When Douglas Adams died, I remember the printed tributes, of course. I forget if I found out on the front page of GameFAQs or on Yahoo! Mail at first (I had an sbcglobal address) but the news hit hard. I re-read his stuff and played through H2G2 again and even looked for copies of the binaries of Inform titles I hadn't played, because mourning is a great excuse to break copyright laws that protect ... the profits of a defunct, well-loved company who wanted their work to live on. I think I went and bought Starship Titanic, too. And I heard tell of a story Adams wrote that might be floating around the Internet, called Young Zaphod Plays it Safe. I tracked it down, eventually! It was neat to have more Adams. Up until then I'd really only been tipped off to Last Chance to See and enjoyed it--it made me realize, contrary to what Very Serious Adults said, you could care deeply about humanity and be frustrated and still have a good laugh, e.g. not in the "everyone's an idiot but me" sense.
I didn't know much about the post-Infocom community for text games beyond, well, there were languages like Alan and Inform 6 I didn't have the stamina to learn. But I felt there should be more tributes than "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide trilogy was really great!!!" Or even, among the people I knew, the consensus that H2G2 clearly beat out most computer games these days. But it seemed like the whole community was well beyond me, and I stayed away for a long while. Which was a mistake.
Fast-forward past a movie and Eoin Colfer writing a new book in the series and a Dirk Gently television series and so forth, and me discovering the text adventure community and realizing ... hey, these things still exist! I was bound, eventually, to stumble on the SpeedIF collection of Douglas Adams tributes. And I think this is the best of them. Perhaps the only reason I discovered them was that I randomly searched for Milliways after someone mentioned they'd made their own game.
There's no bad tribute to Douglas Adams, of course. Many of the games are faithful to the subject matter of H2G2 or Dirk Gently, focusing on one scene where you know what to do and need moderate imagination. They bring back good laughs and sad memories, and none of them are too obscure. They remind me of the laughs I had, when I heard that there were really smarter or more important or hefty books out there, when I as a kid just knew the Trilogy made me laugh more than sitcoms ever could, and I was still probably missing stuff. (Nobody told me Douglas Adams went to Cambridge or was the Sixth Python.)
ITGN focuses on Dirk Gently. More specifically, Dirk Gently has turned up in the afterlife on what may be his final case. There's someone he owes money to that he must avoid. It's all a bit tricky, especially with a cell phone that may go off at an inopportune moment. The descriptions are droll, mentioning that you have no cigarettes, and there's an anchovy to eat, if you want, and of course if you've ascertained it has no effect on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.
The funniest part for me was at the end, where a clerk asks people their religious beliefs and they say "free-market capitalism" (we joke to deal with obvious reality sometimes) or other not-quite-religions. It's well worth it to wait around and not do the obvious thing that moves the story forward, for all the possibilities. You want to linger there, just as you wish DNA would have hung around a bit longer. But of course you can't. There's a sort of choice at the end, which has an Adams-esque twist. It addresses something Adams never discussed in his books but surely thought about deeply.
ITGN is pretty compact and sensible without a lot of distractions, and when I read in the author notes that the game took too long for a speed-IF (it, like Douglas Adams, blew past the original deadline) I'm glad it was included, because it felt like the very best of the tributes. Years later it doesn't feel like cheating to have given the author the extra time, and after all, it wasn't really a competition. They did have a lot to say!
It's rare to me to see a tribute that goes beyond the source material or compiling it into something new. Perhaps I am just not as familiar with the Dirk Gently books as H2G2 (certainly, rereading Dirk years later, I understood a lot more, while I missed far less in H2G2 as a teen,) so I missed some obvious parallels. But if so I'm glad I did. It gave me a bit more Adams years later, and of course I felt frustrated I hadn't joined the community sooner, but at the same time, well--something like this is a great look back, once H2G2 the game has been dissected, or the unfinished Milliways source code was published, and so forth. It's a reminder I was right to wish for more. There may be other tributes that are longer and more detailed, but this tribute would feel fresh even if it wasn't written just after DNA left us.
ANaM is one of the text-adventure tributes to Douglas Adams collected on the wake of his death in 2001, and while I haven't reviewed them all, that's more because some are very short indeed and I can't write a full review of them. It's more just, yeah, I remember that, too. It and Into That Good Night and How Many Roads Must a Man Walk Down? are the three most evocative entries. This one features popular NPCs and well-known items that even casual H2G2 fans will know what to do with. (Spoiler - click to show)It's a lot easier to get a Babel Fish in this game than H2G2! It's not surprising someone went the "story of the end of the universe in one of the author's books" route for a tribute.
There are really only two puzzles, and neither is particularly difficult. You must get into the restaurant, only to find you have a third-class seat, which doesn't give you a very good view. So you need to find a way to finagle ID that will get you to the first-class lounge.
This final puzzle isn't very tricky, and anyone who has read the books will figure what to do, but it is something poor confused Arthur Dent never quite managed to do. (I won't spoil it!) Reaching the first-class lounge gives a gratifying ending as well. I don't know how much the author wondered their work would last, but it's still moving to me, all these years later.
I felt slightly guilty I didn't really get So Long and Thanks for All the Fish as a kid. I do remember Douglas Adams taking forever to release it and wondering what the holdup was. He had high standards, of course, and the H2G2 trilogy was hard to live up to. I figured once you wrote something like H2G2, the floodgates just opened and you kept getting cool cosmic ideas. Of course, it doesn't work like that. Which is sort of a relief, because if it did, the rest of us would have nothing new to write about.
That said, SLaTfAtF grew on me. And reading a tribute about it instead of stuff in the H2G2 game canon or three main books reminded me, yet again, there was so much more to Adams than his jokes that challenged basic perceptions or clever wordplay.
The scene roughly replicates when Arthur goes to visit Wonko the Sane outside the Asylum, except you are not Arthur, and the person inside is a very tall man. He has a card you must trade for. It's not a very hard puzzle.
The ending has a finality about it that almost seems unfair. Most of the time, a game ending so abruptly wouldn't work, because it should last longer. (We could argue all good games end too soon, which is better than too late, but this ends way too soon!) Here, though, it works, because Adams indeed left us way too soon. The calculated silliness of the final scene mitigates the sense of loss a bit. But I found it a neat way to say good-bye, even though Adams has been gone over twenty years.
This and Into That Good Night and A Night at Milliways may be the most robust of all the DNA tributes, but all are worth your time. They capture the sadness beneath the big laughs Adams gave us and how we wish he'd given us more of both.