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Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – 30th Anniversary Edition – Free Play Online (bbc.co.uk)
249 points by sep_field 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 62 comments

I remember in high school after an argument about games, my friend handed me a disk labeled "good text-based game" with this game on it. I'm sure we didn't have the same taste.

"New gamers may not see the appeal" is an understatement. The game takes inaccessibility as a badge of honor, or perhaps a badge of honour. It's not just lateral thinking that you need in order to get through the game... you need to lose, restart, and try again. Douglas Adams's humor (or humour) survives the translation to video game format very well but there's very little else about the game that is enjoyable, unless you are a masochist.

I can't remember if I finished the game or not. I do remember getting past the puzzle when you arrive on the Vogon ship. If you are tempted to use a walkthrough to beat the game, just go reread the book instead.

If you're interested in interactive fiction, you have 37 years of games to play since HHGTTG came out in 1984, and there are plenty of classics in there. My personal favorite is Galatea, which is itself an unusual game (only one location, many endings), and my "junk food" text game would be Leather Goddesses of Phobos.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favorite books, but one of my least favorite games. It shows up high in interactive fiction rankings, but I suspect it's largely because some people are massive fans of the books.

The thing that still baffles me is that Infocom released H2G2 as a “Standard” difficulty game, akin to Planetfall, when I’d argue that it’s one of their most difficult games.

Maybe not quite as brain-bending as something like Suspended (which had you simultaneously controlling a half dozen different characters each with different senses and abilities while also solving puzzles all under a tight time limit; it actually came with a paper map and character tokens to help you remember where everybody was), but I’d certainly put H2G2 right up there with Starcross (sold as ‘Expert’ difficulty) in terms of its brutal puzzles. And it was notably more cruel, in terms of minor mistakes early on not being telegraphed as mistakes, but making victory impossible much, much later in the game.

For folks with an interest, I second the recommendation of Galatea as a fascinating example and especially as a technical feat in terms of its flexible conversation systems. Still to this day probably the only IF game which has its challenges contained almost entirely in a regular conversation, rather than in using objects on other objects.

Or for folks entirely new to modern interactive fiction but who are interested in dipping their toes in, I’d perhaps recommend they try Photopia[0] as a good first game; it’s super newbie-friendly and has very few puzzles, while still telling a compelling story.

(link is to a “play in the browser” version of the game, but a Google search will link to a downloadable version if you prefer that. Expect it to take under two hours to play through.)

[0]: http://adamcadre.ac/if/photopia.html

Suspended was, to me, one of the coolest games ever. Back in the day, on my C64, as a young teenager, I ended up with a pirated copy of it.

I had no map, instructions, and it made it even more incredible / awesome. I was at that age where you can actually feel your brain 'expanding', where you can feel your capability to handle complex logic and math problems growing. And Suspended made me really, really think.

At the time, I thought it was immense fun. I wonder if any teenager today, would ever even try to get into it, or, would ever enjoy it.

Sounds like Douglas Adams’ copy protection did it’s job so!

He typically published literature along with his games that if you didn’t have made the games frustratingly difficult or even impossible (see bureaucracy).

From the description of the disk you gave id say it’s highly likely you didn’t have access to that.

Nope. The game just has some really, really obtuse puzzles.

Don't pick up the junk mail in the second room? That'll make the Babel Fish puzzle (the one on the Vogon ship) unwinnable. Ate the sandwich in the pub instead of feeding it to the dog? That'll kill you much later in the game. And so on. None of this was hinted at in the "feelies" shipped with the game or in the books; players were expected to figure it out through trial and error.

Games in this era were written with the expectation that you'd have to play through them many times to get everything right. It made them last longer (in terms of play time), but also made them incredibly frustrating to play.

One of the philosophical issues I have with a lot of IF--which I've actually discussed with the author of this game--is that I feel you should, at least in principle, be able to complete a run through in a game in one try rather than having to make essentially random trial and error choices. Unsurprisingly, he didn't really agree. (Which there are a lot of in Hitchhiker's. Although I didn't really complete that many Infocom games in general.)

Did he give a logic for this? I speculate in the case of this game, the developers and Adams wanted you to experience as much of the story (and humor) as possible. Failing was part of the fun. Is that the case or was it the case for other games?

Not really.

>Failing was part of the fun.

I think this is part of it. And I think it's hard to have puzzles of sufficient difficulty that good game players would feel they got their "money's worth" out of a game without less advanced players feeling that puzzles were almost insolvable. (Doesn't mean you should really have puzzles that require trial and error though.)

In all fairness to the author, his other games are generally easier and one of them, A Mind Forever Voyaging, really is interactive fiction more than a puzzler.

RE: Failing as part of the fun

Same arguments in AARPGs around picking up gold :)

This is not true.

Adams only co-wrote 2 adventure games (THHGTTG and Bureaucracy), and arguably a graphical adventure (Starship Titanic) much later. It is not really possible to generalise about "his games," there are so few of them.

He was primarily a scriptwriter and reluctant novelist.

I own an original boxed copy of this game, and it is the first program I ever ran on an IBM PC back in 1985. There are no significantly helpful clues in the packaging.

Source: I am the former president of his appreciation society.

I don’t think that applied to HHGTTG—it follows the rules of ordinary interactive fiction, and doesn’t need additional explanation. And I wouldn’t call the game difficult. Difficulty implies that there is skill involved. Instead, it’s just a grind getting through the game figuring out a couple things each time you run through it.

I played it now for the first time ever for about 40 minutes and I agree. It is just trial and error until you get it right by chance. It is just annoying without any logic behind it. I read the tips after the 40 minutes and it confirmed that trial, error and restart is how it is supposed to be played. No fun at all.

I am from the point and click adventure era and thank they evolved the gameplay. Not only graphically, but logically. I am also in favor of “you can’t die” mechanic of Lucas Arts.

I once played this game called KGB[1].

That takes 1st place as the most difficult adventure game I played. It was merciless and a mistake from a couple of scenes ago could lead to you dyeing far down the line. Masochistic, but I found the challenge fascinating. Did not manage to finish it though.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KGB_(video_game)

Ah the memories... Indeed KGB was brutal. However, it was also pretty badly balanced because the first half of the game was much more difficult than the second half which made it very frustrating.

This game is delightful, but not enough people know that this game also has a great hintbook, the "Invisiclues" (which you can find in various places all over the internet).

Did you know that Douglas Adams also contributed to the Invisiclues? Even if you've already beaten the game, you may enjoy skimming over them; they're quite funny.

That's a lucky thing, too, because I think the general consensus among even expert players of interactive fiction is that this game doesn't really provide enough clues to help you solve some of its puzzles (especially the final puzzle); it doesn't "play fair."

And that's the other great thing about Invisiclues: you don't have to spoil the whole game. You can just look at one hint at a time until you have enough information to solve the puzzle you're currently working on.

The "no tea" puzzle was one I could not complete without help. The rest were hard, but doable

The one with the ... was it the fucking sandwich?... If you ate it, you only found out you could not complete the game much, much later? I played the entire game again from the beginning because of that

The original hints are included with this game, near the bottom of the description.

I don’t remember this one. But Douglas Adams was involved in another adventure game with “stunning” graphics called starship titanic. I got a good way through and the characters were fun (some Monty python voices..)


Wonder how it holds up.

It's got a lot of interesting humour, but the while ostensibly a graphic adventure a lot of the game relies on text chat with "chat bot" type logic that was a questionable choice even at the time, and hasn't aged well since.

The game was published by traditional book publisher Simon & Schuster in a very brief foray into videogames. The smartest decision they made was requiring the game to have a novel adaptation (and audiobook of that novel), and the second smartest thing they did was include a copy of the novel and a portion of the audiobook as a feely in the game package for many preorders.

My recommendation is to track down the novel adaptation and audiobook and enjoy them. (Written and voiced by Monty Python alum Terry Jones.) They were superior to the game experience in a number of ways.

ooh neat! i never knew there was an audiobook for it. found it on youtube:


Tangentially related -- but I love to share this -- I once read a post on metafilter [1] by a developer of that game. Of particular interest is that there was a secret in-game internet forum that developed a real community and that he continued to host on his servers after it went offline. The post is really one of my favorite things on the internet because it really touches on the way games could impact people and the best things about the internet.

[1]: https://www.metafilter.com/98848/The-Post-That-Cannot-Possib...

One of the Starship Titanic developers is also the person who converted this Hitchhikers game to run on the BBC servers.

I excitedly bought that game when it came out, only to find that it wouldn't run on my Windows NT 4 system. Never got to play it.

Wow! Thank you!

My pleasure. Enjoy! ;)

It's on Steam now

If you liked Vogon poetry, you may also enjoy Adams' other game, Bureaucracy.


I loved this game, for the same reason other people hated it - to complete it you had to have made the right moves, grabbing the right items, even having the right timing on the ship to finish the puzzles. To complete it without any type of help or walkthrough meant experiencing it like "Groundhog Day", playing through many, many times, trying new things each time.

It got to the point that I could whip through the early puzzles in a few minutes, and then spend all my time going through the odd dream-like sequences on the ship, getting the tea made, etc. I never did finish the last puzzle of the game and get the door open, but I read later it also was a timing problem where you had to have completed all the earlier puzzles before Marvin came by to open the door.

In any case, I really did enjoy it as a kid.

Amazing game, bringing back lots of memories.

The complete source is at https://github.com/historicalsource/hitchhikersguide

Oh my! We spent a fair bit of time playing this on my friend's PCjr in 1986 or so. My main problem with text adventures was interface discovery. What precise verb or noun is the parser looking for?

The first one I recall playing was Adventure for Logo on the C64. Don Hopkins has a great writeup about it here: https://donhopkins.medium.com/logo-adventure-for-c64-terrapi... This article would have blown my mind and changed my world when I was 6. After Adventure, I always wanted to write my own text adventures. The first programs I wrote in c64 basic when I was 6-10 attempted to accomplish this, but I had very little concept of how to write a parser.

The game is great. And really hard. I got stuck on the ship for hours, then I got bored and never came back to the game. But someday in the future I will finish it (without cheating)!

I'm thinking you got stuck where I did. I also refuse to cheat, and every so often fire up the original in DOSbox and have another go. One day I'll crack it.

(No, I am NOT asking HN for help; I am just musing out loud)

There was a (pretty amusing) hint book included and it is also with the online version. I think cheating was likely encouraged. You should read the hint book anyway, once you are done if you do not want to cheat.

The "Eaten by a grue" podcast had been on a mission to replay all Infocom games for 2 years now. The co-hosts are very funny and you do not need to play the games to enjoy listening to them, try it! Here is the one dedicated to The Hitchhiker Guide: https://monsterfeet.com/grue/notes/16

I played this game for a bit a while ago after buying it on gog.com; I encountered some AI-driven bomb voiced by John Cleese that threatened to blow itself up if I kept touching it. This was funny, so I kept touching it of course. Then I was dead.

For some reason I never went back to it after that :-/ I think this was around the time I ditched my Windows desktop and I can't really be arsed with Wine.

That's a different game! You're thinking of Starship Titanic.

A game which, if you manage to complete contains what can only be described best as Duglas Adam's obituary, otherwise found here:


You are completely right. I was wondering why I couldn't find it face palm.

Steam on Linux does all that for you now. Just enable compstability in the settings menu.

Dealing with Steam is even more of a pain than dealing with Wine.


I caught the babelfish.

I actually had a T-shirt in the 80's that said "I got the Babel Fish". Bought it out of the back of some computer magazine(maybe Compute!)?

The original game came with some very cool props that I wish I still had. Peril Sensitive Sunglasses (Do not wear while driving.), A microscopic space fleet in a plastic bag, some lint, and a "Don't Panic" button.

The most insane puzzle is the airlock stuff on the VOGON ship. I actually lost interest because the game is too fleeting and strictly impossible sans walkthrough.

I remember spending so much time just typing things in. I played this game long before I could touch type.

This is a great game but not many people know that The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy is also a book.

I'm going to assume that this is sarcasm, because:

1. All of the books made it to the bestseller lists

2. The radio series on BBC was a cultural phenomenon

3. Douglas Adams is the canonical author for "can anyone write an SF comedy which is funny?"

Without a doubt, if it wasn't for Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and even Neil Gaimen probably would have struggled to get published (and lots of other copycats).

What has Gaiman wrote that is funny? I've read a few of his things but all serious-business graphic novels.

What? Really?

Well, for a start, the hilarious _Good Omens: the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, witch._ Co-written with Terry Pratchett, also a great radio serial and a wonderful TV series from about 3 years ago.

Secondly, multiple superb novels, such as _Stardust_ and _Coraline_, both adapted into successful feature films; _Neverwhere_, a low-budget British TV series; and _American Gods_, a huge, big-budget TV series.

Everything he has written has a rich vein of humour. Even perhaps the most tragic of the Sandman series, _Death: The Sound of her Wings_.

"You keep doing that, you know what you're going to get? "FAT PIGEONS!"

I don't watch tv. I'll check out the novels you've pointed me to, thanks.

No more do I. In fact, I live in a country where I do not speak the local language well enough to even _understand_ broadcast TV.

This is more a matter of general cultural awareness, I would say. Gaiman's writing career goes back to _Don't Panic_, a book _about_ the Hitchhiker's Guide some 30 years ago now. He is a lot more than just a comics writer.

Anyway. I hope you try some of the books and enjoy them. I would say that he is perhaps more of a fabulist than a novelist -- a lot of his novels to me strike me as being akin to fairy tales, myths or legends, but with a fine modern sensibility.

Yeah I will. I mean, I like him I just didn't really associate him with humor in particular. Will be interesting to see what he has to offer.

Fair enough. Most of the books aren't really comedies, as such. _Good Omens_ definitely is, though, and for me, it remains hilarious after 31 years. One of my very favourite novels after THHGTTG itself.

I would probably suggest reading it before watching the series, if you were so inclined -- it's very good indeed, but strongly aimed at the readers of the book. It's a bit wordy in places.

The radio adaptation was also excellent: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04knt4h

It has cameos by both Gaiman and Pratchett. A sample from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_LMCx9nfAk

Some samples...

“There are some dogs which, when you meet them, remind you that, despite thousands of years of man-made evolution, every dog is still only two meals away from being a wolf. These dogs advance deliberately, purposefully, the wilderness made flesh, their teeth yellow, their breath a-stink, while in the distance their owners witter, "He's an old soppy really, just poke him if he's a nuisance," and in the green of their eyes the red campfires of the Pleistocene gleam and flicker.”

“She was convinced that she was anorexic, because every time she looked in the mirror she did indeed see a fat person.”

“God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”

His novels -- American Gods, Graveyard Book, et al. -- are in the same vein of clever and British humo[u]r as Adams'. Whether they are funny or not will depend on the reader.

It was sarcasm.

The OG UK show is on Hulu right now. Just watched it last week.

I loved this as a kid and am excited to be able to play it again. They let you create an account to save your progress.

information about the sequel that was never finished:


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