Jump to content

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (video game)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Designer(s)Douglas Adams
Steve Meretzky
Platform(s)Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, Apple II, Apricot PC, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, CP/M, MS-DOS, Epson QX-10, Kaypro II, Mac, Osborne 1, TI-99/4A, TRS-80,[5] Flash[6]
Genre(s)Adventure, Interactive fiction

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 it was first released in 1984 for the Apple II, Mac, Commodore 64, CP/M, MS-DOS, Amiga, Atari 8-bit computers, and Atari ST. It is Infocom's fourteenth game.



The game loosely mirrors a portion of the series' plot, representing most of the events in the first book. Arthur Dent wakes up one day to find his house about to be destroyed by a construction crew to make way for a new bypass. His friend Ford Prefect, who is secretly an extraterrestrial, helps to calm Arthur down and hitches them a ride on one of the ships in the approaching Vogon constructor fleet, moments before the fleet destroys the Earth to make way for a new hyperspace bypass.

Aboard the ship, Arthur learns that Ford is a journalist for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and has been on Earth researching the planet for the Guide. The two are discovered by Vogons and subjected by the captain to a reading of his poetry. The two manage to survive this, and the Vogons throw them into the airlock and shoot them out into space. By a huge improbability, they are picked up in the last moment before they die of asphyxiation by the spacecraft Heart of Gold while it is traveling on Infinite Improbability Drive. After getting safely aboard the ship, Arthur and Ford meet Ford's friend Zaphod Beeblebrox, who had stolen the Heart of Gold as his first act of office as the Galactic President, as well as Arthur's friend Trillian (Tricia McMillan), whom Zaphod had picked up from a party on Earth. Zaphod wants to travel to the legendary planet of Magrathea, believing it to hold a great secret.

At this point, Zaphod leaves the task of getting to Magrathea to the ship's computer Eddie, and he, Ford, and Trillian depart to the ship's sauna. Arthur finds Eddie incapable of getting to Magrathea without help. Arthur initially tries to help by supplying the Infinite Improbability Drive with a tea substitute from the ship's Nutrimatic device to serve as a source of Brownian motion, but this only causes Arthur to temporarily take on the consciousness of Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian in their respective pasts, and he must manipulate events such that items in these past periods are brought aboard the Heart of Gold in the present. Through this, Arthur gains enough parts as to replace the circuit board in the Nutrimatic so that it can produce real tea. This tea is powerful enough to power the Drive to get them to Magrathea, but in orbit, the ship is attacked by two missiles from the surface. Arthur employs the Drive again to change the missiles into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias, neutralizing the threat.

The ship prepares to land, but the computer will not let them do so. Again, the other three head off to the sauna, leaving Arthur to figure out how to fix this. This requires Arthur to reach Marvin the Paranoid Android's closet on the ship in order to get the final tools needed to fix the computer and get it to land. The game ends as Arthur and the others are about to set foot on Magrathea.


Screenshot of the 30th anniversary edition of the game. The original text-based game is effectively presented in the top-left window, and additional graphical interface elements added for the anniversary edition.

The Hitchhiker's Guide is a text adventure game in which the player, in the role of Arthur Dent, solves a number of puzzles to complete various objectives to win the game. This includes collecting and using a number of inventory items. The player has a limited variety of commands to observe, move about, and interact with the game's world, such as "look", "inventory", "north" (to move north), "take screwdriver", or "put robe on hook". Most commands will advance the game's turn counter, and some puzzles require the player to complete it within a fixed number of turns or else the game may end and require the player to restart at the beginning or a saved state; passive commands like "look" and "inventory", or mistyped or non-comprehended commands, do not count as turns. Once the player has acquired the eponymous Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a wide variety of topics can be asked about, some of which may be helpful in solving the game's puzzles.

In both the game's 20th- and 30th-anniversary editions, the game's interface is augmented with graphics that help to map out the locations and other features, though the player is still required to type in all commands.[7]



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 Greek alphabet. The text was nearly identical to that of the English Order for Destruction)
  • 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
  • "No tea: Just like the tea professional hitchhikers don't carry!" (in fact, nothing)



The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy gained a reputation for deviousness. Computer Gaming World reported on rumors that "several important people within the [video game] industry cannot (snicker, snicker!!!) even get out of [the] first room!"[8] Jerry Pournelle advised non-readers of the novel against playing the game, and warned that "even if you've memorized the book, these puzzles are hard".[9] Perhaps the most notorious instance involved getting a Babel Fish out of a dispenser in the hold of the Vogon ship, which would translate the Vogon language to English. This tricky puzzle appeared early in the game and required the player to use a variety of obscure items in a specific fashion, some which had to be obtained in earlier, but non-revisitable, sections of the game, to create a Heath Robinson (or Rube Goldberg)-like chain of events. The puzzle further 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, as one subsequent puzzle requires the player to gain a passcode based on Vogon-written instructions, otherwise undecipherable without the Fish.[10] That particular puzzle became so notorious for its difficulty that Infocom wound up selling T-shirts bearing the legend, "I got the Babel Fish!"[11] Adams stated that the puzzle's difficulty, and the notable game play change that it begins, was intentional; "Just as the player gets comfortable in the narrow neck, the bottom drops out!"[8]

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was very successful. It sold 59,000 copies in 1984—in second place among Infocom games, after Zork I—and with 166,000 copies it was the company's best-selling title in 1985, more than twice as many as Wishbringer.[12] Based on sales and market-share data, Video magazine listed the game fourth on its list of best selling video games in February 1985,[13] and third on the best seller list in March 1985,[14] with II Computing listing it sixth on the magazine's list of top Apple II games as of October–November 1985.[15] Its sales had surpassed 250,000 copies by November 1989.[16] Hitchhiker ultimately sold 400,000 copies,[17] and was one of the best-selling titles of its time.[18][19]

Video in March 1985 praised the game's fidelity to its source material, stating that "it survives the transition as wacky and spaced-out as ever". Though acknowledging that "there may be a few minor problems with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", the reviewer suggested that "the game is so engrossing, funny, and often so infuriatingly difficult that you'll hardly notice them".[20] In May 1985 Antic called it an "extraordinary game" and "a step forward from Infocom's safe, established approach to game design" with "distinct and tangible" writing, "really the first stylistic departure since the Zork trilogy". The magazine stated that Hitchhiker was "not your run-of-the-mill text adventure" but promised that "the puzzles are tough, but follow a certain capricious, twisted internal logic".[21] Compute! in June 1985 stated that the game "may well be Infocom's best effort to date", citing an effective adaptation of Adams's "comic absurdity", sense of humor, and "fascinating" story. The magazine "recommended [it] for all adventure gamers",[22] and listed the game in May 1988 as one of "Our Favorite Games", stating that its humor distinguished Hitchhiker from other adventure games; "[Adams'] keen and literate wit make this game a joy".[23] Compute! gave it the 1989 Compute! Choice Award for Role Playing/Adventure Game.[24]

In 1996, Computer Gaming World listed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at #42 among their top 150 best games of all-time, writing that "Douglas Adams' humor comes alive in this text adventure".[25]



The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 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.

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.

On 21 September 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.[26]

In 2024, a 30th Anniversary Edition was made available at the BBC.



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 of development 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".[27] 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.[28][29][30]


  1. ^ "Special Feature: Happy Birthday!". Popular Computing Weekly. 1 May 1987. pp. 14–18.
  2. ^ "'Galaxy' Goes Electronic". The Cincinnati Enquirer. 18 October 1994. p. 54. Retrieved 5 May 2024. Infocom, the company behind "Zork," "Deadline" and several other "interactive fiction" text-adventure computer games, will release "Hitchhiker" Nov. 1 (retail price: $39.95).
  3. ^ Kosek, Steve (9 November 1984). "Peanuts gang leads the way with new round of video games". Chicago Tribune. p. 166. Retrieved 5 May 2024. Activision will be releasing "Ghostbusters," a strategy game designed after the hit movie with Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, and Infocom is just about to begin distribution of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," an all-text adventure designed by Douglas Adams, whose best-selling science-fiction trilogy has inspired a cult following on college campuses.
  4. ^ Murphy, Jamie (13 May 2013). "Stepping into the Story: Players participate in 'interactive fiction'". Time. Vol. 125, no. 19. Reported by Cristina Garcia. p. 64. Infocom, the Cambridge-based software company that pioneered interactive fiction, has released an electronic version of Douglas Adams' popular novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ($39.95), which last week jumped to No. 1 on Billboard's list of top computer software.
  5. ^ Adventureland Archived 23 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine by Hans Persson and Stefan Meier
  6. ^ BBC RADIO 4, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Archived 18 October 2004 at the Wayback Machine, text adventure game, freely available in Flash
  7. ^ Webster, Andrew (4 March 2014). "The Classics: 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' text adventure". The Verge. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  8. ^ a b Adams, Roe (January 1985). "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Leads an Invasion of the Pros". Computer Gaming World. p. 17.
  9. ^ Pournelle, Jerry (August 1985). "The West Coast Computer Faire". BYTE. pp. 293–326. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  10. ^ Buerkle, Robert (2017). "Starship Titanic and the Perils of Pythonesque Gaming". In Reinsch, Paul; Whitfeld, B. Lynn; Weiner, Robert (eds.). Python Beyond Python: Critical Engagements with Culture. Springer International Publishing. pp. 219–238. ISBN 978-3319513850.
  11. ^ Interview with Steve Meretzky, co-author of the Game Archived 11 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine from BBC – Radio 4
  12. ^ Carless, Simon (20 September 2008). "Great Scott: Infocom's All-Time Sales Numbers Revealed". GameSetWatch. Think Services. Archived from the original on 24 September 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2008.
  13. ^ Ditlea, Steve; Onosco, Tim; Kunkel, Bill (February 1985). "Random Access: Best Sellers/Recreation". Video. 8 (11). Reese Communications: 35. ISSN 0147-8907.
  14. ^ Onosco, Tim; Kohl, Louise; Kunkel, Bill; Garr, Doug (March 1985). "Random Access: Best Sellers/Recreation". Video. 8 (12). Reese Communications: 43. ISSN 0147-8907.
  15. ^ Ciraolo, Michael (October–November 1985). "Top Software / A List of Favorites". II Computing. p. 51. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  16. ^ Staff (November 1989). "Chart-Busters; SPA Platinum". Game Players (5): 112.
  17. ^ Simpson, M. J. (2003). Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams. Boston: Justin, Charles & Co. pp. 224–226. ISBN 1932112359.
  18. ^ Correira, Alexa Ray (10 March 2014). "BBC launches update of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure". Polygon. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  19. ^ "About the game". BBC. March 2014. Archived from the original on 13 March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  20. ^ Kohl, Louise (March 1985). "Random Access: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Video. 8 (12). Reese Communications: 42–43. ISSN 0147-8907.
  21. ^ Powell, Jack; Ciraolo, Michael (May 1985). "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Antic. p. 19. Archived from the original on 15 March 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  22. ^ Randall, Neil (June 1985). "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Compute!. p. 58. Archived from the original on 6 August 2016. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Our Favorite Games". Compute!. May 1988. p. 12. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  24. ^ "The 1989 Compute! Choice Awards". Compute!. January 1989. p. 24. Archived from the original on 16 March 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  25. ^ Staff (November 1996). "150 Best (and 50 Worst) Games of All Time" (PDF). Computer Gaming World. No. 148. pp. 63–65, 68, 72, 74, 76, 78, 80, 84, 88, 90, 94, 98. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  26. ^ "BBC leads interactive Bafta wins" Archived 30 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine from BBC News on 2 March 2005
  27. ^ Waxy.org blog about the cancelled game Archived 26 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine by Andy Baio
  28. ^ Milliways, Hitchhiker sequel Archived 21 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Java applet from waxy.org
  29. ^ Walker, John (18 April 2008). "Milliways: The Lost Infocom Game". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  30. ^ Kohler, Chris (18 April 2008). "'Infocom Drive' Turns Up Long-Lost "Hitchhiker" Sequel". Wired. Retrieved 9 March 2021.