a reputation for deviousness. Perhaps the most notorious instance involved getting a Babel Fish out of a dispenser in the hold of the Vogon ship. This extremely tricky puzzle appeared very early in the game, required the player to use a variety of obscure items in a very specific fashion, and had to be "solved" within a limited number of turns. Failure to "solve" the Babel Fish puzzle did not kill the player, but rendered the remainder of the game unwinnable. That particular puzzle became so notorious for its difficulty that Infocom wound up selling T-shirts bearing the legend, "I got the Babel Fish!"
Another fiendish puzzle involved the ten tools scattered throughout the game's locations. One of the final puzzles involved Marvin asking for a particular tool to use in unjamming the ship's hatch. If the player had failed to collect ten, Marvin would invariably ask for one of the missing ones. Likewise, while the opening section of the game closely resembles the opening scenes of the original radio play and book, there are several actions not in the radio play or book that the player must perform in order to make the game winnable. Other puzzles are based so closely on the book or radio play as to be solvable only by those who are intimately familiar with Adams' work. In spite of all of this, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was rated as "Standard" difficulty by Infocom's rating system, though it was advertised to be at expert difficulty.
Curiously, the player is seldom given an actual purpose, apart from the implicit goal stated by the inventory item of "no tea". Much of the game is spent reacting to situations, such as the impending deaths variously threatened by bulldozers, matter-transference hangovers, the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, or nuclear missiles.
Like many Infocom games, an InvisiClues booklet was available for this game, as a separate product.
The Infocom version of Hitchhiker's Guide quickly became a fan classic; it was one of five top-selling Infocom games to be produced in Solid Gold versions, with a built-in hint system not included in the originals. The game was re-released by Activision in several collection packages before rights reverted to Adams, enabling The Digital Village to re-release it as a web-based Java applet. Originally published as a fund-raising tool on the 1997 Comic Relief website, it took up permanent residence on Adams' own website the following year.
On September 21, 2004 the BBC launched the 20th Anniversary Edition to coincide with the initial radio broadcast of the Tertiary Phase. Sporting a Flash user interface, and illustrated by Rod Lord (who also produced the guide animations for the Hitchhiker's TV series), it won the Interactive BAFTA Award for Best Online Entertainment.
Once BAFTA judging had completed, the BBC re-launched the game in two distinct versions to showcase new artwork for scenes and objects deliberately omitted from the first release. While both editions retain Rod Lord's illustrations, all placeholder graphics were replaced by artwork designed and sent in by contest participants. One edition includes the artwork of overall winner Nolan Worthington, the other features the work of runners-up.
The original text-only version appeared in the Game On video games exhibition, which has toured museums worldwide since 2002, representing the text-based genre of video games.
The game has 35 locations (or "rooms"). By some accounting, it only has 31 rooms, but 35 also counts the rooms that the player has to visit in the maze.
A proposed sequel, Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which was to continue from the ending of the original, had problems from the start in 1985, until it was cancelled in 1989. This was due primarily down to the facts that there was "no solid game design, nobody to program it, and the backdrop of Infocom's larger economic problems". The beginning stages of the game were leaked in April 2008, however the majority of it had yet to be written by the time it was cancelled.
For the 20th anniversary, the text-based game with some graphics appeared on the BBC. This was later expanded with further graphics created by fans after a short contest. DN Games released another version of the game on May 25, 2010 using AGS (Adventure Game Studio), having remade the original Infocom game to a point-and-click adventure game.
- Adventureland by Hans Persson and Stefan Meier
- BBC RADIO 4, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, text adventure game, freely available in Flash
- Interview with Steve Meretzky, co-author of the Game from BBC - Radio 4
- "BBC leads interactive Bafta wins" from BBC News on March 2, 2005
- Waxy.org blog about the cancelled game by Andy Baio
- Milliways, Hitchhiker sequel, Java applet from waxy.org
- Release 15 of Milliways, Hitchhiker sequel from Waxy.org (Z-code)
- Release 184 of Milliways, Hitchhiker sequel from Waxy.org (Z-code)
- An illustrated Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy game from the BBC
- Point-and-click version of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy from DN Games
- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at MobyGames
- The Java version of the game on Douglas Adams website
- Review of the Apple version of the game by Personal Computer News magazine
- Walkthrough solution from IGN
- Pictures and scans of the package, feelies and documentation
- Infocom Bugs List entry