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'Hitchhiker's Guide' text adventure gets 30th-anniversary update

Test your wits against the BBC's updated edition of the maddeningly challenging "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" text adventure game.

Hitchhiker's screen shot
You start off in a dark room. BBC

Gather round, children. Way back in 1984, a software company released a text adventure game version of Douglas Adams' classic offbeat sci-fi tale "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." As usual with the text adventure genre, there were no fancy graphics, elaborate sound effects, or any of the trappings of modern video games. It was just words describing scenes and giving you a chance to try to manipulate objects and solve puzzles, all based on Arthur Dent's journey through a somewhat tragicomic universe.

It's now 2014 and text games are relics of the past, but that hasn't stopped the BBC from issuing a 30th Anniversary Edition of the original Infocom game. This new version works in HTML5, has a large interface, and includes a feature that lets you tweet from the game to share your achievements.

The game is alternately challenging, frustrating, and fun. The BBC gives fair warning: "The game will kill you frequently. It's a bit mean like that."

Like most text adventures, it recognizes only certain commands. You'll have to experiment a bit to find what works and the game will often react to you like you're speaking gibberish. This is all part of the text-adventure charm.

In my first run through the 30th Anniversary Edition, I managed to get myself killed in exactly 19 moves, though I successfully died with clean teeth and my bathrobe on.

On the second try, I lasted 27 moves before getting killed by a flying brick. Liberal use of the "save" and "restore" game commands should help.

Text adventures will never again rule the gaming world, but the "Hitchhiker's" version is still worth a rumble. Bring your sense of humor and a towel to scream into when you die for the hundredth time. Adams' immortal advice applies to this game just as much as everywhere else: Don't panic.