Did you know 42 is the ASCII code for *?
Many, many years ago when I was a young lad, playing PC adventure games was very different from today.
For a start, they had no real graphics – they were all text based. The early games that had ASCII art were mind-blowing at the time. We also didn’t have the internet. If you couldn’t figure it out, you were stuck. Get lucky, and a hint book would be published or a guide in a magazine, but these were rare.
So sitting on my parents Commodore 64, I spent the better part of a week trying to get out of a particular bedroom. No, not the room where the computer was. It was the bedroom of one Arthur Dent, and the game was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
That’s right. Douglas Adams (already a programmer) and Steve Meretzky transferred the amazing book into a full-blown game. But while it was fan service, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was far from a cash grab.
From a review point, this is a 35ish-year-old adventure game based on a cult sci-fi story. Gameplay wise, think of it as the Dark Souls of adventure games. There is a reason why it took 10-11 year old me a week to get out of the first room. And that was after it had been out for two years!
The story is one we know already, but as you are guiding Arthur there are plenty of new twists and areas to enjoy. The command interpreter at the time was already fairly advanced as well, and it holds up today. There are no controls to speak of other than typing ‘Walk South’ or ‘Get Toothbrush’.
Bottom line though this is an early text adventure. As fun as it is, it’s not comparable to games made today. Replaying Hitchhiker’s Guide was great for a diversion, but I wouldn’t play it over The Witcher.
Purely from a nostalgia perspective, I am so happy this game exists. The remake is the same text adventure tidied up with a nicer interface and some cute images. Even this ‘upgrade’ is a throwback to the old classic style of early adventure games, and it makes me smile.
I wasn’t joking – even if you know the source material intimately, this is a tough game to finish. The act of getting out of the house stumped younger me for ages. Later in the game, you have one chance to get the Babel Fish – fail, and you cannot win the game.
And that’s just two areas that readers will be familiar with. There are many ways the game will put you in a situation you can’t win. The problem with this is you can play for while without knowing you have already failed. Or it will only kill you. This at least is a quick conclusion to a situation 🙂
The best way to understand the game though is to play it. And you can anytime – it’s free on the BBC website! I wasn’t aware of this until this week, and I am kicking myself that I have been missing out!
You can log in and have tweets put out on your progress, and you can save your game. The execution is slick, the game remains fun, and it is a window to how we used to game. If you like the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, this will be a great treat for you as well.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 30th Anniversary
This article has been light on review. How do you try to get people excited about a 30+ year old text game without spoiling it?
But the game holds up well, and I don’t want to spoil any of it – especially as you can play it right now. For free. And unlike a lot of other browser experiences I have come across, you can fully save and load your progress. This means you can have the full experience, in a nicer format than in the 80s.
If you like adventure games and a challenge, go to the site and bookmark it. You will enjoy it.
Until next time,
- An old classic that still holds up
- Browser game format works well
- Comes with hints (unlike on the C64!)
- Can see the seeds of todays adventuring standards
- The game is designed to be hard
- New gamers may not see the appeal