The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
By Infocom
Commodore 64/128

Published in Computer & Video Games #43

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Before you are put off buying a copy of the game of the book of the TV series by Douglas Adams, let me correct one small point. It does not cost the £5,780,000,004.95 (inc. p&p) quoted, but a mere £34.50 (Atari version). And it does have an advantage over any other form of this great work. You actually get to play the part of the greatest hitch hiker of all time - Arthur Dent.

If you think things are going to be easy because you've read the book, seen it on TV, and heard it on the radio, forget it! Douglas Adams, the mind behind the original guide, has joined forces with Infocom's Steve Meretzky, the intellect behind Sorceror and Planetfall, to create a totally new game scenario that will delight even the most jaded adventurer. In fact, to be successful in Hitchhiker, you must forget all that has been written before and approach this extraordinary Adventure with a clear and uncluttered mind.

The game introduces new concepts into Adventuring which I found to be absorbing, pleasantly amusing and, in one instance, humiliating! I refer to a certain door that defied all the laws of common logic and just refused to open. On consulting the Master for suggestions, Keith only laughed, gloating over the fast that for once I was stuck.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

As you play Hitchhiker, you will come across most of the characters to be foiund in the book. There is Ford Prefect with a satchel full of hitch hiking goodies. Trillian, still as captivating as ever, Zaphod Beeblebrox, as always, in two minds about everything. And, even more self-righteous than in the book, Marvin the Paranoid Android.

There is also a whole host of Syrius Cybernetics Corporation creations, all with Genuine People Personalities. These include the over-protective shipboard computer, a Nutri-matic drinks machine and some very self-centred doors.

The latter, I discovered to my frustration, won't let you pass through unless you can prove without a shadow of a doubt that you can reconcile totally contradictory situations without going completely bonkers. However, once you have mastered the science of Improbability Physics, you will get the opportunity to play the part of anything from a sperm whale to the President of the Galaxy.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

There is another unusual feature in this game which really adds to the humour. Let's face it, it's not every day one comes across an Adventure that will lie and argue with you, just for the sheer hell of it!

The guide itself is rather like a database from which you can glean information at any time simply by asking. It even contains footnotes that make good reading in themselves. Mind you, they do seem to have held some rather wild parties in the guide's technical department, the outcome of which was that some entries have been deleted. As a result, no-one can remember where the back-up tapes are kept, nor indeed, if there ever were any!

As with all Infocom Adventures, the packaging contains lots of little extras that add to the fun. With Hitchhiker comes two sets of demolition orders, one on your beloved dwelling, the other, written in Vogon text, orders the total destruction of a little planet somewhere in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy.

You also get a Don't Panic button badge, peril sensitive sunglasses (which are impossible to see through!) a microscopic space fleet for attacking microscopic civilizations, and that all-important, go-anywhere pocket fluff.

The puzzles to be found in the Adventure are somewhat like its humour, that is, as rich and nutty as my mother's fruit cake - and that's great! To solve them you must throw feasible logic out of the window and start thinking in terms of the unthinkable, the seemingly impossible. In a galaxy of improbability drive ships and whacky robots, anything can happen, and usually does!

One final thought. Whoever it was at Infocom that called this a standard level Adventure, should, as the guide itself has declared, "...be the first against the wall when the revolution comes".