Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 30th Anniversary Review

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HHGTTGCoverArt
Released 1984
Platform Web Based
Publisher Infocom (now Activision – Website)
Developer Infocom (now Activision – Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Text-based adventure

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.

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This was Commodore 64 basic text adventure - this is how we rolled back then!

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.

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This is as welcoming as the game gets. It does not hold your hand!

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 ūüôā

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.

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I can now get outside in less than a minute - progress!
JohnHQLD
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 30th Anniversary

Summary

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,

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  • ¬†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

Cons

  • ¬†The game is designed to be hard
  • ¬†New gamers may not see the appeal

Return of the Tentacle Prologue – a free, fan made unofficial sequel!

Return of the Tentacle Feature

And you thought you were a tentacle fan?

So talking about games that you play for years, today is a similar topic.  Not a game that you can play for years and it changes with you, but a game that you just go back and play again and again.

I have a few of these.¬† Services like GoG have allowed me to go back and revisit some great old classics.¬† Gold Box SSI D&D Games like the Forgotten Realms series or the Eye of the Beholder trilogy.¬† Games that by today’s¬†standards are ugly, clunky and simplistic – but I still love them.¬† If you can see past the graphical limitations of the day, there are true storytelling gems from the old days.

And the remaster craze as well lets me play some of those games with new polish and shine.  Lucasarts games especially have come good with this, with games like Full Throttle and Grim Fandango getting a new life not only on PC but consoles as well.

One of these games I love is Day of the Tentacle.¬† If you release Day of the Tentacle for a platform I own, it’s pretty much a guaranteed buy.¬† So when the remaster came out, I bought it on both PC and PlayStation 4.

According to my PSNProfiles, I spent a massive 4 hours getting the platinum on that one.¬† As the very first trophy I got was ringing the bell 100 times (if you played it, you know what I mean), I am guessing I had a trophy list read.¬† I have played it so much that I don’t need a walkthrough, I just enjoy an afternoon.

And an Easter Egg of sorts in both the original and remastered version is the inclusion of the original game РManiac Mansion.  One game lets you play some gaming history right there!

Day of the Tentacle Remastered Letter Delivery
If you don't know Maniac Mansion, the intro doesn't make sense. But back then, we were much more 'go with it' than today

Personally, I prefer the original graphics style, even on my 4K TV.  But that is one of those preference choices you can flip between, and I never had the CD version with all the voice acting, so that was a great bonus for me with the remaster.

With the dissolution of the Lucasarts gaming team that made such games years and years ago, fans knew we were never getting the third game.

Well – officially we knew.¬† Over on itch.io, a team known as ‘Catmic’ have taken things into their own hands and created Return of the Tentacle – Prologue.

Windows, Mac or Linux the free game is a 1GB download.  I am going to play it.  This is going to be fun!

You jump straight in with no installation necessary (well, on Windows anyway).  The music and setup are very reminiscent of Day of the Tentacle and instantly put me in the mood to play.

Firing up the Return of the Tentacle for a cheeky look on my Surface Pro 3, the game runs smoothly.¬† The are style is very close to the remastered version of Day of the Tentacle, with no option for ‘classic’ mode.¬† This isn’t a dealbreaker for me, it was just something I instantly looked for.

Return of the Tentacle Intro Letter
The intro and setup is very close to Day of the Tentacle, which bought an instant smile to my face

But the style is there.¬† The humour for the opening minutes that I had a look at feels right.¬† Even the voice acting is fitting.¬† It’s not perfect (this is a fan made game after all) but Bernard’s voice is fitting, and just off enough to fit the feel the game but not be annoying.

Return of the Tentacle Gameplay
The contols are different, but again not enough to pull you out of the feel of the series

The instant huge change is the control system though.¬† It looks slick, but it’s definitely not the SCUMM engine.¬† If the name doesn’t sound familiar to you, SCUMM stands for ‘Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion’, and became almost the default control system for Lucasarts point and clicks.

Having a very quick look around the lounge room, the controls seem intuitive and clear.¬† The only time I really worry about the controls changing is when they change for the worse, and that doesn’t seem to be happening here.

But even just watching the intro and exploring the room, when you look at the lounge of Return of the Tentacle compared to the lounge from Day of the Tentacle above, it’s obvious the time and care that has gone into the creation of the game.

The only thing I am a little worried about with Return of the Tentacle is Lucasarts is now owned by Disney.¬† Disney loves the lawyer up tactic, and I am really hoping this game isn’t targeted by them.¬† Since going live a couple of days ago, there have already been two updates.¬† The team is obviously committed¬†to this project, and I hope it continues.

I am really looking forward to playing Return of the Tentacle, maybe over the weekend, but probably next weekend.

Why so far away?¬† Well, for the site basically.¬† I am thinking of recording the gameplay.¬† Not just for Return of the Tentacle, but for a lot of those older games I mentioned previously.¬† I don’t really have time to sit and play a lot of the newer games at a time that makes the viewing new and cool, but I have a collection of games older than most streamers these days ūüôā

What do you think?  Does the idea of watching me (or a couple of us) play old school games appeal?  Let me know!

In the meantime, head over to the itchi.io page and grab a copy of Return of the Tentacle for yourself!  If you want to see where it all started, then on PC grab a copy of Day of the Tentacle Remastered from GoG or Steam (wait for the sales this holiday for the best deals!)

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Plaid Hat seems to know people like free stuff

Stuffed Fables Box Art

Stuffed Fables – the story that just keeps on giving

I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of Stuffed Fables yet, so all of my impressions are based on videos and information on the internet. But everything I am seeing has me excited to be giving it a good play through. I have played a couple of games of Mice and Mystics but didn’t take the whole plunge for various reasons. By all accounts this is a simpler game better to play with younger children, which is an area of my collection that is a little lacking. I have some very simplistic games, but not much that 8-9-year-olds can play without a lot of hand-holding because of things like being text heavy.

In short, Stuffed Fables is advertised as a ‘Story Book Adventure’. You play as a stuffie, which is one of the stuffed toys tasked with protecting their child from dangers through the night. While the theme may seem fairly light and childlike, don’t be fooled. There are some changes like health is replaced with stuffing, but you are essentially combating nightmare creations through the night. This may be a game suitable for younger children, but at the moment I would say only once you have looked at it yourself. For example, some of the toys are similar to the toys from the bully Sid in Toy Story, and I know some children had issues with those images.

There are seven stories included in the game, and you play through each story even if you ‘fail’, part of the reason why you play a story more than a campaign. There are some fairly standard role-play mechanics involved, as well as resource and dice management.

There are some video game publishers and developers that seem to give you content for years after the initial release. Look at CD Project Red and The Witcher series for example. Yes, there are paid DLC and expansions, and I don’t begrudge paying the people for their hard work if I want more of the game. That said, some groups they give you a huge amount of additional content as well on top of this is an amazing amount of work.

What do these two points have in common? Plaid Hat as a thank you has started releasing some free goodies for those lucky enough to already have a copy of Stuffed Fables!

The first item is a colouring book that also includes some new Stuffies to play with! Download your free colouring book here.¬† Even if you don’t like the game, it’s something cute to colour in ūüôā

The second item is something that can be done easier with some of the apps assisted games but is a very welcome addition. Simply – it’s a new campaign! Download the Lost Stories #1 here.

Check out Stuffed Fables on Board Game Geek here.

Stuffed Fables Box Art
Stuffed Fables Coloring Characters
Stuffed Fables Components
Stuffed Fables Minis from Gen Con

Until next time,

JohnHQLD