Bad Mojo: The Roach Game Redux
Back before Austin Powers lost his, Roger had it in spades, albeit Bad. It was the days when 8 bit colour was the pinnacle and 96 Mb of RAM was unheard of, and Bad Mojo pushed the gaming envelope in more ways than one. Its sales and awards are testimony to its uniqueness, and it's a game that I have played more than once simply for the kick I get out of scuttling around the place on my belly. It was games like this one, played in my gaming infancy, which solidified my love of the adventure genre.
Now Bad Mojo is back, the exact same game but tweaked to enable operation under Windows 98 and above, and utilising Quicktime 6 (and a bit), which brings the little full motion videos in the original up to almost full screen. Plus it includes a special bits and pieces DVD, but more of that later.
Bad Mojo is what you get when you throw a liking for David Lynch into a Kafka-esqe metamorphosis and salt it with everyone's favourite roach revulsion. It's grotty, it's over the top, it's weird and it's dark. But it works.
You play Roger, a man who becomes a roach and who then finds out his life is more than it ever seemed. Other animals telepath you in rhyming riddles and you have visions of a woman, a Greek chorus of an apparition to whom you had better pay attention. Your salvation, and that of others, depends upon it.
The whole adventure takes place in Eddie's Bar, a seedy squalid place where roaches aren't the only vermin. As a roach, you can climb walls and walk upside down on the underside of tables, but more simple and innocuous obstacles are insurmountable here. A Pixar bug would build a plane from a few sticks, but Roger has no such talent. You can push things, you can climb things, you might be able to tip things, but that's about it. So how then do you stop a garbage disposal unit, load the fax machine, and turn off a vacuum cleaner? Or simply get past a puddle? Therein lies the challenge.
In keeping with the limited nature of a roach endeavour, you have the 4 arrow keys at your disposal and nothing else but your wits. No inventory, no "use" buttons, no active cursors. Just scuttle Roger around the screen with your arrow keys and watch out for the water, the cat, the rats, and sundry other deadly things.
The vast majority of screens offer a top down perspective of Roger, and a fairly small chunk of his current environment. If he is on a table top, you will need to crawl about to see what is there. Choose a direction, and off you go. As Roger leaves the edge of each screen, the next one loads, and like a jigsaw, you can piece together where you are and begin to work out how to get to where you might need to be.
Occasionally Roger will get a long shot across a room which helps with your orientation, and the visions he has, and is presented with, will also contain normal shots of the rooms which Roger must visit and navigate. So too they will contain clues and pointers as to where to go and what to do.
They also provide the backstory, as do a whole range of objects which Roger will climb over. Newspapers, letters and journals provide some of the story, and other items trigger little "memory movies" which fill in other parts. You would be well advised to scuttle everywhere you can, else you will miss some of the detail and the depth involved.
Roger will also get help from the other animals he meets, and not just mentally. If all else fails, follow your roach brethren.
A roach's world is not a pretty one, and Eddie's bar is not a pretty place to begin with. You will pass and climb over dead things, bleeding things, mouldy things, and half eaten things. You will crawl under mattresses, inside cupboards, around latrines and down many a drain. You will trigger memories of laughing nuns, scheming boxers, bloodied brides and loss and scorn.
Eventually, having pushed and climbed around and through the various rooms, you will trigger a number of timed sequences which lead to a number of endings. The amount of time is more than generous once you know what to do, so you don't have to worry that you won't be able to manipulate Roger quickly enough, but sorting out what to do might take more than one attempt.
Roger's roach world is one of rendered realistic screens laced with full motion video clips, and multi-media visions. They are overlaid with a suitably grimy soundtrack, and an almost dirty feel.
The puzzles are essentially a bunch of well put together obstacles and some small mazes, all integrated into the world of a roach, if a little fancifully at times. Whilst you may be lost occasionally, you will know when you have achieved a key event or outcome. You also have a fair amount of freedom in your exploration, although certain events need to be triggered in order to progress through the game. Having played Bad Mojo several times, the straight path through the game is no more than a few hours, but it will take you many more than that the first time out. Even on this occasion I wandered at times through the rooms, looking where to go next.
The rooms connect in a number of ways, and the basement provides drain access to all of them. The manual comes with a map of the basement exits should you need it. Roger can die, although the virtual indestructibility of a roach means you get a number of lives. Saving regularly provides untold more. Load times between screens is almost non-existent, and it played flawlessly with no need to tweak anything in XP.
It's an entertaining and still different little romp. But it gets better.
Better comes in the form of the extra DVD (the game itself is on CD), and if Bad Mojo pushed the envelope when it was made, the DVD does so again, at least as far as games are concerned. It's like the extra disc you get with a new release film, the one with all the special bits. There are story boards, director voice over(s) of a number of the various video scenes, a hints section, conceptual artwork, an image gallery, and a must not miss at any cost making of Bad Mojo documentary. All games must come with such things in the future.
Seriously, they must. The documentary is a wonderful adjunct to the game, insightful and witty, well put together and with some original footage including the audition of the lead actor and a 1996 spot on Good Morning America (check out the price of the game back then). There is even an Aussie connection to the infamous rat (everyone who has played the game remembers the rat).
Bad Mojo probably won't be for everyone. The makers admit they were aiming for a fairly high gross quotient, and that too much weirdness was never really enough. But it retains a sense of fun, and everyone should probably play it once, if for no other reason than it is still unique.
Gordon reviewed the original in 1996 and wasn't quite so enamoured, but you know my taste for the bizarre by now, so it's 4 stars from me (and you can silently add another half for the DVD).
Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2005.
All rights reserved.
Windows 98, 2000 or XP, Pentium III 800 MHz or better, 50 MB disc space, 8x CD ROM, 24 bit colour video display.
Macintosh G3 or better, System 9.0 (for OSX Classic mode), 50 MB disc space, 8x CD ROM, 24 bit colour video display.