Hitchhiker’s Guide game returns for 30th anniversary, Don’t Panic on lunch breaks

When this writer was younger, he remembers playing the game of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a title written by Douglas Adams that let you experience the novel and radio show as the tea-drinking protagonist. Thirty years on, the experience is just as hilarious.

Originally released in 1984, the game of one of science fiction’s most celebrated work wasn’t designed for today. There were no high resolution graphics, no compatibility for game controllers, and there was a ton of reading.

In fact, the entire game was based on you reading what was happening on screen, and then writing follow up directions.

That was how the text adventures of Infocom worked, and games like “Zork,” “A Mind Forever Voyaging,” and the aforementioned “Hitchhiker’s Guide” title had you explore a story through text and only text.

Like a modern game, you could walk in different directions, but you had to say that you were doing it. “N” or “North,” “S” or “South,” and so on. When you wanted to use an item, you had to “take” it, and then “use” it. Or even “wear” something, “drink” something, and “talk” to people.

In a world like ours where most games have automated responses and movements mapped to controllers, one could see this as a chore, but the games are still a lot of fun, and if you’ve ever fallen in love with the writing style of Douglas Adams, that writing style is replicated in the Hitchhiker’s Guide game.

It’s been thirty years since the release of that very game, though, and for that anniversary, BBC has revisited the title, bringing it back to the web with some graphics to make things easier, on-screen buttons, and that same Douglas Adams script and humour from the original.

Like this gem, from when you die, and if it’s your first time, you will inevitably die:

“You keep out of this, you’re dead and should be concentrating on developing a good firm rigour mortis. You are put in the ambulance, which drives away.”

Unfortunately, the online game doesn’t come with the abundance of little fan-specific extras that owners of the original boxed copy received, such as the “Don’t Panic!” button, authentic fluff, prepackaged “Microscopic Space Fleet,” and peril-sensitive sunglasses.

It is, however, available online for free (through this link, in fact), which is far less than people had to pay for it back in 1984, and doesn’t require a 5.25 inch floppy drive, which is something else you needed back then.

Just try not to waste too much time during lunch working out how to get that Babelfish inserted in your ear. Or caught.

And don’t panic, there’s a walkthrough easily found, too.