I Played That! #23: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (C64)

This was another game that was eagerly, furiously awaited by my pirate friend Joe and I. I, being a teenage nerd, had devoured and practically memorized the book and watched the BBC series over and over. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this. When we finally got hold of it, I spent the night at Joe’s, brought over my C64, and we worked on solving it.

And it was hard.

Not just Infocom game hard, though it was that. We ran into a problem with one of the first puzzles, a pretty easy one that we couldn’t get around. You fall unconscious and have to regain consciousness. The game tells you something along the lines of, “You can’t see anything, feel anything, taste anything, or hear anything” and you have to do whatever the sense that is missing is. It took us forever to figure this out.

Then you get to the infamous Babel Fish puzzle, in which the act of getting a Babel Fish into your ear is a multi-step process rife with points of failure. I think that’s where we gave up.

Later on, I played it again and got further, but even then it was frustrating. In an attempt to capture the humor of the book, the game does things which I’m sure sounded funny at the time, but ended up just being frustrating, such as lie to the player about exits from a room. You travel through space and time and have to set certain things up in the past to avoid instant death in the future. It’s not so much funny and it’s not so much fun. I don’t think I ever completed it.

Douglas Adams and Infocom would later collaborate on a text adventure called Bureaucracy, which took the “irritate and frustrate the player” feature and ran with it. I had it at some point, but I barely even attempted it.

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