Infocom Classics.

Tavis Ormandy

$Id: a07cf90837a3c4373b82d6724b97593810766af7 $


The Infocom interactive fiction games were before my time, but I know many people regard them highly. I have an open mind about this stuff, so I tried playing one for the first time this weekend.

I enjoyed the Douglas Adams books so thought I’d try HHGTTG. There really was some new content that felt like DNA had written it (maybe he did, I know he was involved), so that was cool.

The main problem for me was that soft-locking was part of the game, which I found really frustrating.

Soft Locking

I’ve played old Sierra games and classic RPGs. They’re not afraid to make you hunt for items or give up and try brute forcing solutions…but I think they would still have considered soft-locking progress a bug?

That’s not true in Infocom games. If you don’t choose the right dialog option or find all the item, the game will keep letting you play, but you can’t actually progress.

Here’s an example, early on, Ford offers you a towel - if you accept it, the game continues but you can’t actually make any progress….Silly me, I guess???

Same in the Vogon hold, there’s a puzzle where you have to build a rube goldberg machine out of items to get a babel fish. It could have been a fun puzzle. The flavor text wasn’t from the book but does sound like it was written by DNA, the kind of content I was hoping for!

The problem is, if you didn’t get all the items you needed on Earth to build it, too bad you’re dead. The game never tells you you can’t progress though, so you have to have played it enough to get frustrated and Google the solution. Honestly, it spoiled what could have been a really fun puzzle.


I don’t know if I have the patience to finish the game, which is a shame because I there is some content I would have really enjoyed.