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Contains Milliways the Restaurant at the End of the Universe/h2.z5
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Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links. (Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.)

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Milliways: the Restaurant at the End of the Universe

by Max Fog profile

Science fiction comedy

(based on 7 ratings)
7 reviews

About the Story

In Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, every step you take has an equal probability of sending you over the edge of perilous cliff drops or spinning into the stratosphere. But before that all happens, you have a choice: should you hitchhike the galaxy, or stay home and drink beer?

Oh, right. That was in the first game.

As this game begins, you find yourself on the ramp leading from the hatchway down to the surface of the legendary lost planet of Magrathea. Soon, you will find yourself exploring dead planets, escaping white mice, navigating the fjords of Norway, and of course - at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe!

Game Details


46th Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

Editorial Reviews


What it is about: Welcome to the follow-up to the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy. You arrive on a strange planet and do all sorts of wacky things, but you will sometimes be jumping around in the dark-literally, so it’s best not to deviate from the main path. Get ready for a very long ride.
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Patrick Mooney's Blog
IFComp 2023: Max Fog’s Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
So I was looking forward to this quite a bit: it’s an entry was partly written back in the Infocom days but abandoned unfinished when they stopped making games. The author has dragged out the incomplete source code and made it into a finished game. And, of course, it’s the sequel to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of the best (and most unfairly difficult) games Infocom put out.
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Continue the absurdist adventures of Arthur Dent in this complex puzzler.
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From the Author

For context on why this game is what it is: (Spoiler - click to show)first effort by a 13 year old in time span of one year using ZIL (undocumented and unused since Infocom times), with multiple changes to the parser on a level that had truly never been documented or properly tinkered with before, also having to learn C++ in the process to rewrite the compiler. There's countless more things. Oh, yes it was larger than the original H2G2 game, and also trying to follow in the footsteps of 1) Infocom, the greatest IF company of all time, no doubt, and 2) in the footsteps of Douglas Adams, possibly one of the clever and funny writers of all time.

A bit much for a first, no?

(Some more ranting below...)
(Spoiler - click to show)Of course it wasn't going to be perfect. It was a cruel game (though purposefully), and many puzzles were obscure. The writing wasn't great. And worst of all: the bugs. Oh, the bugs scuttled across the floor in huge quantities, but that was during the competition, where it place 48th out of 75. Now the bugs are swept away, the writing has been fixed, and the reviews have not been updated. I, for one, would certainly give it five stars because that is likely the most ambitious game in the history of IF. But I don't want to be annoying or boastful or whiny, which this probably seems. So 4 is good!


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Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Let's follow a tough act!, November 23, 2023
by Johnnywz00 (St. Louis, Missouri)

This is my first IFDB review, and I don't consider myself gifted at writing reviews in an insightful way. But, as a new author myself, I just want to do my part towards giving authors more feedback on how their hard work was received.

I have only beta tested this game, so am perhaps not aware of all the features and content of the game in its presently downloadable form. My first and only game was written for a rather specific audience, and I feel that this one is as well. But if you fall within that audience, I think that you will find this is a strong work worthy of recognition.

I will start with a few provisos: this game is "cruel" on the player difficulty scale, and I believe that that is intentional. But it may also mean that if you're not looking to relive a certain period of the IF past, you will find aspects of the game frustrating. If you love a challenge and want to prove your mettle, you may find it that much more rewarding.
The other proviso: if you have no conversance with the original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy universe, you may find yourself at an utter loss. It was unfortunate for me that I had not previously played H2G2 when I tested this game, and I knew nothing of the Douglas Adams ethos. Many places and people were mentioned which seemed to carry implication of the player's understanding, but without background, I often felt at a loss for what I was trying to accomplish.

But with those provisos out of the way, I will say that there is a lot of good work in this game. I *think* we are also supposed to understand that this game is not trying to resurrect the voice of Douglas Adams, per se, and should not be measured by whether the game seems like it could have been written by him. But the game is quite witty and perky in its own right. Many of the puzzles are wacky and amusing in a way that I believe is representative of the original H2G2 world. There is a great deal of technical intricacy behind the curtains, and it is very impressive what the author was able to accomplish with the dated ZIL language and at such a young age.

Go ahead and unwind, and let your imagination have a heyday in the wacky world of Milliways!

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A lost sequel, December 26, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).

One thing I’ve noticed when thinking back to my tween years, three decades on, is that things are either seared into my memory or complete blanks. I can still hear what it sounded like, for example, when we got back from a summer vacation to find that a brood of cicadas had hatched while we were gone and had decided to fill the night with a beautiful and threatening cacophony of chirping. And I can instantly recall the squirming, excited embarrassment I felt when the girl I had a crush on me called me one evening because I’d messed with her little brother the day before, telling him I’d found a long out-of-print Dragonlance gamebook that she coveted. On the other hand, I know I must have played months of basketball in eighth grade – I went to a tiny school, everybody was on every team – but I can’t summon up one reminiscence of anything that happened at a single game or practice.

So too it is with Douglas Adams: I was obsessed with him the summer I was 11, blazing through the then-four-part Hitchhiker’s Guide trilogy just as school ended and then chasing down the Dirk Gently books before embarking on a campaign of rereading those six books over and over until I got thoroughly sick of them, which took a while. The first book I remember pretty well, because it’s got most of the iconic moments; the third was my favorite so I reread it like once a week, and as a result I can still run down most of its cricket-based MacGuffin quest. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, though, didn’t make much of an impression all these years on – the ending sticks, not so much the rest. And the second book, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe mentioned so prominently in this game’s subtitle? Um. I remember the gag about it being stuck in a manufactured time bubble so patrons can swig their martinis as they watch the heat death of all things, but I’m pretty sure that’s actually introduced in the first book. Like I said above: complete blank.

My other relevant Douglas Adams lacuna I can’t blame on advancing age: I’ve also never played Infocom’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with any degree of assiduity (I think I poked at the BBC illustrated remake long enough to give up halfway into the babel fish puzzle). I suppose I should get around it one of these days, but its reputation as an unforgiving puzzle-gauntlet doesn’t do much to recommend it to my sensibilities. Sure, I remember liking Adams’ writing, but if I wanted to revisit it I’d much prefer to go back to the books than struggle through a style of IF that doesn’t do much for me.

All of this is to say that I am entirely the wrong audience for an impressively-robust fan-made sequel that appears to pick up immediately after the first game left off, and doesn’t provide anything by way of context or motivation. I wouldn’t say Milliways is explicitly nostalgia-bait; from my very vague understanding, it primarily visits situations and characters not covered in the first game (though I think some pieces may be part of the book plots that I’ve forgotten?), and while the troupe of familiar characters are present, they’re off getting hammered so are almost completely noninteractive. But it’s clearly the product of deep affection for the original – so much so that it’s written in the modern incarnation of the language the Infocom Imps used to make their games – and shorn of the pleasant sheen of remembrance, the game often just left me baffled.

The earliest example is maybe the most telling: the game doesn’t tell you who you are. I feel it’s safe to assume that you’re once again inhabiting British everyman Arthur Dent – the clearest clue is that you can find your dressing gown, which the game tells you you must have dropped in the previous game. But I don’t think ABOUT spells it out, there isn’t actually any intro text, and X ME just tells you “you see nothing special about you” (ouch). It also doesn’t tell you what you’re doing. You start out having just exited your spaceship and reached the surface of a planet called Magrathea (the name’s dimly familiar, no recall of the details); presumably you’re meant to explore, but there’s no narrative telling you that you’re there to look for anything in particular, and the cryptic stuff you find doesn’t retroactively explain why you might have come here in the first place, or what you think you’re doing. By the time I stopped my playthrough, about three hours in, I’d finally encountered the first indications of something like a plot, but it took a lot of unmotivated bumbling to get to that point.

Of course, not every game needs to be Photopia and unmotivated bumbling can make for solidly entertaining gameplay, so long as solid writing and enjoyable puzzles are pulling the player along. Milliways gets mixed marks from me on this front. There are solidly Adams-aping gags sprinkled through the text, like this bit where you look up the eponymous eatery in the Hitchhiker’s Guide:

"It goes on to explain, in extremely vague then suddenly extremely detailed (and obviously copyrighted) paragraphs how Milliways, better known as the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, is the best restaurant you can ever visit."

There are also some good jokes embedded in the parser, like this exchange prompted by examining a painting:

"You look at the painting, which could have been done by yours truly (and I’m not even AI yet). It is of an old mouse wearing a monocle. At the bottom of the painting is a plaque, which reads:

"Reginald Markenplatt
Founder of Magrathea Corps.
86 standard yrs.

“Oh, you like it?” says Percy.

"> no
“Well that’s not very nice.”

While for much of my time with the game, I was basically keying in the walkthrough (more on that later, of course), I had a reasonable time doing so based on the charm of the prose and the efficiently-drawn situations. It’s certainly not laugh-a-minute funny the way that I recall Adams being (…probably best not to revisit and find out whether that impression holds up), but this all makes for an entertaining way to pass several hours.

I found the gameplay often made things much less entertaining, unfortunately. There are some quite good puzzles here, like camouflaging a drink to knock out someone whose keycard you need to steal and figuring out how to deal with a shape-changing alien, but many of them rely on frustrating mechanics – there’s a strict inventory limit, many instant-death timers that end the game if you don’t solve things fast enough, the mechanics for travelling between different areas appears to be largely random, and at least one place that will lock you out of victory if you don’t somehow know which objects will be plot-critical and which are red herrings. Compounding the challenge, I came across some notable bugs in the game; twice, an event was supposed to trigger after waiting for a reasonable number of turns, but both times 150-200 turns of waiting didn’t do the trick (the walkthrough offered a workaround for one, and I had a save that allowed me to replay and eventually get past the other, at least). And there’s a recurring puzzle that appears to quite literally involve guessing a verb at random (Spoiler - click to show)(I’m thinking of the different ways you can escape the Dark; trying to use the “missing” sense is nicely clued, but having learned that my sense of touch is going to be important, I’m was at a loss for how I was meant to go from TOUCH LUMP, learning only that it’s “warmish”, to PUSH LUMP other than just running through all the possible interactions). From inadequate clueing to disambiguation issues, it really feels like the game just needed a little more time in the oven.

With that said, as I hit what seems to be the halfway mark I was starting to get into more of a groove, though this could have been as much my increased readiness to consult the hints as anything else. And I did appreciate the moment when an NPC finally started explaining a bit of what was going on and why it was important. Sadly, almost immediately after that sequence a combination of those frustrating mechanics I mentioned above seem to have killed me – I needed to pick up an object, but I didn’t have the spare carrying capacity to do so, and as I futzed around with inventory a timer ended the game – and, facing the quickly-impending Comp deadline and realizing that a post-Comp, less buggy version, is likely to come out soon, I decided to bring my playthrough to an end.

I’ll repeat that Milliways doesn’t seem to me to be purely banking on nostalgia; there are novel ideas here, and the classic ethos seems to be a matter of intention rather than ignorance. And I can’t help but feel affection for something that’s so clearly the product of unbridled enthusiasm. But without much enthusiasm of my own for its antecedents, the game lives and dies by what it’s able to bring to the table on its own – which is currently a bit wonky and sometimes willfully obtuse. With that said, the experience was anything but forgettable; hopefully I’ll eventually get to finish Milliways, but in the meantime I definitely have a few fun new memories to rattle around in my increasingly-empty head.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Unofficial sequel to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours

I beta tested this game a couple of times, although I only did a part at a time and never completed it, while on the other hand the author did a lot of testing for me, so I definitely owe him a lot!

This game is wildly ambitious in its concept: take the work of Douglas Adams (one of the best humorists of all time) and the work of Infocom (one of the best group of IF writers of all time) and write a sequel to their works with a lot of original synthesis and do it all in ZIL (one of the less-known IF languages) and make it roughly comparable in scope to the original (within an order of magnitude).

Oh, and do it as your first game.

To produce anything in this scenario would be a feat. I think that the end result is much more than ‘anything’.

You start this game right where the old one leaves off, on the planet of Magrathea, with the other ship members from the Heart of Gold. Your end goal is…hmm, I’m not quite sure. Explore? In the end it involves a lot of exploring Milliways and trying to gain access to a fancy ship.

In the meantime, the game is centered on a hub-spoke structure, with a central ‘darkness’ room imitating the first game, where different senses lead to different areas.

The game is intentionally hard. In another thread, the author laid down the following rules:

*NPCs are hard to get right, include less of them but make them worth it.
*Story comes after puzzles. That’s how my cookie crumbles.
*DEFINITELY make the game cruel. It’s more interesting that way.
Randomisation? Obviously! Otherwise it becomes a follow-the-walkthrough-if-you-get-stuck kind of game with no brain involved. I usually end up becoming that kind of person.

This game features all of these things, although it actually has several NPCs. The game is quite cruel, and has many randomised codes and things that make a straightforward walkthrough impossible. Just about every area has some kind of randomization, from randomized exits in a small maze to a game of hide and seek with a randomized shapeshifter.

The most frequent way this shows up is the darkness thing. I never figured it out while beta testing, just flailing around until I got out of the darkness, and then with the walkthrough playing today I realized that you have to wait a bit first and then perform the appropriate action, but was frustrated when I kept getting sent to the same area over and over (due to randomization). I finally realized that you can just ‘wait’ until you get the area you want.

For me what shines the most are the settings and the big set-piece puzzles. The settings include Milliway’s itself, Dirk Gently’s office, and other areas from Adams’ writing. The game of hide and seek I mentioned earlier was a lot of fun, as were some of the interactions around disguising yourself and walking around Milliways.

There is some trouble; my game very frequently crashed, often after examining something, when using the Gargoyle interpreter. I took some notes at first but it was so frequent that I just started saving a lot. I’m sure it’s something ZIL related, as I have almost never had Inform games crash. It could be due to window size or something. Edit: No one else seems to be reporting this, so I believe it may be an interpreter issue.

Other than that, the main thing I would have liked more of was a guided conversation system that suggested things to talk about.

Overall, this is much better than it could have been. I remember someone entered a text port of one of the graphical Infocom adventures into IFcomp many years ago and it was a real slog to get through. Pretty much most of the unofficial sequels to Infocom games I’ve played have been bland, outside of some highlights like Scroll Thief. So to see a game that is vibrant with interesting puzzles and which follow in the first games footsteps in many ways is quite impressive. I don’t think it achieves the heights of the first game in terms of polish or writing, but that’s like saying that my work as a mathematician didn’t achieve the heights of Newton or Gauss. This game aimed high, and so I’m impressed where it landed. I look forward to any future work.

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