The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Video Game

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy isn’t only a beloved radio show, novel, stage show, and film: it is also a popular video game. Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky of Infocom created the game in 1984; the BBC updated it in 2004 and a 30th-anniversary edition was released in 2014. All versions were immensely successful.

The 1984 version, released for Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore 64, CP/M, MS-DOS, Atari 8-but, and Atari ST, was notable for its time because it was a game where the player typed in commands and the game would, as the BBC’s history explains, “respond to your commands with a breathtakingly prescient understanding of your intent. Or not. Usually not - the early text parsers (circa 1977) weren't that bright. But, as long as you limited yourself to what the game understood and the game designers wrote creatively enough to misunderstand you in a humorous and entertaining fashion, it all worked.” The plot of the game roughly follows that of the novel, but it ends as Arthur and friends are about to step onto Magrathea.

The player is Arthur, and she has to solve a number of puzzles to complete objectives to win the game. There is seemingly little objective, though the inventory of “tea” is empty, which needs to be rectified. Players are able to use the Guide in some cases to garner information that may help with puzzles. Other puzzles require a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the novel/radio show.

The game was beloved for its irreverent humor and devious, vexing puzzles (The Verge writes, “…you really have to work to find those funny bits. Not because they're infrequent, but because figuring out how to do just about anything in the game is incredibly challenging. Just getting Arthur out of his bedroom in the opening scene is hard [hint: take the pill, it will make you feel better]”), and over 400,000 copies were ultimately sold. It was also reviewed favorably by gaming publications, and in 1996 Computer Gaming World named it #42 (appropriately) on its list of the top 150 video games of all time.

The 2004 BBC version warns, “The game will kill you frequently. It’s a bit mean like that.” It was still a text game with limited graphics but was also successful, raising traffic to BBC’s Radio 4 website by 1000% and earning the designers a BAFTA. In 2014 the game designers shifted from Flash to HTML5, built a larger interface, added additional keys, and allowed tweeting from the game.