Missed Classic: Hitchhiker’s Guide – Arthur Who? (Request for Assistance)

From The Adventure Gamer

Written by Joe Pranevich

Let’s mix our time travel metaphors!

If you’ve ever seen Doctor Who, you know that the adventure of the Doctor and his companions are fairly random. They travel from world to world, from time to time, solving problems and having adventures. They also spend a great deal of time running. But during the period that Douglas Adams was a writer and script editor, this was taken to the extreme with the installation of the “Randomizer”. This device mostly prevented the Doctor from deciding where the TARDIS would go next, ensuring that neither he nor the evil Black Guardian (from whom he was fleeing) would know where he was going. Functionally, the show was exactly the same as before, but now there was some technobabble reason why they didn’t know where they were going rather than just the normal not knowing where they were going. Eventually, they dropped the premise and forgot that the Black Guardian was supposed to be chasing them anyway. That’s Doctor Who in a nutshell.

I have to wonder whether Douglas Adams was inspired by the Randomizer when he and Steve Meretzky were working on this segment of the Hitchhiker’s Guide game. That all we have: random mini-adventures in random order. I’m not sure how this is supposed to wrap up. It’s still fun, but they traded the linearity of the earlier part of the game with random side stories. It’s easier to narrate than explain, so read on! I should also mention that at the end, I have no idea what to do next. Suggestions are appreciated.

Episode I: Ford Prefect

The real “Ford Prefect”. I didn’t realize he was named after a car for years.

Where I left off last week, I have absolutely nothing to do. I used the Improbability Drive to go and combat the Bugblatter Beast of Traal, winning a paint chipper and a circuit board for my trouble, but I wasn’t able to find any way to survive the imminent destruction of the Heart of Gold that was triggered every time I tried to make a cup of tea. While I was at it, I discovered that we can use the Drive more than once. With that knowledge in hand, I go back to the engine room and pull the switch again…

After yet another “Dark” puzzle (this time ending with having to “see” a bright light), I find myself back at the beginning: it’s Earth, just before the destruction of the world, except this time I am Ford Prefect! I am running up the country lane near Arthur’s house and the game helpfully reminds me that it’s been a long time since I’ve been through a matter transference beam. I find Arthur as I did before, in front of the bulldozer. The game helpfully reminds us that Ford wanted to return Arthur’s towel so I start with that. I try to give arthur his towel, but I’m not carrying it. What!? Wait, it’s probably just inside my satchel. I take stock of what I am carrying and find mineral water, a towel, the guide, the sub-etha signaling device, and satchel fluff. I take the towel out and give it to him, only then does the lightbulb turn on that Arthur is in front of a bulldozer. What happened next? Oh, right. I walk over to Prosser and ask him to lay in the mud instead. I’m not going to quote all the text here, but the whole bit is well-written. Ford is quite persuasive and Arthur is ready to head with me to the pub.

I keep trying to remember what happened in the beginning of the game, but then I remembered: I blogged about it! Of course I kept good notes. I have Ford order beer and he tells Arthur that he is from another planet. Arthur seems nonplussed, or at least too bit distracted to process the information. I buy the peanuts as well since I know Arthur will need them soon enough. After I drink three times, Arthur’s house gets destroyed and he runs out in a huff, feeding a little dog a cheese sandwich along the way. I am reminded that the dog then ignores a microscopic space fleet. We arrive at Arthur’s former house just as the Vogons arrive. Mimicking Ford from the beginning of the game, I try to press the signaling button but drop the device instead. I then shout for Arthur to pick it up, which he does, and we are transmitted up to the Vogon ship. A few seconds later, I am back in “Dark” and from there back into the Heart of Gold.

What was the purpose of all of that? Was it just an alternate way to feed the cheese sandwich to the dog? Or did I miss something? I replay it again for the same effect, not finding anything that I missed. It’s seems to be just a little linear section that you have to do exactly right. If you screw up the timeline, the game ends. You don’t die, the game tells you that you broke the fundamental rule of time (“Do as you would have done by.”) and drops you back at a DOS prompt. Does anyone else think this is a reference to Zork III? I do. The only thing that I have gained is a few more points: I’m now at 150.

That is one content dog!

Episode II: Arthur’s Head

What else to do? Pull the switch again! I activate the Improbability Drive, navigate the next “Dark” area, and find myself in the “War Room” of a star battlecruiser. There’s an awl on the ground, as well as two generals engaged in deep conversation. I look out the window and see a star system with a blue planet as the third. Earth? When I examine them, I learn that the two creatures are the leaders of the “G’Guvunt” and “Vl’Hurg” peoples. I have to imagine that this was Mr. Adams declaring war against poor spellers and typists. I struggle to find anything to do except pick up the awl when… we arrive on Earth and are nearly eaten by a dog! This must be the microscopic space fleet! Of course, since I fed the dog a sandwich, we are fine and the two leaders bond over their mutual love of cheese sandwiches. They transport me back to the Heart of Gold and leave Earth in peace.

Except, that’s not what happens. Instead of being back on the ship, I am in a “Maze” of “twisty little synapses, all alike”. (A Zork I reference, too!) I feel like I remember this somehow, but maybe not. I wander around a bit. Some of the exits are blocked, but others we can pass through. I explore randomly and in a few turns, I stumble on a mysterious particle: my “Common Sense”. I’m in Arthur’s brain! I remember this! Once the common sense is taken away, we can get through the locked door, right? I pick it up and get zapped back to the Heart of Gold. My score is now 175. Did I do it right?

With my common sense taken care of, I try the tea machine again but end up in exactly the same sequence as before. In the process, I realize that the “thing your aunt gave you” that keeps coming back no matter how many times you lose it is a container! That’s going to be important for a puzzle later, perhaps to sneak a required object into a situation, but I don’t see any way that helps me right now. Nothing to do but pull the reality slot machine once again…

In the books, Trillian is a brilliant and beautiful dark-haired vaguely Middle Eastern scientist. I think they missed when casting the 1981 series.

Episode III: Tricia McMillan

The next sensory puzzle is to “feel” here and I find that there is a liquid on my finger. I taste it to discover that it is wine… And I’m back on Earth. At a party! And I am Trillian! We’re already a bit drunk. Arthur is here, as is “Phil” (who is really Zaphod). For some reason, Trillian is trying to avoid the hostess. I find that I can visit the kitchen and dining room, as well as the living room where I started, but there doesn’t seem to be anything to do in any of those locations.

What to do? I look at Arthur and he as a huge unsightly piece of fluff on his shirt. (Typical, Arthur!) I try to pick it up, but it seems that I am carrying too many things. I take stock and find that I have a plate of hors d’oeuvres (has anyone noticed how difficult it is to spell that?), a glass of wine, and a handbag. I put down the wine, but the hostess immediately comes and tries to get me to pick it up again. Very quickly, I grab the fluff, put it in my handbag, and pick up the wine again. The hostess is satisfied and leaves me alone while Arthur is grateful that I removed his fluff. Unfortunately, he’s very boring to talk to and Trillian ends up going off with Phil instead. I black out just as his space-scooter takes off with me on the back.

Back in the Heart of Gold a few turns later, I head back upstairs to where Trillian left her handbag at the beginning of the game. What do I find inside? Jacket fluff. Not only is that proof that I was actually time traveling, it’s also funny the game thinks that is important enough to save after my little adventure. Previous trips had won me seemingly-useful objects like a paint chipper or a Nutrimat interface. But jacket fluff? Strangely, this means that I now have two kinds of fluff, since there was pocket fluff in my dressing gown since the beginning of the game.

Episode IV: Doing It Over Again

Like this but in space.

What’s next? I pull the handle again. And this time end up back at the party except the hostess bores me to death and I die immediately and am back in “Dark”. Well, that was weird. My best guess is that the game will send you to the locations more than once, but that this is a sign that I did everything I needed to do there? I hope so!

I pull the switch again and am back in the Ford Prefect sequence. What did I miss last time? The satchel fluff. Is there a way to get that back into the future with me somehow? (And why do I want to?) I try to just give the fluff to Arthur, but he blinks at me like I’m a madman. The game hints that maybe he’d be a bit more pliable with a few beers in him. I play through the whole sequence again with Prosser and taking him to the pub. I try giving him the fluff, but he still refuses. I give him another drink. He refuses again. When he gets the third drink, his house is demolished and he runs out. I chase after him back to his house. Only then is he distracted and slightly drunk enough to accept my fluff; he puts it in his pockets. The rest plays out just as before as Arthur barely pushes the green button in time and we are transported to the Vogon ship.

After navigating through “Dark” once again, I’m back in the Heart of Gold except now I have some “satchel fluff” in my gown pocket! Score! I have no idea why I need it, but I seem to be amassing quite a collection of random tools and fluff.

After this, getting to anything new using the Improbability Drive is getting more difficult. My next attempt has me transported back to the Vogon ship and immediately killed by guards. After that, I’m in the Beast of Traal’s lair and this time he knows to eat me right away. Once, I am transported back to the Heart of Gold but with lots of exploded goo around me because I seem to have telefragged myself– which is even more impressive because Doom won’t be invented for another nine years. It takes some time, but eventually I find a sequence that I haven’t played before…

I think you know what I’m going to say…

Episode V: President Zaphod

I find myself as Zaphod on the Presidential Speedboat, going quickly towards the island of “France” (a coincidence in naming) for the launch ceremony of the Heart of Gold. We’re coming up on a channel between cliffs and a rocky spire. There’s also a locked toolbox in the boat. What do we need to do?

I first search the boat. The toolbox is locked, but as I search under the pilot’s seat I discover both a key and a piece of seat cushion fluff. The key opens the box and I discover a magnifying glass (for the circuit board?) and a laser-assisted monkey wrench. Unfortunately, I die because I hit the rocks. I restore back. I try steering the ship to the channel, but I die again because the current drives me into the rocks. I restore yet again and steer to the spire and this time ride the current safely through. Once past the danger, the autopilot kicks in and causes an impressive display as we literally fly the boat up to the launch platform on a giant plume of water. I stand up and walk north to the ceremony.

Once at the ceremony, I am stuck in an adoring crowd. I can’t return to the boat. I can’t board the ship. I can read a banner that someone is holding (“Zaphod Beeblebrox is a swell guy!”) and I can wave to the crowd, but that’s just about it. Just as I am about to give up, Trillian jumps out of the crowd and takes me hostage! The guards seem unsure what to do and it’s clear I need to tell them to do something. I try to go to the ship now, but the guards realize that I am in on the caper and shoot me dead. I restore back and try again. Next time around, I tell the guards to drop their weapons first before making a break for it, but even that isn’t enough since they are able to pick them up fast enough to kill me. I try picking up a rifle myself, but the guards get suspicious and are much better at shooting guns than I am. Eventually, I work out that I can ask Trillian to shoot the weapons and THEN I can make a break for the Heart of Gold successfully. As soon as we arrive, Zaphod collapses and I’m back at Dark.

Unfortunately, the fluff doesn’t come ahead with me this time. I try playing it all again, this time storing the seat cushion fluff in the toolbox. That doesn’t work because I fail to take the toolbox with me. I have to do all of that, plus have the toolbox on me (with the fluff inside) when I enter the Heart of Gold. Once I do all of that correctly, I manage to get the fluff with me in the future! Now what? I use the magnifying glass to look at the board and I get a message that it is “just a satirical device”. So that is a dead end? I do the tea/whale thing again, but there is no difference. I also cannot find any new places that I can get through with the Improbability Drive. It is random so maybe there is just someplace that has a low probability, but at this point I am pretty sure not. I am stuck.

I’m stuck!

Request for Assistance

I was hoping to avoid this, but I need some assistance. I have amassed a huge collection of tools and fluff, but no leads on what to do next.

Puzzles that I know of without a solution:

  • Getting through the access door. I think this is the point where (if I remember correctly) that I need “tea” and “no tea”, but I cannot make tea because… 
  • The Nutrimat doesn’t know how to make tea. Whenever it tries, it overloads all of the other systems. Whenever I use the Improbability Drive to get out of my dilemma, it resets the puzzle. 
  • An area with a one-item crawl space that doesn’t have a function yet. 
  • Nothing found to do with Marvin yet as he wanders around the ship. 
  • Nothing found to do with the sauna yet. I’m expecting some puzzle where I need time to pass, but since this is a time machine it could just be some lame in-joke. 

What am I missing? Since I pretty much need to finish, I’ll be happy to accept ROT13-with-good-warnings on this and any other puzzle that I might get stuck on between here and the end. I’m only at a bit over halfway in the score and I am concerned there is a lot more to do yet.

In my quest to do “bonus material” for this game, I have finally completed my review of Shada, the lost Doctor Who story written by Douglas Adams. I’m working on a review of the Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen novel now, but it may not be done before the next post. Playing and writing are both slower than I might like.

Score: 225
Inventory: no tea, atomic vector plotter, towel, gown (being worn), thing which your aunt gave you, babel fish (in ear), Hitchhiker’s Guide, signaling device, toothbrush, circuit board, sales brochure, small key, toolbox, strange gun
Tools: asteroid paint chipper, screwdriver, laser-guided monkey wrench, tweezers, magnifying glass, ionic diffusion rasp, vacuum awl, hypersonic pliers
Fluffs: pocket fluff, jacket fluff, satchel fluff, seat cushion fluff
Time played: 2 hr 15 min
Total time: 5 hr 15 min

Original URL: https://advgamer.blogspot.com/2018/09/missed-classic-hitchhikers-guide-arthur.html