The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (video game) was adapted from the original story in 1984, developed and published by Infocom, and designed by Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky. It is a text adventure game, an interactive fiction game designed for single-player use. It features ten (and a "bit") parts and takes the player through the story of Hitchhiker's, with some twists on the original tale.
For the 20th anniversary of the game, it appeared, along with some added graphics, on the BBC website. A 30th-anniversary edition was also released in 2014, which had updated graphics and animations. Even in the new, online editions, the game is still primarily text-based and requires the player to input commands in order to progress through the adventure.
SynopsisThe events of the game loosely mirror that of the events of the main story in the radio series and book.The game starts with Arthur Dent in his house shortly before the demolition of his house (and by extension, Earth.) After the destruction of Earth, Arthur and Ford hitchhike onto the Vogon ship, where Arthur plays with the Babel Fish vending machine, enjoys two verses of Vogon poetry, and retrieves an Atomic vector plotter.
Upon entering the Heart of Gold, Arthur explores the ship and retrieves a spare Infinite Improbability Drive. He then uses the drive to visit six other locations, manipulating past or other events to gain access to other necessary tools.
The game ends upon Arthur stepping out of the Heart of Gold on Magrathea.
The summary found on the Interactive Fiction Database is likely the closest to the original game summary.
It reads as follows:
'Don't Panic! Relax, because everything you need to know about playing The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is contained in the pages of this manual. In this story, you will be Arthur Dent, a rather ordinary earth creature who gets swept up in a whirlwind of interstellar adventures almost beyond comprehension.
As the story begins bulldozers are waiting to reduce your house to rubble to make way for a motorway bypass. While you attempt to deal with this problem, your rather strange friend Ford Prefect drops by to tell you that the Earth is about to be demolished to make way for an interstellar bypass! If you survive this double threat, you'll embark on a series of inter-galactic misadventures even funnier than your worst nightmares!
A special note for people who have read the book "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Although the opening of the game is fairly similar to the book, the story quickly diverges, with lots of new material and different twists. Although familiarity with the story may make a few of the early puzzles easier, if you rely too heavily on this previous knowledge you will certainly end up getting misled.'
Part one: on the Earth
The game begins with the text: 'You wake up. The room is spinning very gently round your head. Or at least it would be if you could see it which you can't. It is pitch black.' You are playing as Arthur Dent. From here, the game leads you through getting out of bed, realising there is a bulldozer outside, and lying in front of the bulldozer in an attempt to stop it.
Ford Prefect shows up, convinces Mr Prosser to take your place in the mud in front of the bulldozer, and you follow Ford to the pub, where he drinks beer and learns that the world is, according to Ford, about to end. Then it becomes evident that your house is being knocked down, and he goes to try and stop it from happening, meeting a dog on the way. The Vogon Fleet arrives and announces that the Earth is to be destroyed. Ford accidentally drops a small device, which turns out to be an Electronic Thumb. You use it to get yourself and Ford a lift off Earth.
Part two: in the dark
While playing, you enter Dark when the Earth is destroyed, and at various other points throughout the game. After a while of waiting, the player will regain their senses and move onwards to the next part of the game. The Dark is a sort of midway point and a small puzzle that the player will need to get themself out of in order to progress. The first two locations are set, but after that the order is random, and locations can be repeated. Once you have obtained tea, you can choose which location to visit.
Part three: on the Vogon ship
After your first experience in the dark, leaving by noticing a smelly thing being waved under your nose, you wake up on the Vogon ship with Ford. There is a short puzzle to gain a Babel fish, after which you can listen to the Vogon announcement and the clue to gain the atomic vector plotter. The Vogon Guards take you away to listen to the captain's poetry. After enjoying it, they take you back to the hold, where you can now get the vector plotter. You then wait until you are flushed out of the airlock, and you return to the dark.
Part four: aboard the Heart of Gold
After your second experience in the dark, leaving by hearing a star drive far above you, you wake up on the Heart of Gold. Ford, Trillian and Zaphod all go into the sauna, leaving you to your own devices. After collecting the right items from around the ship, you can put together a small version of the Infinite Improbability Drive, which will only affect you, unless you plug it into the ship. By flipping the switch, you can return to the dark, and then on to the other six locations.
Part four and a bit: Aboard the Heart of Gold again
After completing all six adventures off the ship, and collecting the four pieces of fluff and nine tools, you can put the fluff in the plant pot, then take it into the sauna. When you come out, it has grown into a plant with a piece of fruit on it. After eating the fruit, you have a vision of the future, showing you which tool you will need. You can then go to Marvin's room and enter by showing the door that you can hold tea and no tea at the same time. Inside, you pick up a tenth tool and persuade Marvin to open the exit hatch for you. He will agree reluctantly, but say that you need to help him by giving him the tool in your vision when he asks for it. By doing so, you can then exit the ship and win the game.
Part five: on Traal
After leaving the dark by noticing a smelly tail waving under your nose, you wake up in a cave on Traal, with a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast staring at you. After telling it your name, you can run out of the cave, put your towel over your head so that you can't see it and carve your name on the memorial. The beast then assumes it's eaten you already and goes to sleep. You can then go back into the cave to find the Nutrimat/Computer Interface.
Part six: on Damogran
After leaving the dark by seeing a bright light stabbing at the back of your eyes, you wake up on Damogran as Zaphod Beeblebrox. You ensure that the ship you are on reaches the port safely and pick up the items under your seat before you leave it. Then you can work with Trillian to steal the Heart of Gold.
Part seven: at the party
After leaving the dark by feeling a cold and wet and squishy substance, you wake up at a party in Islington as Tricia McMillan. You can talk to Arthur, take the unsightly piece of fluff off his jacket and put it in your handbag. Then "Phil" (Zaphod in disguise) will come and take you into space.
Part eight: the Earth revisited
After leaving the dark by seeing a bright light stabbing at the front of your eyes, you wake up in a country lane on Earth as Ford Prefect. You go through all the motions that Ford did earlier in the game when he rescued Arthur from the Vogons with one crucial difference - you have to give Arthur the fluff that is in your satchel.
Part nine: the war chamber and maze
After leaving the dark by hearing a star drive far below you, you wake up on a warship full of aliens intent on destroying the Earth. You pick up the awl, and then wait until the ship arrives on the planet. Assuming you fed the dog earlier, you then find yourself in a maze, which turns out to be your mind. You travel through the maze until you find a small black particle labelled "Dent, Arthur. Sense, common." You can remove it.
Part ten: inside the whale
After leaving the dark by feeling a warm and wet and squishy substance, you wake up inside a sperm whale - the one that the missiles turned into. In a few turns, it's going to hit the surface of Magrathea. You pick up the flower pot and put it in the thing your aunt gave you that you don't know what it is. Then you wait until you find yourself in the dark again.
As it is a text adventure game, it requires you to type in various commands in order to identify your surroundings and certain items and to fulfill certain objectives. The player also has an inventory and is able to collect, use and discard a number of items. The game can be saved at any time by typing 'save game', which can be very useful especially when facing puzzles which need to be solved within a fixed number of turns or else the game may restart.
In the game's 20th and 30th anniversary editions, designed and published by the BBC on their website, the game's interface includes added graphics, which help the player to have a better idea of their locations and inventory, while still needing to type in all commands during the game.
- The game is possibly one of the earliest text adventures which deliberately lies to the player.
- The babel fish puzzle was so notorious, the term has entered the common lexicon of IF (interactive fiction) terminology to refer to a cascading type of puzzle, where solving part of the puzzle introduces new difficulties.
- For most of the game, the PC is Arthur Dent, however, some sections of the game are played as Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, or Trillian. It was possibly one of the first text adventures to have multiple PCs.
- It was the first known IF game to use footnotes.
- The bizarre "no tea" object in Arthur's inventory is unique; it can't be dropped except by taking "tea."
- The equally bizarre "thing your aunt gave you which you don't know what it is" is one of the first items collected and its very properties are a puzzle to be figured out.
As with most Infocom games, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game included 'feelies', which were bonus novelty items included with the game.
The 'feelies' provided with this game package included:
- A mini-booklet including the game documentation titled: "How Many Times Has This Happened To You?."
- Fluff, a bit of cotton in a tiny plastic bag stapled shut.
- Destruct Orders for Your Home and Planet. This included two sheets of paper: a folded yellow page titled "Order For Destruction" and a folder silver page in a heavier stock whose text is entirely in "alien" symbols (a mix of Greek, astrology, and other glyphs). The English destruct orders placed Arthur Dent's home at 155 Country Lane, Cottington, Cottingshire County, UK, and sets the date of the demolition (and thus the game events itself) on October 4th, 1982.
The first signature is that of Douglas Adams, as Commissioner of the Domicile Demolition Department. The second signature is that of Marc Blank, one of the co-founders of Infocom, as Vice Commissioner of the Domicile Demolition Department. The last signature on the page was that of Steve Meretzky (game designer), as the Earle of Cottingshire.
- A wearable red button with "Don't Panic!" in friendly, yellow lettering.
- A pair of Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses AKA a piece of heavy black paper stock cut in the shape of sunglasses, with the arms folded back. There were no cutouts to see through; the "glasses" were solid black.
- Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy™ Microscopic Space Fleet, which was an empty plastic bag with a pasteboard label stapled on top.
Notes and references
- Although based on Douglas Adams's radio play and the book of the same name, knowledge of either is not necessary to play the game.
- A sequel was proposed, titled 'Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe', which was never made, due to financial and developmental problems.
- For the 20th anniversary edition of the game, the BBC held a short picture contest to choose graphics that would be included in their new edition of the game. They eventually released two different editions of the game due to the influx of entries received.