I decided to play a game. You know the sort. Text-based adventures. Interactive Fiction. Zork (or, if you are in the know, Adventure) follow-up. The thing where you try to "LOOK at DOOR" and "KNOCK on WALL". Ok, maybe you don't know. Maybe you do. Either way, let me sum it up.
Interactive Fictions, as is the preferred name of the day, are a somewhat lost art form appreciated by a handful of hobbiest. At their core, they are similar to "Chose your Adventures" style games, and I think predate them. They are written like simple role-playing sessions: "You are in a damp room. There is a table with a key in front of you. There is a a door to the north. You came in from the window to the east." You then move around the world, saying things like "take key" and "go through window". To keep the games small and manageable, the number of "rooms" and commands were often tiny compared to modern game standards. Someone with the know-how on beating the game could probably make it through one in less than 15 minutes. To compensate, puzzles were added.
One of the most frustrating things about the kind of puzzles that were added were that, as possibly an early design limitation taken advantage of, most of them utilized precise wording, what I call "syntax traps". The answer to the puzzle might be "tap at top of door" as opposed to "tap at door". Looking at a book might do nothing. Looking under the book might warrant you the needed spell. This sort of nitpickery enabled the game to become more than "simply use every item everywhere", which would probably be a few hours of repetitive game play. Each writer tended to have his or her own style, and some little fun bits would sneak up.
For the longest time, I had only dallied around with them. I would get quickly frustrated and give up. It was a weakness of mine. I admit. I just did not have the patience to see how many different ways I could type in "Bugger this game, I quit!" before something would happen.
But I gave old "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" a whirl. Boy did I. Graphic intense, let me tell you. Fact is, let me queue up an old screen shot for you:
See, there you go. If you did not know, you have an idea. Boring text after boring text. But, you want to know something? Something I never noticed myself? These things can be fun. Not just a little. A lot.
Frustration will be high. You might hate yourself a little. "Hitchhiker's" especially has a couple of scenes that will fry your stack. Not only are there a few "must have" items, these things often have only one or two shots to get. There are a handful of scenes that you only have a few moves to make before death occurs. You will need to save or restart several times. Moreso than most, there are things you can do that are not listed. Highly frustrating. But funny.
If you have read the books, or seen the TV series, or listened to the old radio show, you will not be surprised by much, though things happen in different ways.
But, well, it IS fun. I couldn't tell you how typing "listen to darkness" a hundred times in frustration is fun, but it is. For one, it is another look at a universe which is more about the punchline than making sense. Secondly, there are a dozens of little things, like feeding a sandwich to a dog, or saying "hitchhike" that you normally will not get in any similar game, making this one pretty unique. Plus, its geekery, ain't it? If you are a geek, then you get what I mean. If you are not a geek, then this might be a lost cause.
I have rambled long enough with this "not exactly a review". I will give it a grade of "old school" and leave it at that. And then tell you to get it. Somehow. Drop me a line. I have it. I think I can share it with no problem. And if I can't, and you know this, then let me know and I won't share it. Google it. Might as well get used to doing things the hard way. Its for the best.
Some of these contain spoilers, of a sort, so beware. I put them in order as they occur, so if you read them in order, then you should not really spoil forthcomings.
As of the sixth of 2007's February, I have pretty much quit HGTTG(TBA). Heh. I got to the part with flipping the switch, and just sort of go fed up with the whole "find the fluff" quests. I will tinker with it off and on, and really enjoyed the first "half" or so of the game (first 100 points), but after a bit, it seemed to revel in its own "interactivity" and dropped the point.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".
"The hidden is greater than the seen."