On 8 March 1978, BBC 4 broadcast the very first episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and a phenomena was born. Here was a series that made tea, dressing gowns, two headed president aliens, and knowing where your towel is cool again. The world would never be the same.
Then in September 1984 Infocom, the creators of that wonderfully addictive text game Zork, released an equally sleep depriving game in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy based on said series and created in conjunction with Douglas Adams. Now the BBC has announced that the game will be re-released in a remastered HD format on the BBC 4 Extra website on 8 March.
For those of you that remember this game you’ll also recall how deviously difficult it was to complete. Playing mostly as Arthur Dent you interact with the story in recreating the events of the radio/TV drama. Any wrong turn and death would claim you in some spectacularly interesting ways. But it was so much fun to find out how you could die in this game.
As you can see from the photo above Infocom really loved this game. They included several ‘feelies’ in the form of Peril Sensitive Sunglasses that kept you from seeing danger, the order to destroy Earth in Vogon, the order to destroy Arthur Dent’s home, a microscopic space fleet, a bit of pocket fluff, an advertising brochure for the fictional Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a Don’t Panic pin, and a liquid that is almost, but not entirely, unlike tea (not pictured). I would have loved to been in the room when the creators were discussing adding these to the game box.
While in 1984 I did not own a home computer, my school had a battery of Commodore PETs that ran the DOS version of the game quite nicely. For weeks I booked time in the computer lab at lunch, after school, or whenever I got a spare moment and I worked at this game. It was such a thrill just to reach the point where I figured out how to get the Babel fish in my ear. If I had had any money at this time I would have written and sent away for the ‘I got the Babel Fish’ t-shirt offered by Infocom at the time. It may seem a little much to be such a fan of a simple text game, but as a fan of the radio series, television series, and books, it was only natural for me to fall into instant nerd love for this game.
For anyone that has never played a text only interactive game this may seem completely mad, but I’ll tell you that if you just try the game (or one of Infocom’s other fantastic titles) a little bit, I’m quite sure even the most ardent Xbox/Playstation fan will become hooked. In fact, parents might want to put the challenge to their kids to try the game to get them away from the high action titles they’re probably addicted to at the moment. Who knows, they might even be inspired to read the books.
In addition to releasing this remastered version of the classic game, on 8 March BBC will also begin airing the first two series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on BBC 4 Extra. If you’ve not heard the original radio dramas do yourself a favour and tune in.
For those of you that can’t wait until 8 March you can play the 20th anniversary version of the game here, or a java version at douglasadams.com, or for a more authentic experience go to ebay and get yourself a vintage computer and a copy of the original game. In any case, have fun and don’t forget where your towel is you Hoopy Frood.