Leafing through the packaging and press release sent to me from Got Game Entertainment, it appears that the adventure Bad Mojo: The Roach Game was released in 1996, and it subsequently received critical acclaim and some awards, like PC Computing’s MVP Award. I didn’t play Bad Mojo back then; I hadn’t even heard of it until Got Game Entertainment decided to re-release it earlier this month. (I was going through a real-time strategy phase at the time, and the only adventures I played came from LucasArts.) So can a game released eight years ago still be fun to play? And would you want to buy it? Keep reading to find out.
In Bad Mojo you play an entomologist named Roger Samms. One night, just as you’re packing up some stolen money and preparing to leave the country, you pick up your mother’s locket, only to suddenly turn into a cockroach. Most of the game then takes place with you in roach form, and as you navigate your way through your apartment, events slowly reveal where the money came from, why your mother’s locket would do such a thing to you, and how you can return to human form. The story works pretty well; Bad Mojo isn’t just a gimmick game.
Bad Mojo also isn’t exactly an adventure, or at least not an adventure as I picture them. The camera gives you an overhead view of the action, and you move the cockroach using your keyboard. But since you’re a cockroach there isn’t much you can do. You can’t pick up inventory objects, you can’t really manipulate machinery, and you can’t run and jump. That removes about 90% of the activities from most adventures. What you can do is scurry around, and, if you find a lightweight object, sometimes you can push it to good effect.
With that sort of limited arsenal, you might wonder how the game can have interesting puzzles, but the developer Pulse Entertainment did a nice job with them. A certain part of the game requires you to figure out how to move around your apartment building while in roach form (which is fun because walls and ceilings aren’t necessarily obstacles), but when you do encounter a puzzle, it is usually in the form of setting off a chain reaction to get something done. For example, when you need to escape a kitchen, you discover that the only way out is through the drain in the sink, but the garbage disposal is currently on. There is a spoon in the sink, and if you could push the spoon into the disposal you could probably jam it, but the spoon is too heavy for you to move. But if you were heavier, maybe you could move the spoon. Most of the puzzles require thinking like that, which is fun because it makes your actions semi-realistic, but it also means at times you’ll do things without having the slightest idea why.
Of course, since Bad Mojo was released eight years ago, and since only the video sequences were “reduxed,” it looks and sounds like an old game. I’m not going to try and rate these areas based on how good they might have been in 1996, because you’re not going to go back in time to play the game; you’re going to (or not going to) play it now. And so, without surprise, the graphics and sound aren’t very good. The game uses a resolution of 640x480, and while some areas look fine, in others it’s difficult to tell where you’re supposed to be and where you can go. However, the game gets by because the visuals have style, and because you get to go places and see things that are pretty unusual. Meanwhile, in the sound department, the actors do a credible job with their lines (and their acting, if you like hammy performances), but the music is pretty basic, and the sound effects are all but random.
Included with the Bad Mojo CD you also get a DVD with some bonus features on it, just like if Bad Mojo had been a movie. And so you get a half hour “making of” documentary, some commentary from the creators of the game, and even some nicely presented hints to get you through the five main areas of the game. It’s just that, while I liked Bad Mojo well enough, I didn’t care that much about it, and so the bonus DVD didn’t do all that much for me.
But, overall, Bad Mojo is a nice enough game, even eight years later. Adventures can get away with subpar graphics as long as they have interesting puzzles and a compelling story, and Bad Mojo covers those areas well enough to be worthwhile to play. There are certainly worse ways you could spend $20 this holiday season.