BBC Radio 4 Has Zarked Up 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' Text Game For Its 30th Anniversary

You kids today with your fancy RPG and MMO and LMNOP video games would lose your sh*t if you knew that a long, long time ago in this very same universe, we used to play computer games that featured nothing but words. No graphics, no music, just words. It was a Choose Your Adventure lifestyle that people led in the 1980s, and one of the biggest games that ever existed was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was a difficult and often maddening game that made grown men curse their own worthless brains for not being able to pick up on subtle hints while making seemingly simple decisions to advance the game’s plot, and people loved every second of it.

This was radical – a computer game you could control by typing in commands. The game would then 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.

It therefore stands to reason that any game which combined a really good programmer with a really good writer was likely to do well. So when Steve Meretzky of Infocom got together with Douglas Adams to create a game based around the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the result was never going to be less than interesting and more than likely insane. (Via BBC 4 Extra)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the game that sold more than 350,000 copies way back in 1984 before falling victim to the new eras of video gaming, each one fancier and snazzier than the next. In order to properly celebrate it, BBC Radio 4 Extra has dusted off the original version, taken the previous additions of the 20th anniversary Flash game, and whipped it all together into a newer, equally maddening HTML5 game that you can play on their site. Only, this time they added a few things that are totally unnecessary but still quite delightful.

We were able to build in a larger, handier interface, with additional keys and functionality, and build in the ability to tweet from the game.

Then things started to get silly. Having covered the basics, we decided to slip in an ‘Any’ key, just because we could. The $, % and ^ symbols were replaced with new ones for the Altarian Dollar, Flanian Pobble Bead and the Triganic Pu, not because they are needed in the game, but just because we felt like it. We then decided that rather than having a simple functionality where the user could tweet, we would allow the game itself to tweet, based on the actions of users in the game.

Now, if you’re like me and remember being furious over how obnoxiously hard this game was back then, I’ve gone ahead and provided you a little assistance to get Arthur Dent’s adventure underway. Sure, it’s not as fun to use a walkthrough, but you’ll be begging for it after the first hour.