Suggested By:sebastian sohn
I was raised on graphic adventure games --they were the first videogames I ever played and have profoundly influenced my approach to games ever since. I was also raised on The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, so naturally I jumped at the chance to write about the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Remake, or H2G2 Remake for short. Unfortunately, it seems you can't turn back the clock.
One of the original "transmedia IPs," there is no definitive version of the Hitchhiker's Guide story as such. It has existed in various incarnations as a radio play, a novel, a TV series, a stage play, a comic book, a feature film, and of course, a text adventure game. Released by Infocom in 1984, the text for the game was written by Douglas Adams himself -- allegedly a process Adams found frustrating, which is why the game ends abruptly near the story's midpoint.
H2G2 Remake is a lovingly executed point-and-click adaptation of the original text adventure. Credit is due to the developers for their obvious devotion and fidelity to the details of the original, but on the whole the experience left me questioning the wisdom of the game's premise, and even whether or not the adventure gaming genre is still at all viable.
Text adventures are designed to be difficult and puzzling because, gameplay-wise, that's all they've got. The joy of unraveling a text adventure comes not just from moments of insight arrived at by clever reasoning and deduction, but from the simultaneously rewarding, humorous, and annoying experience of exhausting every logical action, getting stumped, feeling like you've hit a dead end, and typing in something completely absurd that turns out to be the solution. Many of the early graphic adventures added illustrations to the process, but remained largely text-based in the sense that gameplay consisted of reading and typing responses.
Although they were often maddeningly difficult, puzzles in text-based adventures could sometimes be easier than those of later point-and-click graphic adventures, because the text was there to clue the player in to everything he or she needs to know about the current situation. If you walk into a room and the game mentions that there's a knife on the table, it probably has some significance -- otherwise, they wouldn't have mentioned it (unless it's a red herring, of course).
In point-and-click adventures, graphics have replaced text descriptions, and such previously explicit clues are no longer possible. To balance this, most point-and-click games include some sort of mouse-over feedback that lets the player know which objects in the environment can be manipulated, which eventually led to the core mechanic of systematically exploring all of the game's essential and non-essential animations by clicking. Moreover, where the player previously enjoyed apparently unlimited action options, point-and-click games simplify player choice by constraining it and abstracting all activities into standard touch / talk / look clicks. The resulting evolutions eventually brought us the sort of brainless click-through interactive storytelling adventures that dominate the genre today.
Bearing in mind the interface and format discrepancies between text adventures and point-and-clicks, does it really any make sense to port the one to the other? As a case study, H2G2 Remake seems to indicate that a radical design overhaul is necessary for such a translation to be viable. Adams's recycled one-liners here feel tired and outdated, and fail to drive the story forward. The game's word puzzles, especially the so-called "dark" sections, do not translate and handle quite awkwardly.
Alas, these are only the beginning of this game's problems. The inventory interface is clunky and counter-intuitive, and the game's instructions/help section is so badly written as to be incomprehensible. Though mostly stable, one of the game's prevalent bugs is that the cursor fails to flicker when held over certain interactable objects, an infuriating and almost game-breaking flaw. With all due respect to whoever worked very hard on the artwork, the graphics are lacking to the point of having an adverse effect on the experience -- unless the designers mean to intentionally increase the game's difficulty by, for example, depicting the crucial knife on the table as only one of several misshapen, unrecognizable blobs of pixels on screen. I wouldn't put anything past an adventure game developer.
Whether you're a bigtime Hitchhiker's Guide fan with nostalgia for the text adventure, or just curious about what it was, check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/hitchhikers. It's the BBC's better-illustrated, browser-based version of the original text adventure without any point-and-click nonsense. Just don't forget to pack your towel, and perhaps this IGN walkthrough.
Rest in peace, Douglas Adams. We love you and miss you.