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.

Z-Machine Wednesday: The Witness (1983)

Released to store shelves by Infocom in 1983, the Witness was programmed by Stu Galley (SeaStalker, Moonmist), and many fans believe this title is a prequel to Deadline, which was released a year earlier. By the way, Stu Galley was invited into the Mystery Writers of America for his work on Moonmist.

“FEBRUARY 1938, LOS ANGELES. FDR’s New Deal is finally rolling. Hitler’s rolling, too; this time through Austria. But as Chief Detective for a quiet burgh on the outskirts of L.A., you’ve got other fish to fry.

One gilt-edged society dame is dead. And now it looks like some two-bit grifter is putting the screws to her multi-millionaire old man. Then you step in and the shakedown turns ugly. You’re left with a stiff and a race against the clock to nail your suspect… unless you get nailed first!

Nobody said a sordid familiy affair like this was going to be a cinch. Everyone from the knock-out heiress to the poker-faced butler may end up in the slammer before it’s over. Ahead of you is a Gordian knot of motives and alibis. And the only testimony you can trust is that of your own eyes — because you are The WITNESS.”

Unfortunately this is one of the Infocom titles I’ve not had the pleasure of playing for myself, though thankfully I have found it online. A little research turned up that there are two Zork references in the title, one of the feelies included with the game is a matchbook from the Brass Lantern restaurant, which is of course a nod to the light source from Zork. The town where Freeman Linder (The quickly deceased) is named Cabeza Plana, which turns out to be Spanish for Flat Head, which is the name of the Royal Family in Zork.

As always a huge thanks to the Infocom Gallery for the awesome scanned images of the ‘Feelies’ and ‘Browsies’ you see in the gallery below.

Z-Machine Wednesday: Stationfall (1987)

Released by Infocom in 1987, Stationfall marked the the company’s 25th release and is a sequel to the popular Planetfall which was released two years earlier. Steve Meretzky (Planetfall, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Sorcerer) was the genius behind the writing of the title and the game was released just one day before his 30th birthday! Stationfall was also the first Infocom title that had no difficulty level on the box.

Following the events of Planetfall you find yourself with a promotion, instead of Ensign Seventh Class you are now a Lieutenant First Class…but don’t start patting yourself on the back just yet. Sure you aren’t doing menial cleaning chores anymore but now you are doing menial paperwork behind a desk all day. This is how you are rewarded for saving an entire planet, no more than 5 years ago?

Luckily this is an Infocom title so that means before your know it you are trucking through space once again, I mean it, you are driving in a spacetruck to pick up a “Request for Stellar Patrol Issue Regulation Black Form Binders Request Form Forms”. Unfortunately the spacetruck is fully automated so you aren’t actually doing the driving but at least you have been given a robotic companion, the lovable Floyd from Planetfall is back!

Upon reaching the station you find there is something wrong. It is mostly deserted. Except for an Arcturian balloon-like creature…and an Ostrich. Both the creatures are in perfect health which is surprising as the systems in the space station, like those controlling the welders for the station, seem to be intent on causing your grievous harm.

So what happened to the crew on the space station? What about those dangerous automated systems? What is up with the Ostrich and the Acrturian Balloon Creature? You’ll just have to play the title to find out for yourself, won’t you?

As usual a huge thanks to the Infocom Gallery for the scans posted below!