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Classic ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ video game gets a makeover for its 30th anniversary

hitchhikerguidecover
 

You wake up. The room is spinning very gently around your head. Or at least it would be if you could see it which you can’t.

If you recognize these sentences, then geek out with me. This past weekend was a joyous one for Douglas Adams fans. The delightful, classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure PC game was modernized and relaunched Saturday by the BBC Radio 4 Extra in honor of its 30th anniversary. March 8th was also the date of the Hitchhiker’s Guide radio show’s first broadcast in 1978. Episodes are being curated and rebroadcast here.

One of the first video games based on a science fiction book, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sold an amazing 350,000 copies on its initial release for Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore 64, DOS, Amiga, Atari 8-bit, and Atari ST. 350,000 copies may not seem like a big deal now, but in 1984 when PC owners were very much in the minority, it was almost unheard of. It placed the game solidly in Infocom’s all-time top five bestsellers.


infocomscreenshot
 
Gaming in the olden days…


The original packaging included a “Don’t Panic!” pin-on button, a packet of “pocket fluff” (a cottonball), the order for destruction of Arthur Dent’s house, the order for destruction of Earth written in Vogon, official Microscopic Space Fleet (an empty plastic bag), Peril Sensitive Sunglasses (made of black cardboard), the brochure How Many Times Has This Happened to You?, and no tea (a recurring theme in the game). The online 20th anniversary edition won an Interactive BAFTA Award for Best Online Entertainment in 2004. Still located on BBC Radio 4’s ancient server, it has never stopped attracting visitors on a daily basis. The new version has HD graphics and sound, as well as a Twitter feed @h2g2game.


howmanytimes
 


I have unsuccessfully tried to explain to my offspring that, even though our Jurassic-era PC games lacked sound and graphics, they were still fun! Like Planet Fall and other Infocom games, playing Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meant that you died in a multitude of ludicrous ways. Mashable’s Stan Shroeder called the game “infamously hard and wickedly funny. Often the most logical course of action will only yield a sarcastic remark from the game’s AI engine, while to progress you must do something completely ridiculous.” Many puzzles, especially the first few, were notoriously difficult to solve even if you had read the book. There were even T-shirts printed up by Infocom for braggarts wanting the world to know they had freed the Babel fish.

An early review of the game from 1985 in Personal Computer News said:

I doubt if there’s ever been anything funnier on a computer than this. That goes for the adventure itself which veers from the storyline of the book, but I was so overcome with the excitement at getting a babel fish out of the dispenser that I couldn’t go any further. Buy it.

A walk-through of the original text game:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Witty, macabre playing cards comment on the fresh horrors of the Nazi concentration camps
02.14.2014
12:41 pm

Topics:
Art
Games
History

Tags:
Holocaust
Dachau

Boris Kobe
 
These fascinating playing cards are the work of a Slovenian artist named Boris Kobe who was held by the Nazis as a political prisoner in Allach, which was a sub-camp of the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. Kobe lived to see the end of the war, and was a very successful architect in his native Slovenia afterwards; he died well into his seventies in 1981. His most prominent project after the war was probably the restoration of the Ljubljana Castle with Jože Plečnik.

As I see it, it’s a little unclear when and where these cards were made. Sources uniformly describe them as having been made “at Allach”—yet at least one of them appears to have been made after the Allied liberation of the camp, and it’s difficult to imaging Kobe hanging around the camp for very long after that. Certainly there wasn’t weeks of clandestine card games going on after that crucial moment. It’s difficult to tell, but there might be a little rhetorical sleight of hand going on there.

Whatever the case, the cards are simply remarkable. First, they look pretty great; Kobe was a gifted caricaturist, and there’s a lot of pleasure to be gained simply from looking at them. But most importantly, they show a life at Dachau close-up in the frankest terms. The cards depict inmates and guards alike, although most of the figures depicted are inmates forced to do back-breaking work, crowded into bunk beds,  disrobing en masse, and, of course, as a pile of skeletons. The king of clubs is depicted as a skeleton.

As I mentioned, these cards were almost certainly created after the liberation of Allach on April 22, 1945 by the 42nd Rainbow Division of the U.S. Army. How do we know this? It’s apparently depicted in one of the cards: Card XXI seems to show liberation, the Slovenian flag, and a tombstone-like image marked “Allach” that is being consumed by flames.

The cards are intended for a game variously called Tarock/Tarot, but the word tarot here is likely to be misleading to English-speaking audiences. Tarock/Tarot is a trick-based game like spades or gin that was popular in the Habsburg Empire and Europe generally for centuries. So this is not a tarot deck in the occult sense as we would think of it; that should be obvious from a glance at the cards, which lack characters like The Fool, The Magician, The Hanged Man, The Sun, and so on. To their creator Kobe and whomever else originally used them, it was just a regular deck of playing cards. I have family in Austria and on my visits there we would sometimes play a related game called “Schnapsen” which didn’t require four players and used a restricted deck, I think the cards only went down as far as the eight card. Basically a game of Schnapsen there was equivalent to the way dominoes is played in a lot of places, you’d play it aimlessly and shoot the shit and gossip.

See the complete deck at the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies website hosted by the University of Minnesota. The original deck is at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia.
 
Boris Kobe
 
Boris Kobe
 
Boris Kobe
 
Boris Kobe
 
Boris Kobe
 
Boris Kobe
 
More of these amazing cards after the jump….
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Atari ‘holy grail’: Moses ‘Crossing The Red Sea’ Bible story video game, 1983
01.15.2014
10:14 am

Topics:
Games

Tags:
Atari


 
Ah the 1980s. Things were simpler then—especially video games!

Take for instance this goofy—and impossibly rare—Atari 2600 curiosity, “Red Sea Crossing.” The primitive “run and jump” game—watch out for those snapping clams and snakes—was created by an independent designer named Steve Stack in 1983. Obviously, the Old Testament story of Moses parting the Red Sea served as the basis of the game, which was advertised in religious magazines. It came packaged with an audio tape narrated by—who else—Dale Evans Rogers and a coloring book. (WHO was the target market for this item?)

The game was never sold in stores and was was only available for $34.95 from the manufacturer. As a result, it’s one of the rarest Atari 2600 games, what’s been describe with tongue only partially in cheek as a “holy grail” for collectors. The game wasn’t even known to exist by the collectors market until one cartridge was found at a garage sale in 2007. That cartridge was auctioned off for over $10,000 in 2012.

Below, a look at the gameplay of “Crossing the Read Sea”
 

 
Thank you kindly ifthenwhy!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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This poignant video game about the Tōhoku tsunami will ravage your heart
12.18.2013
08:51 am

Topics:
Games

Tags:
9.03

9.03
 
Video games are in an interesting place right now, on the cusp of becoming an interactive narrative art form that can accomplish virtually anything. Game are still just barely constricted by certain encumbrances such as points, leveling up, stages, bosses, and so on, but with every passing day each of those elements gets ever so slightly less necessary, and as processing power and screen quality steadily increase, the options for a distinctive story or emotional palette become correspondingly wider.

There have been elegaic, winsome, cryptic games for a while now, but a game like 9.03m packs an emotional wallop that no “improvements” on Candy Crush Saga or Fruit Ninja could ever achieve. The name 9.03m is a reference to the magnitude of the earthquake that occurred just off the Japanese coast on the 11th of March, 2011, triggering a horrendous tsunami that devastated an enormous swath of northeastern Japan. The Tōhoku tsunami took nearly 19,000 lives and caused an immeasurable degree of dislocation and property damage. It’s an unimaginably tragic event, and 9.03m attempts to grapple with its emotional toll.
 
Tohoku tsunami damage
 
Created by the Scottish gaming company Space Budgie, 9.03m is brief and (essentially) pitched as the easiest point-and-click game ever created—it’s somewhat reminiscent of the mid-1990s game Myst or 2012’s PS3 game Journey. it’s not intended to offer heart-palpitating gameplay in which anyone could ever lose him or herself in the heat of competition. It is purposefully game-as-remembrance; to concoct a truly challenging puzzle would be to miss the point utterly.

For 9.03m, Space Budgie ingeniously shifted the action to Baker Beach in San Francisco, where the moon has rendered the ethereal landscape a gorgeous blue hue as the iconic Golden Gate Bridge looms benignly in the distance. The task is to collect butterflies that are embedded in objects strewn on the beach, each bit of debris representing a single victim of the tsunami’s incomprehensible devastation. Each object is braced by a silhouette of a person, which dissipates into mist by the time you can interact with it. (The first item, a soccer ball, may be a reference to the soccer ball later found off of an Alaskan island that was traced back to a Japanese schoolboy.)

That last detail should provide a clue to the gut-wrenching emotional power that 9.03m can evoke. (The slowness of the game and the tinkly piano score may drive some users up the wall, but that’s okay.) The game costs $1.99 on Steam, and (once the company’s expenses are recouped) all of the proceeds go to Aid For Japan, a charity for children who lost their parents in the Tōhoku tsunami.
 

 
via RocketNews24

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Taxidermied mice chess set
12.09.2013
09:15 am

Topics:
Animals
Art
Games

Tags:
Chess
Taxidermy


 
Don’t worry, I’ve got your holiday gift ideas covered this year: What about this delightful handmade taxidermy mice chess set by Etsy shop TheCurious13? There’s only one available and it’s retailing for $450.00.

According to the write-up on Etsy:

The set includes 16 light colored mice and 16 dark mice, in various sizes, pawns being the smallest. Set comes complete with wooden hand painted chess board, and storage case (not pictured).

Now I’m curious what the chess board and storage case look like.


 

 

 
With thanks to Gail Potocki!

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Christmas Tinner: 3-course meal in a can for gamers
12.06.2013
12:18 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Food
Games

Tags:
Gamers
Christmas Tinner


 
The Daily Mail (natch) is reporting this 3-course meal in a can for gamers—by artist Chris Godfrey—as a new (and real) thing. I, however, have the sneaking suspicion that this is just a clever viral hoax as there’s nowhere to actually buy this 9-layered vomit feast online. You know the drill: You can’t give someone money for something? It probably doesn’t exist.

According to the Daily Mail (don’t hate):

The Christmas Tinner has been trialled in the Basingstoke store, and the firm said it plans to sell it in stores across the country if there is enough demand.

Research from Domino’s Pizza recently found that gamers will do anything in order to carrying on playing.

Almost half of male gamers admitted they have turned down sex to continue playing, while a fifth of female gamers said they’d missed weddings and hen dos.

If this is believed to be true, then it’s the perfect stocking stuffer for that certain special immobile couch potato gamer in you life.

BTW, we’ve blogged about Godfrey’s puketastic 12-course meal in a can earlier this year.
 

 
Via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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‘The Shining’ in the style of an 8-bit video game
11.12.2013
11:00 am

Topics:
Games
Movies
Science/Tech

Tags:
The Shining

The Shining 8-bit
 
CineFix does a very good job here of translating the unforgettable images and motifs of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining into the halcyon days of about 1989, when the most effective hack to fix your malfunctioning cartridge was to blow into it.
 
The Shining 8-bit
 
The game that CineFix shrewdly chose to mimic here appears to be the old LucasFilm (later LucasArts) game Maniac Mansion—the title alone is an almost perfect recapitulation of The Shining, and the gameplay appears to have been too.

I want to play!
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Frankie Goes to Hollywood: The Commodore 64 game
11.05.2013
06:34 am

Topics:
Games
Music

Tags:
Commodore 64
Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Frankie Goes to Hollywood video game
 
In 1984, Frankie Goes to Hollywood was a very big deal. Americans, inclined to write off the weirdly self-important and prurient dance-pop act as a one-hit wonder, may not be aware of just how big they were. Their 1984 singles “Relax” and “Two Tribes” respectively clock in as the #6 and #21 best-selling singles in UK recording history. They were never going to last, but at their peak, nobody in the landscape sounded like Frankie.

A year after those two mega-hits happened, Ocean Software Ltd published a Denton Designs game called Frankie Goes to Hollywood for the Commodore 64. Judging as best I can from a detailed YouTube simulation of gameplay, it looks like a pretty good game for what it is—and also kind of ridiculous too (it wouldn’t be a Frankie game if it weren’t a little ridiculous). 
 
Frankie the computer game
 
In the game, you play a monochromatic (often blue) homunculus whose task it is to fulfill the four life aspects of game, pleasure, war, love, and faith. These are represented by four corresponding icons: a pair of spermatozoa, a bullet (to me it never doesn’t look like a condom—this is clearer in the picture below), a heart, and a cross. You start at 0% and as you make your way through the various levels, “Frankie” rewards you with “pleasure units” and you eventually make it to 100% and win the game. Seriously, the gameplay repeatedly informs you with messages like “Frankie give you 2500 more pleasure units - you have 47200 and you’re 55% a real person.” Just think: if you achieve all four life aspects you can become a fully realized human being—just like Holly Johnson!

Actually, it’s high time I quoted from the manual:

You begin this extraordinary experience devoid of personality, an amorphous shape in the land of the mundane. Behind the facade of flying ducks and kitchen sinks however lies a giant web of drama and intrigue spun within the pleasuredome. Scruntinise! Investigate! Probe! Objects you take for granted may be your passport to success; clues can be discovered everywhere. In this game of games you will need the skills of Arcade King, Adventurer, Super Sleuth, Mastermind and more. Frankie say Relax. Use the Power of Zap to build the equation (4 icons at bottom right corner are (left to right) Pleasure, War, Love,and Faith) to its peak when, if you respond brilliantly, you may enter the heart of the Pleasure Dome

 
It’s all a little silly, and couldn’t be more pretentious in a stilted 1980s way, but, as I mentioned earlier, the game was surprisingly forward-thinking for the day. For one thing, the game is pleasingly non-linear; you definitely have goals to achieve and so forth, but basically you can wander around and do what you want to do, to some extent. The game seems to have been admirably short on roadmaps to explain what you were supposed to do.

Furthermore, the various stages of the game were quite varied and diverting, as far as I can tell. In the first stage you have to solve a murder, there’s an odd stage in which you are superimposed on Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel (only with a cheeky devil replacing God) and you have to dodge the arrows emanating from a squadron of cherubim. For reasons that aren’t explained, in the “Raid over Merseyside” stage you have to defend Liverpool (Frankie were from Liverpool, doncha know?) from some kind of WWII air blitz, and later on, in “Talking Heads” (I think), you engage in a weird Pong-like battle between Reagan and ... maybe Chernenko? The final stages of the game occur in some kind of anomic computer laboratory vaguely reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey or perhaps the original Tron.
 
War!
 
The concept of the game is strong, as is the writing. Here is a sampling of some of the more memorable messages that pop up during the game:

“The jacket will free you from pain”
“You now have a herring”
“20 flowers make a bunch”
“The killer is a Taurean”
“You now have a bag of money”
“Mr Dull has always voted Tory”
“Joe Public hates to part with a penny”
“You now have a thirsty cat”
“Ms Bland adores a hot beef curry”
“The killer is an atheist”

 
Frankie’s music is the only element that is conspicuously lacking throughout, although predictably, the big reward for achieving full 100% humanity is a tinny rendition of “Two Tribes.”
 

 
Thanks to reader Ossian Sunesson for calling my attention to this game.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Have some shitfaced Halloween fun with the ‘Dark Shadows’ drinking game
10.29.2013
02:20 pm

Topics:
Games
Television

Tags:
alcoholism
Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows board game
 
If you’re skipping the Halloween parties this year, preferring instead to stay home and drunkenly hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, might I suggest a classic board game to liven up your night? Get your spooky self over to eBay and purchase one the the two varieties of Dark Shadows board games! (By the way, don’t you think a kid’s board game based off of a horror soap opera would cause some pearl-clutching nowadays? How G-rated has childhood become?)

I say combine game-play with a show marathon. Dark Shadows is the best thing to watch in a social setting. It’s streaming on Netflix, so the soap opera format allows the audience to drift in and out or pick episodes at random. And of course all the episodes were shot live and low budget, so despite the high quality of the acting, there’s a ton of line-flubs and technical mistakes. In addition to the actual game, you can start making up your own rules along with the show. For example, every time you see a microphone in the shot, take a drink! Every time a piece of scenery collapses, take a drink!

Just remember folks, every game is a drinking game if you’re inventive!
 
Dark Shadows board game
 
board game
 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Astronomia: Beautiful 184-year-old card game
10.29.2013
11:53 am

Topics:
Art
Games

Tags:
Astronomia

astronomiamoon
 
It’s surprising that someone at U.S. Games Systems hasn’t reissued the obscure Astronomia card deck, an astronomically themed Victorian Georgian card game published in 1829. Surely someone should have turned it into a Tarot deck or children’s educational video or board game by now. Zazzle sells clocks, iPhone covers, Nook decals, handtowels, notebook covers, and other items featuring the Luna card image, but not the actual cards. Mostly intact decks cost thousands of dollars, but curious as I am, I don’t want to learn how to play the game that badly.

astronomiavesta
 
astronomiaset
 

 
The George Glazer Gallery describes an available $2400 deck:

A highly sought-after astronomically based card game, Astronomia, with beautiful illustrations by Henry Courbould, was created by F.G. Moon in 1829. Deck of educational astronomy cards pertaining to the solar system. Zodiac constellations, planets, the sun, comets, and asteroids are decoratively and scientifically rendered in shades of black and white as if the night sky were being viewed through a draped window flanked by pillars.

Bonhams Auctioneers described a similar lot in a catalog listing, which sold for $903 two years ago:

An attractive and scarce pack of cards on an astronomical theme. The pack is divided into the four seasons: Summer (pink, Autumn (yellow), Winter (white) and Spring (blue). The zodiacal sign cards of or a greater value than the other cards. The suits are made up as follows: Spring- Aries, Luna, Jupiter, Saturn, Herschel, Tellus, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Pallas, Juno, Ceres, Vesta. The remaining suits are composed in the same way, except for the first two cards: Summer: Cancer, The Sun; Autumn: Libra, The Comet; Winter: Capricorn, The Orbits.

More scans of the cards can be seen here.

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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