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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!
46th Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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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!
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 Ďanythingí.
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 isÖhmm, Iím 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 Ďdarknessí 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. Thatís how my cookie crumbles.
*DEFINITELY make the game cruel. Itís 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 Ďwaití 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 Milliwayís itself, Dirk Gentlyís office, and other areas from Adamsí 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. Iím sure itís 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 Iíve 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 donít think it achieves the heights of the first game in terms of polish or writing, but thatís like saying that my work as a mathematician didnít achieve the heights of Newton or Gauss. This game aimed high, and so Iím impressed where it landed. I look forward to any future work.
M:REU is a large parser game, reminiscent of the old Infocom era, and very much a love letter to the original HHGG game and the HHGG lore. The story follows the event of the second book of the HHGG series, in which the protagonist makes their way towards Milliways, the restaurant at the end of the universe. It combines puzzles and exploration, and includes hints and a walkthrough.
It can't be completed in 2h. I did not reach the end.
When starting the game, I knew I would not be able to finish it within the 2h mark (I remember the beta call mentioning a 8h-long playthrough...), nor would I have been able to go through the different parts without losing/dying (its difficulty being cruel, one wrong move and you die). But I did not expect the quality of the game to be this impressive, considering this is the first game of this author and the fact that the game had been re-coded a few months prior to the comp.
Through my limited playthrough (I managed to get to the 4th location?), it is clear this was a labour of love for the old Infocom games, and the HHGG universe. The game manages to encapsulate the wittiness of the books so well, from the description of your actions, to the error messages, or the in-game hints. I gladly tried to die, just to see the funny messages, and the game calling me a noob for being a bad player (only saying the truth there...).
Some of the puzzles seem a bit obtuse, and require either knowledge of the story or some trial an error (thank you, walkthrough for the help). They are definitely not meant for first-time parser players. Even trying to understand the hints, or follow the walkthrough, it is pretty easy to make an error and see your progress blocked completely.
Close to the 2h-mark, I stumbled into the Milliways kitchen, tried (and failed) to wrangle with the cupboard and my inventory. At some point, the cupboard just refused to open, and the timer rang. I still tried to play a tiny bit more, undoing previous actions and redo the puzzle, but alas, I could not get it past (it was a bug, it turns out).
Honestly, from the little I played, it is really impressive, and could pass for an official game.
Maybe I'll restart it later and try to play it fully.
[Originally played on 2-Oct during the IFComp]
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