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

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
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Hitchhikers_Guide_box_art.jpg
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy cover art

Developer(s) Infocom
Publisher(s) Infocom
Release date(s) 1984
Genre Interactive fiction
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) n/a
Platform(s) Amiga, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, TRS-80, TI-99/4A, Macintosh

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an interactive fiction computer game based on the seminal comic 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, Commodore 64, Atari, and the IBM PC.

Contents

Plot

The game loosely mirrors a portion of the series' plot, beginning with the impending destruction of Arthur Dent's house and subsequent demolition of the Earth by Vogons.

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 nagging question of the player character's identity at any given time can be remedied through the use of the innovative WHO AM I? command.) For the majority of the game, however, Arthur Dent is the main player character.

An in-game virtual edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy provides a plethora of major and minor characters, locations, and miscellanea 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 casually mentioned by Zaphod in an offhanded 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 sadly never-fulfilled promise of a thrilling sequel.

Feelies

Most Infocom games contained "feelies", bonus novelty items included to enhance the immersiveness of the game. The feelies provided with this game included:

  • A button with "Don't Panic!" printed in large, friendly letters
  • A small plastic package containing "pocket fluff"
  • Order for destruction of Arthur Dent's house
  • Order for destruction of Earth written in "Vogon"
  • 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

Notes

HHGTTG is generally considered to be the first interactive fiction game to intentionally lie to players. Adding to its reputation for deviousness was "The Babel Fish Dispenser", a wickedly complicated puzzle appearing very early in the game. Failure to "solve" the Babel fish puzzle did not kill the player, but rendered the remainder of the game unwinnable. 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. In spite of all of this, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was rated as "Standard" 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 simply reacting to situations, such as the impending deaths variously threatened by bulldozers, matter-transference hangovers, the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, or nuclear missiles. This lack of direction had little effect in deterring fans of Adams' work.

The Infocom version of Hitchhiker's Guide quickly became a fan classic, and was rereleased by Activision in several collection packages with a built-in hint system not included in the original. The game was later rereleased online as a Java applet on Douglas Adams' website, and was then again as a Flash version on September 21 2004, coinciding with the initial radio broadcast of the Tertiary Phase. The Flash version of the game is illustrated by Rod Lord, who also produced the animations for the popular TV series. On March 2, 2005, this version won the Interactive BAFTA Award for Best Online Entertainment[1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4312683.stm).

The game appeared in an exhibition called "Game On", which has toured museums worldwide since 2002, representing the text-based genre of computer games.

External links

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