Hollywood Hijinx (Infocom/Activision) Review | Zzap - Everygamegoing


Hollywood Hijinx
By Infocom
Commodore 64/128

Published in Zzap #25

Hollywood Hijinx

Well I have to admit that this is not what I would have expected from Infocom at this stage of their illustrious career. Don't get me wrong - it's not a bad game... easily up to their usual praiseworthy standards - but the scenario came as something of a surprise.

Hollywood Hijinx is basically a treasure hunt - at least it is as far as I've progressed with it. A good, ol' fashioned grab-the-artifact number. Forget the Underground Empire, however, as this little ditty takes place in a luxurious Hollywood mansion, left to you by your recently-deceased, fabulously wealthy Aunt Hildegarde.

Well, not quite left to you, actually. In order to inherit limitless wealth, Auntie's will stipulates that you must spend the night in her house, and locate ten treasures within it or around it before morning. That gives you twelve hours of game time, or 720 real life moves. Each treasure is a keepsake from one of Uncle Buddy's movies, which together grossed enough at the box office to keep widowed Auntie in clover until her dying day.

Apart from the usual high standard of programming, parsing and general gamesmanship, the real merits of Hollywood Hijinx lie first in the simplicity of its storyline, and secondly in the way in which the atmosphere so vividly conjures up all the trivia of Tinsel Town. If you have to stay tone in Tone Town, you need to be on first name terms with Sonny Tofts and Douglas Fairbanks - not that you're likely to meet them, it's just that the whole aura of the locations shimmers with reflections from the silver screen.

So there are vast patios for garden parties, doorbells that play movie theme music, statues of Rambo's relatives in the garden, and numerous gadgets and props from assorted B Movies. And of course, amongst all this dross there are ten treasures.

Now we come to the nitty gritty. At least half of these treasures are fairly easy to locate. One of them is even visible without even needing to search for it, but in a style reminiscent of the infuriatingly devious Scott Adams, seeing it is one thing but actually getting your mitts on it is quite another.

However, for the first time ever with an Infocom game, I found myself wondering whether this adventure was not perhaps a little too easy. There's no doubt that getting everything inside 720 moves is pretty nigh impossible on the first attempt, or even on the fifth - but I reckon you might do it on the tenth. And since it doesn't take too long to notch up 720 moves, that leaves me wondering whether there's as much meat here as there is in, say, Hitch Hikers.

For example there is a positively enormous maze, which I reckon must have over 150 locations, and which would normally keep even the most experienced adventurer busy for hours on end. I say normally, because even here the spectre of simple solutions hangs over us - there is actually a map of the maze hidden in the game. I found it within about ten minutes of starting play (whether from luck or from sheer outrageous genius, only comparison with others' attempts will show) but ten minutes to solve a puzzle of that dimension just ain't enough for Ol' Whitney.

Maps apart, however, the size of that maze really puts this game on the... er... map, especially when taken with a host of other appealing puzzles involving cannons, computers, mechanical closets, spinning statues and no end of other gimmickry. You also get those wonderful long text descriptions that Infocom excel at, and that make you wonder why other adventure software houses seem unable to string more than a couple of sentences together without sending half the population to sleep.

So, it's a change from the more recent fashion for lots of communication with other characters and a return to the old sport of inventory-boosting. There are only ten things to get, which sharpens the mind wonderfully, and despite the slight qualms about the ease of the game - at least in the first half - Ol' Whitey reckons that you can't go far wrong with this one at £1.99. Ooops... Silly me, this isn't one of those budget games, is it? That comes next. In the meantime, buy Hollywood Hijinx anyway.