It's difficult to create a game based on a popular movie or book license, more so if the book in question happens to be Douglas Adams' very unique The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Infocom was faced with remaining faithful to the book's offbeat style of illogical logic to please fans, while making the game playable for gamers who haven't been exposed to the unconventional brand of logic. The designers almost pull it off with this text adventure for the PC.
Fans of the book will likely be enormously pleased. The writing in the game is reminiscent of the wit and charm found in the book and continually makes amusing references to the content of the literary version. The writing is quite humorous in its own right, and it's definitely worth trying silly things and even dying a few times just to see the results. While the game follows the book's plot and portrays most of the events, it also has enough in the way of changes and new elements that make you feel as if you're playing the main character in the story, rather than just reading about him.
The design of the puzzles is also closely related to the book, which is famous for having a style of logic that would make perfect sense only if you were completely bonkers. The puzzles reflect that same style of logic. Many of them are also quite devious, and require solving multiple smaller problems in order to build to a real solution for the main puzzle.
Conversely, the puzzle design is also the very element that makes the game difficult to play for people who haven't read the book. The game delves immediately into its offbeat brand of logic, so players without a rudimentary knowledge of the book's plot are at a disadvantage and will likely feel frustrated and clueless. Often, seemingly logical actions lead to nothing but bad results.
In at least one instance, there's an apparently inconsequential, even pointless, action you must perform to keep the game from entering a non-winnable state. Unfortunately, the game doesn't prompt you, and there are no in-game clues indicating the need for the action, which is directly based on an action performed by Arthur Dent, a character in the book. Without this forehand knowledge, you may find yourself in a dead-end.
There are two problems on which both fans and non-fans of the book will agree. The first is the game's short nature. With only 31 locations, the game is dwarfed by other text adventure titles not only from Infocom but other companies as well. The puzzle difficulty keeps you from blasting quickly through the game, but the dearth of locations hurts the play length value. Secondly, the game doesn't actually have an ending. At the end, the story abruptly ends with "To be continued," forcing you to wait for a sequel. Leaving a story dangling with a cliffhanger is fine if you intend to revisit the events after a commercial break, or after the next chapter in a book, but it's bad form to end an entire game with nothing resolved.
Despite its two flaws, fans of the book will find The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to be a very entertaining experience, thanks to the strength of its writing, its wit and charm, and the unique puzzle logic. If you haven't read the book, though, a trip to your local dentist will most likely be more pleasant than the gameplay experience you'll get from the game.
Graphics: It's a text adventure.
Sound: It's a text adventure.
Enjoyment: The game has excellent writing, lots of humor, and well-designed puzzles with lateral logic twists.
Replay Value: The replay value is higher than normal for a text adventure thanks to the amount of hidden humor found if one takes the time to dig around and try different things.
You are Arthur Dent, an Englishman with a bad hangover wearing a dressing gown containing a much needed buffered analgesic and some fluff. Your house has just been destroyed, followed shortly thereafter by your planet Earth (mostly harmless). You've been rescued by your friend Ford Prefect, who's not actually an out-of-work actor. He has given you a book (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), a towel, and is now telling you to put a fish in your ear. It must be a Thursday; you've never quite gotten the hang of Thursdays.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is written by Douglas Adams and Steven Meretzky and based on Adams' BBC radio series, television series, and the series of subsequent novelizations. It's one of the classic Interactive Fiction games produced by Infocom, labeled as Science Fiction and has a Standard Level of Difficulty. Though divergent from the source material, the main characters, locations, and concepts are here. Unlike the book, death can come quickly if Arthur fails to observe his surroundings, collect inventory, talk to people, and consult the Guide. DON'T PANIC!
Original C=64 Grey Box Contents: Megadodo Publications Advertising Booklet for your very own Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy complete with Fluff, Destruct orders for your home and planet, a nice red button with the words DON'T PANIC printed in large yellow letters, a pair of Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses, No Tea, and your very own Microscopic Space Fleet. All this can be yours, for the low, low price of only 59.99 Altairian Dollars.
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