"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.
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 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.)
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.
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.
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.
>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.
Same arguments in AARPGs around picking up gold :)
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 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.
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.
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.
Wonder how it holds up.
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.
Looks like it's being maintained.
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.
The complete source is at https://github.com/historicalsource/hitchhikersguide
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.
(No, I am NOT asking HN for help; I am just musing out loud)
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.
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.
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?"
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?
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.
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:
It has cameos by both Gaiman and Pratchett. A sample from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_LMCx9nfAk
“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.”