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Video Game / The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984)
aka: The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy

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"It is the first game that moves beyond being user-friendly, it is actually user-insulting and because it lies to the user as well, it is user-mendacious."
Douglas Adams

A 1984 text-based adventure game published by Infocom and yet another adaptation of that wholly remarkable franchise The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The game was co-written by Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky.

It's notorious for being maddeningly difficult and very funny, and stays close to the other versions of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

You can play a 30th anniversary edition online on the BBC's website here. The Digital Antiquarian has articles on making and playing the game.

This game contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Deviation: Reading the original book will help you get through the initial sequence on Earth. Once you're on the Vogon ship, the plot starts deviating to make Arthur the one who does almost everything, instead of being The Load.
  • All There in the Manual: The game spends zero time reintroducing the cast of characters, assuming you're already familiar with them from other appendages of the Hitchhiker's media empire.
    At the controls, apparently expecting you and Ford, are a man with more than the usual number of heads (the name "Zaphod" is stitched on his shirt) and a dark-haired woman, holding a handbag. Both seem somehow familiar.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: After you get the tea substitute and put the dangly bit in it, you can get to the Dark and go to random scenarios, but each one can get you to play as Ford, Zaphod, and/or Trillian.
  • Bag of Holding: This is what the thing your aunt gave you that you don't know what it is actually is. One of the most useful things you can do with it is storing all of the tools.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Virtually all objects everywhere. Except the useless ones. Note: which ones are useless changes a bit from game to game. You're welcome.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: The Thing Your Aunt Gave You Which You Don't Know What It Is. But it's a good thing you couldn't lose it... even when you're not where you were—or who you were, for that matter—when you lost it.
  • Controllable Helplessness:
    • If you die in the beginning section with the bulldozer, the game continues until the earth explodes. Any commands cause the game to respond with “You keep out of this, you’re dead.”
    • When you are in "Dark", your first few commands just being a response that you can see nothing, hear nothing, etc.
  • Doublethink: "Intelligence" is defined as the ability to do this, and the only way to enter Marvin's room is to demonstrate that you have intelligence. Appropriately enough, you ultimately accomplish this by physically removing your common sense, allowing you to carry "tea" and "no tea" at the same time.
    Door: Wow. Simultaneous 'tea' and 'no tea'. You are clearly a heavy-duty philosopher.
  • Early Game Hell: The first parts of the game whirl you through the scenes with very strict time limits to complete your objectives: you're in a Doomed Hometown and the clock is ticking. Once you're aboard the Heart of Gold you can relax and take your time experimenting.
  • Easter Egg: A couple of the footnotes have nothing referring to them; you'll only read them if you're specifically going through all the footnotes.
  • Empty Room Psych:
    • "You can't hear anything, see anything, smell anything, feel anything, or taste anything, and do not even know where you are or who you are or how you got there" seems to be the narrator's catchphrase. If you wait long enough, one of the senses will be eliminated from the list, and using it will help you quite a bit (even if it seems useless at first.)
    • The Engine Room, at least at first. The reason being that the game is still sulking after you insisted on going into the room against its recommendations. After you pester the game with "look" commands for a bit, it finally relents and lets you see what's in there.
    • There are a few rooms or areas that have no use whatsoever, except as window-dressing, and don't even need to be passed through on the way to somewhere else (like the walkways around Arthur's home, or the very nice rooms in the flat where the party takes place—except, of course, the room you start in, which is where all the action takes place).
  • Expospeak Gag: Some items are given a name that's more complex than the everyday name. Top billing goes to the aspirin tablet in the beginning; it's called a "buffered analgesic." Deducing that you're A) starting the game with a hangover and B) swallowing this might help with that problem is the first of many hurdles.
  • Footnote Fever: The footnotes are all accessed by putting in "Footnote 1", "Footnote 2", etc. Because of this you don't have to wait to be prompted with one, you can read them all whenever. After a certain number it starts telling you there is no footnote for that number, and a little past that you get a note saying "Reading all the footnotes is fun, isn't it?"
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "As you pick up the toothbrush a tree outside the window collapses. There is no causal relationship between these two events." After you win the game, it mentions that there was a causal relationship, and apologizes for the mix-up.
    • And the first line in response to an inventory check: "You have: no tea..."
  • Friendly Enemy: The game itself was programmed to emulate this mindset.
    Player: DON'T PANIC
    Game: Why not? Your situation appears quite hopeless.
    Player: PANIC
    Game: Not surprised.
  • Gay Option: The game recognizes commands to kiss and enjoy characters of either gender... but it just tells you that this isn't that kind of game. Sorry, slash fans.
    "This is family entertainment, not a video nasty."
  • Guide Dang It!: On a couple of levels. For one thing, many of the puzzles have no clues except for the in-game Hitchhiker's Guide, and the articles they're found in are sometimes something no one would think to look up on their own ("Brownian Motion"?). For another, said puzzles are often Nintendo Hard anyway, and if you mess any of them up, the game will become unwinnable. Then again, reading the books (including the sidenotes) will help with some of the puzzles.
  • Have a Nice Death:
    • One of them goes on for several screens, reacting to whatever you try to type with "You keep out of this, you're dead."
    • Another one reads:
    "Your serious allergic reaction to protein loss from matter transference beams becomes a cause celebre among various holistic pressure groups in the Galaxy and leads to a total ban on dematerialisation. Within fifty years, space travel is replaced by a keen interest in old furniture restoration and market gardening. In this new quieter Galaxy, the art of telepathy flourishes as never before, creating a new universal harmony which brings all life together, converts all matter into thought and brings about the rebirth of the entire Universe on a higher and better plane of existence. However, none of this affects you, because you are dead."
  • Hub Level: When you reach the Heart of Gold, you should have the equipment to visit each other location in the game. After completing those locations, you will return to the Heart of Gold.
  • In the Future, We Still Have Roombas: They make getting the Babel Fish considerably more difficult than it should be.
  • Left Hanging: The game ends when you disembark on Magrathea. Plans for a sequel fell through due to many factors.
    Slowly, nervously, you step downwards, the cold thin air rasping in your lungs. You set one single foot on the ancient dust — and almost instantly the most incredible adventure starts which you'll have to buy the next game to find out about.
  • Logic Bomb: Until you are able to acquire a cup of tea, your inventory will always have the item "no tea". But it's not just a cruel reminder of your refreshment deprivation - it is an object in your inventory. You can't drop it, you can't do anything with it. However, once you fix the drink dispenser on the Heart of Gold, you can acquire "tea", and "no tea" will be dropped. For the reasons listed under Doublethink, you need to have both.
  • The Many Deaths of You: There are an insane number of ways to die, and pretty much all of them garner you a snarky message.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When you issue a command the game doesn't recognize, it makes a note of it, then later informs you that when you typed in that command, you inadvertently plunged a far-distant galaxy into a terrible war, which caused the races involved to unite in an intended war of genocide against your home planet.note  Later becomes a Brick Joke (and opens up a few additional ways to die—but also is required to pass a significant puzzle in the game.)
  • One Password Attempt Ever: Entering the wrong password to open the case containing the atomic vector plotter on the Vogon ship will make the case explode, killing you.
  • One-Time Dungeon: Once you complete the sublocations, revisiting them generally causes an insta-kill that sends you back to the Heart of Gold. Unfortunately, there's one that causes a You Are Already Dead situation for you if you've completed it.
  • Perception Filter: The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal is affected by wearing a towel, which activates its feature of "if you can't see it, it can't see you". The player then needs to trick it into thinking it already ate you, although making too much noise means it's aware there's an invisible creature around.
  • Porn Stash: There's nothing useful under the bed, but there is something that can't be described in a family-friendly game.
  • Press Start to Game Over: If you fail to get out of your house in about twenty moves, you die. Thus setting the tone for the other 99 percent of the game.
  • Press X to Die:
    • It is not a good idea to type "escape" when you are imprisoned, strapped down or lost in the dark. It works!... fatally.
    • Typing "kill self" and the like does exactly that, with the game itself saying nothing more than a "Done." about it.
  • Reality-Breaking Paradox: If you end up inside your own head again after you have removed your common sense, you'll kill yourself because this time you're normal-sized. It takes a few turns for the death to catch up to you as the player.
  • Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: The Babel Fish puzzle requires placing objects in a way that prevents the Babel Fish from being removed from the room (e.g. cover a hole, trip a cleaning robot)
  • Supporting Protagonist: It can be helpful to ask the game at certain points, "Who am I?" Because the answer is likely to change without notice.
  • Temporal Paradox: You'll revisit the same events from the viewpoint of different characters, alter the past through things you haven't done yet, and just generally give causality a good pantsing.
  • Troll: The game was intended by Infocom to actively — and subtly — mock the gamer and drive them nuts. They succeeded.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: Giant parts of the game. You have a headache? Take an aspirin. After taking it out of your dressing gown pocket. After opening the pocket. After putting the dressing gown on. After turning on the light. After getting up out of bed. Oh, and realizing that the "buffered analgesic" is aspirin.
  • Unreliable Narrator: As if the game wasn't hard enough already, the narrator will sometimes lie outright about what's going on.
    Game: You are in the engine room for the Infinite Improbability Drive. It is uninteresting. There is nothing to see here.
    Player: LOOK
    Game: I'm serious! There's nothing to see here!
    Player (since this room is what one might call 'crucial' to what one might call 'winning'): LOOK
    Game: Okay, okay. There are a few things to see here.
  • Unwinnable by Design: The player can render the game unwinnable easily and without warning. For instance, there are two entirely separate ways in which it is possible to get all the way to the end of the game and then learn that the game is now unwinnable because of something you didn't do right at the start.
    1. One thing you need to do at the start, but probably won't think of if somebody doesn't warn you, is giving a dog a sandwich. Yes, giving a dog a sandwich. Apparently you can also have Ford do it when you revisit that event later, at least indirectly; if you buy a cheese sandwich as Ford and then give it to Arthur, he'll toss it to the dog as he runs back to his home.
    2. There are about a dozen tools hidden throughout the game, and Marvin will need one of these tools to help you. Two of these tools are in your soon-to-be-demolished house at the beginning (don't worry; if you take every item you see in the house before leavingnote , you'll have both). You can only bring one tool to the necessary location because of the tight space, and the game will randomly pick the one you don't have. Even if you use the plant to pre-determine which tool is necessary, the game will still prioritize inaccessible tools.
    • Then there's also the part with the whale scene. You need to get the flowerpot and get out of the stage quickly. Although you may be tempted to wait until you get splattered against the surface of Magrathea, you should NEVER do so, since getting splattered and then returning to the Heart of Gold means that you lose all your items that weren't worn or stored in the Bag of Holding; and that means you could lose most of the tools or fluff or flowerpot, rendering the game totally unwinnable. The solution? Press the Big Red Button on the remote device to summon a robot, show it the device's guarantee, then press the green "hitchhike" button to return to the dark with all of your items intact. Backup solution is to put everything you have in the Thing and wait it out.
    • If you successfully complete the task in Arthur's own brainnote , then end up inside it again via a Dark sequence, you end up killing yourself by materializing inside at normal size. Since the Dark sequences are at least somewhat randomized and not changeable when using the Advanced Tea Substitute, this can be rather annoying. Funnily enough, one of the ways to avoid doing so is to do one of the actions above that would normally render the game unwinnable in another way, then undoing it. Fail to give the dog a sandwich as Arthur initially, then after you get the tea and hook it up to the atomic vector plotter, give a cheese sandwich to Arthur as Ford during his sequence. Some potentially Unwinnable sequences can only be accessed after getting the tea, which allows some control over which situation you end up in, but not this one.

Alternative Title(s): The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy