Z-Machine Wednesday: The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (1984)

I’ve been looking forward to writing up a bit on this title, the 14th game released by Infocom, and designed by Douglas Adams (HHGTTG, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Last Chance to See, and The Salmon of Doubt to name just a few.) and Steve Meretzky (Not HHGTTG, Nor Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Nor Last Chance to See, and nothing to do with The Salmon of Doubt. But he did design a ton of classic Infocom games.).

First of all you need to be warned about something concerning this Infocom game…it is incredibly difficult…even though it was given a mere Standard rating. Devious might be a better description of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galazy, the most famous puzzle concerning the Babel fish. In the game when you are in the hold of the Vogon space vessel you must find a way to retrieve said fish from a dispenser, in a set number of turns, with a set number of items in a very, very specific way. You wouldn’t die or anything if you couldn’t get the Babel fish out…but it rendered the game unwinnable.

It was such a stumper that Infocom released these for purchase!

This was the first Infocom title that I also ordered the InvisiClues for…I never even finished this game, that is how tricky it is. Now luckily for me and you, it is available to play online over at Douglas Adams.Com absolutely for free. I thought I was doing pretty well in the game, recalling a few tricks from the back of my cobwebbed data stores…but within 20 moves I was deceased. Thankfully they have an online help section for the game as well!

Now when the game was originally released it sold so well that it was released in a ‘Solid Gold’, only 1 of 5 Infocom titles released as such, which included a built-in hint system…which I could have used. Now from the Wikipedia entry it states that. “On September 21, 2004 the BBC launched the 20th Anniversary Edition to coincide with the initial radio broadcast of the Tertiary Phase. Sporting a Flash user interface, and illustrated by Rod Lord (who also produced the guide animations for the Hitchhiker’s TV series), it won the Interactive BAFTA Award for Best Online Entertainment.”

A big thanks as always to The Infocom Gallery for the awesome scanned images of the Feelies you see below. My favorite is probably the Official Microscopic Space Fleet.

VicSage

Editor at Retroist
Searching through the alleys for useful knowledge in the city of Nostalgia. Huge cinema fanatic and sometimes carrier of the flame for the weirding ways of 80s gaming, toys, and television. When his wife lets him he is quite happy sitting in the corner eating buckets of beef jerky.

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5 thoughts on “Z-Machine Wednesday: The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (1984)

  1. I tell you what, friend. I used that book too…but it didn’t always give you the entire answer to the question. It just put your feet on the right path so you would be able to solve it yourself. I should have that thing still laying around somewhere in the house…maybe I can dig it up and help anyone who might have problems with the game? :)

  2. du8 says:

    this was actually the first infocom game I ever played…I was a big fan of the books…Douglas Adams is probably my favorite author…

    that shirt is awesome!

  3. @du8 It’s true that if you were up on your Adams reading you could get a leg up on the game, but they specifically made certain parts of the game different from the book and more like the radio play to try and trip up the fans a little. :)

  4. melissa says:

    the babel fish had nothing on the cheese sandwich and the little dog. If you didn’t get that right (in the first, what, 20 turns of the game), you didn’t realize you couldnt’ win – actually, you didn’t realize you had MISSED SOMETHING until you were about 70% through.

    I can still remember how to set up the babel fish.

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