12. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

by Garry Francis of Sydney, Australia

 

Issue 21

May/Jun 86

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Background

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the brainchild of Douglas Adams. It started life in 1978 as a BBC radio series and quickly gained a cult following. From this grew four books, two records, three stage productions, a television series, the promise of a feature length movie and finally, an Adventure from Infocom.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (hereafter referred to as HGG) is set in a very high-tech galaxy with lots of computers, spaceships, robots and other technological marvels. Strange as it may seem, Adams had never even touched a computer when he originally wrote the radio series. His first encounter with a computer was about three years ago. Now he loves them!

After discovering computers, Adams also discovered Adventures and took a particular liking to Infocom's unique style. I believe he approached Infocom and suggested a collaboration to bring HGG to the computer. Infocom normally does all their work "in house", but this particular collaboration must have appealed to their warped sense of humour. So Douglas Adams teamed up with Steve Meretzky (author of Planetfall and Sorcerer) to bring us yet another Infocom classic.

When HGG was released, it became one of the most reviewed and raved about Adventures around. If you believed everything that was said in the reviews without actually playing the game yourself, you would quickly surmise that this is the greatest Adventure of all time! As most people (including myself) are HGG fans, then that's exactly what they would want to hear.

However, after all the hype in the computer press, HGG turned out to be a big disappointment. It is too contrived, too linear (at least until the Heart of Gold) and too illogical to be classed as a good adventure. You spend too much time repeating the same moves over and over again or waiting for events to happen. It's also not as humorous as everybody makes out. All in all, it's a frustratingly slow Adventure which is far too hard for any but the most experienced player. Let's face it. How many people do you know who have actually completed the game? And of those who have completed it, how many did so without any help?

Game playing tips and strategies

As HGG is such a difficult game, I'll devote the rest of this column to overall game playing tips and strategies followed by the usual hints for solving specific problems. I'll try not to give too much away, but do not read any further unless you really need help or you are willing to make the game easier than the designers intended.

Firstly, make sure you read the book (or at least the first half) before you play the game. This will not spoil the game. It will simply make you feel more comfortable with the objects, events and characters in the game and help you solve a couple of the very early puzzles. (I will often refer to the book in the following discussion, but listening to the radio series or records or watching the TV series is an equally valid reference.)

You begin the game playing the part of Arthur Dent. (But don't assume you'll ALWAYS be playing Arthur Dent. Some very strange things will happen in this game.) The first thing to do is throw a little light on the situation, get out of bed and find something for that rotten hangover. This shouldn't be too difficult, as the game gently leads you by the hand all the way. The only word of advice I'll give at this stage is to make sure you collect all the objects you find throughout the game, as you never know when you'll need them.

Sooner or later, you'll discover that a large yellow bulldozer from the local council is about to knock your house down to make way for a bypass. If you've read the book, you'll know how to stop the bulldozer at least temporarily. The following sequence of events is fairly predictable, as it follows the book almost to the letter. I tried everything I could think of to wrench myself out of the predetermined plot, but to no avail. The best advice I can give is to let the game lead you on until you reach the pub.

When you get to the pub, examine everything. If you see something that appeals to you, buy it! Don't let your lack of money be a deterrent. It's just one of the many logical inconsistencies in the game. Apart from this, let the game lead you on in the usual manner.

You may want to save the game when you encounter the small dog. I won't tell you why, but you may appreciate this advice much, much later in the game if you find that you have to start the game over again from this point. Shortly after this, the Vogons will destroy the planet to make way for a hyperspace bypass. (It makes the demolition of your house seem pretty insignificant doesn't it?) If you do the things which enable you to survive this event, you will find yourself in a dark place. This is where you start to encounter some variations from the book.

The dark is a pretty boring sort of place really. However, you'd better get used to it because you'll be spending a lot of time in the dark in this Adventure. You'll probably muddle your way out of it the first couple of times, but later on you should try to master it. More on that later. In the meantime, just remember that you have five senses. I hope you can remember them!

By now, you should be in the Vogon hold, complete with the infamous babel fish dispenser. Once again, allow the story to lead you along for a few moves until Ford gives you the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. When Ford says, "I shouldn't tell you this, but you'll never finish the game without consulting the Guide about lots of stuff", you'd better believe him! You can start by consulting the Guide about the things of immediate concern (like babel fish and Vogons), but don't waste too much time. The Vogon Captain has already dispatched a search party to find you.

You're no doubt aware by now that you need a babel fish. In the book, Ford just pops one in your ear. Unfortunately, Ford must have forgotten the script in this game, for he is now sleeping like a log. You'll have to get the babel fish yourself, but this turns out to be one of the most confounding and humorous puzzles in the game. If you followed my advice to collect everything along the way, you shouldn't have too much trouble. Most people get stuck at the point where the small upper half of the room cleaning robot appears. The solution is simply to confound it by presenting it with more than it can clean up in one go!

Sooner or later, you'll find yourself confronted by the Vogon Captain and (horror of horrors!) some of his poetry. (If you don't have the babel fish in your ear, then it's useless proceeding. Restore a previously saved game and try again.) If you don't like the Captain's poetry, he'll only read one verse, then have you thrown into space. If you DO like his poetry, then let him know. You'll still get thrown into space, but at least you'll get to hear the second verse. (If you don't know why you should be listening to the second verse, then restore a previously saved game and try again.) Remember that a verse has four lines, but the order of the lines and the specific word you require will change from game to game.

You can make use of your new found knowledge while Ford tries to talk the Vogon guard into a change of career. Then it's into the airlock...

Once again, you find yourself in the dark. Just keep your senses about you and DON'T BELIEVE ANYTHING THE COMPUTER TELLS YOU! Next thing you know, you're on the Heart of Gold where you meet Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian (a.k.a. Tricia MacMillan) and Marvin the paranoid android. In one of the major departures from the book, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian go off to the sauna and leave you unattended in the most advanced spacecraft in the galaxy! Strange. Nevertheless, this is a golden opportunity to explore the ship. It's actually your first chance to do what YOU want to do rather than what the program wants you to do. And yet, this is the point where most people get bogged down. Here's a few hints to prevent you losing interest in the game:

  • Forget about the screening door for the time being. The solution to this problem will become obvious towards the end of the game.

  • If the computer's lied to you once, it may do so again. Be persistent!

  • Examine everything and, most importantly, consult the Guide about EVERYTHING including all the objects you've had since the beginning of the game.

Once you have the atomic vector plotter, the spare Infinite Improbability Drive and a source of Brownian motion (you DO have all these items don't you?), the fun really begins. Get everything connected up and working properly, press the switch and ... oh no, not the dark again!

I told you you'd spend a lot of time in the dark! As it turns out, you'll find yourself in the dark every time you use the Infinite Improbability Drive. The first time you use it, you'll probably end up confronting the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. From then on, it seems to be somewhat random unless you can find a better source of Brownian motion! Fortunately, the key to this lies on Traal, but you'll only find it if you can beat the Bugblatter Beast. (The Bugblatter Beast is another of the many logical inconsistencies in the game. It is supposed to be one of the most stupid creatures in the galaxy, yet it can talk and write and maintains a database of its victims!)

The game has eight scenarios, each of which is accessed from the dark. By the time you return from Traal, you will have visited four of these (i.e. Arthur's village, the Vogon spaceship, the Heart of Gold and Traal). You can now attempt to visit the others using the Infinite Improbability Drive, but you never know where you'll end up unless you've conquered the randomness factor mentioned above. As a matter of fact, there's one scenario that you CAN'T visit until you've at least partially solved this problem. Be prepared to do some experimenting in the dark. Read the description very carefully and take note of how they differ from your previous experiences. With a little experimentation, a lot of persistence and a smattering of divine intervention, you will soon be able to go anywhere you like at any time.

If you've been following my master plan so far, you need only visit the four remaining scenarios. (You should also revisit one of the earlier scenarios, but there's no way on earth I'll tell you which one!) As though enough strange things haven't happened so far, you'll now find yourself going back in time and even changing character! If you've consulted the guide about the right stuff (what rhymes with stuff?), you'll know what you're looking for in these scenarios. Finally, keep in mind that no one with a particle of common sense will finish this game!

Ah, at long last you're back on the Heart of Gold for the last time. If you've been thorough in your explorations, you'll have all the items you need to put an ancient legend to the test. I hope you like gardening. If you do, you'll soon be enjoying the fruits of your labour, not to mention a strange vision. The tool in the vision is different from game to game, so I hope you've been collecting all the tools along the way. There are ten in all. You'll only need one when the time comes, but if you're missing one, you can bet it will be the one you need.

Well, after all that, I reckon it's about time to tackle that screening door! This is easy, yet it's not easy. Get the idea?

All you need now is something to cheer you up to counteract Marvin's manic depression. Poor old Marvin. He's spent all game being depressed. Maybe he'd feel better if you gave him something to do. Or then again, maybe not. Anyway, once you've solved this last puzzle, you'll find yourself standing on Magrathea, eagerly looking forward to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Part 2!

Hints

If you get stuck on a specific problem, browse through the accompanying questions until you find the area where you're stuck. Match the numbers for that question with the words in the accompanying list to create a hint. (Incidentally, for all you HGG fans, you'll notice something very special about the number of hints. I can assure you that it was purely accidental, but I'm curious as to whether it has any relevance to the question of life, the universe and everything. Any ideas?)

If you get really desperate, Infocom sells an Invisiclues hint booklet which is sure to answer all your problems. This should be available from your local computer store or mail order house.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy hints

1) Can't stop the bulldozer?
6 29 33 3 60 26 50 70 64

2) Puzzled about the small dog?
22 11 32 64

3) Can't escape the demolition of Earth?
12 53

4) Can't get out of the dark?
45 51 31

5) Can't get the atomic vector plotter?
14 65 44 80 54

6) Can't get the babel fish?
45 61 87 5 24

7) Vogon Captain only reads one verse of poetry?
34 29 39 11 64

8) Can't get out of the dark?
6 29 30 64

9) Can't leave the exit to port?
22 38 50 64

10) Don't know what to do with the atomic vector plotter?
14 65 44 11

11) Missing a spare Infinite Improbability Drive?
16 79 35

12) Can't go aft from the aft end of the corridor?
46 57

13) Still missing a spare Infinite Improbability Drive?
48 52 84

14) Can't read the message on the printed circuit board?
45 88

15) Can't find the Nutrimat/Computer Interface?
16 79 35

16) Haven't been off the Heart of Gold yet?
45 71 68 20

17) Can't get past the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal?
14 65 44 11

18) Still can't get past the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal?
7 11 75 90 11 28 40 73 29

19) Can't control where you end up after using the Infinite Improbability Drive?
69 19 38 13

20) Can't stop the nuclear missiles?
45 66 77 49

21) Haven't been to the party?
36 44

22) Don't know what to do at the party?
48 41

23) Still don't know what to do at the party?
14 65 44 10

24) Haven't been to Damogran?
6 29 2 64

25) Can't open the toolbox?
37 1 76

26) Can't avoid smashing the speedboat?
78 63

27) Don't know what to do at the dais?
85 4 86 25

28) Having trouble at the dais?
43 51 72

29) Haven't been to the War Chamber?
6 29 30 64

30) Can't escape the maze?
60 67 21

31) Don't know what to do with all the fluff?
14 65 44 11

32) Missing a flowerpot?
16 79 35

33) Haven't encountered the sperm whale?
15 59 47 23 64

34) Still haven't encountered the sperm whale?
36 44

35) Can't get the flowerpot?
45 89 8 42

36) Can't get the sprout to grow?
9 22 18 62

37) Can't get past the screening door?
14 65 44 11

38) Still can't get past the screening door?
15 59 47 23 64

39) Can't get no tea?
82 3 81 64

40) Can't survive Marvin's depression?
6 29 74 27 55 23 56 64

41) Can't open the hatch?
15 59 58 64

42) Don't know what tool to use?
16 59 83 17 64

1 UNDER
2 BLIND
3 TO
4 HEART
5 SATCHEL
6 ARE
7 FOOL
8 OR
9 FUZZBOL
10 FLUFF
11 IT
12 HITCH
13 INTERFACE
14 CONSULT
15 GOT
16 SEE
17 LATELY
18 TROPICAL
19 NUTRIMAT
20 DRIVE
21 SENSE
22 IS
23 TEA
24 MAIL
25 GOLD
26 THIS
27 WITH
28 HAS
29 YOU
30 DEAF

31 NOSE
32 HUNGRY
33 GOING
34 DID
35 QUESTION
36 FEEL
37 LOOK
38 COMPUTER
39 ENJOY
40 ALREADY
41 ARTHUR
42 BOOMERANG
43 EXERT
44 ABOUT
45 USE
46 BE
47 REAL
48 EXAMINE
49 RECEPTACLE
50 LYING
51 YOUR
52 ENGINE
53 RIDE
54 FISH
55 ADVANCED
56 SUBSTITUTE
57 PERSISTENT
58 HELPERS
59 ANY
60 TAKE

61 GOWN
62 PLANET
63 EMERGENCY
64 ?
65 GUIDE
66 MANUAL
67 COMMON
68 IMPROBABILITY
69 INSTALL
70 DOWN
71 INFINITE
72 AUTHORITY
73 EATEN
74 HAPPY
75 INTO
76 CUSHION
77 OVERRIDE
78 CREATE
79 NEXT
80 BABEL
81 MAZE
82 BEEN
83 VISIONS
84 ROOM
85 STEAL
86 OF
87 TOWEL
88 MAGNIFIER
89 THUMB
90 THINKING

Next issue

Next issue we return to earth to go dragon hunting in the best Adventure I've played for a long time. In the meantime, if you have any queries or suggestions for the column, feel free to contact me at the address below. Please include a couple of International Reply Coupons if you expect an answer, as overseas airmail postage gets to be pretty expensive.

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