Bad Mojo

Developer:  Rapid Pulse Entertainment
Publisher:  Acclaim
Year Released:  1996

Review by Gordon Aplin (July, 1996)
bmojo.jpgWhat would happen if you were suddenly turned into a cockroach? How would the familiar, everyday objects of your remembered world now appear? How would you manipulate even simple items like switches that are now bigger than yourself? And wouldn't you now regret putting down all those roach baits? Well, in Bad Mojo (undoubtedly inspired by Franz Kafka's short story, Metamorphosis) you have the chance to find out.

As an introduction to the game you are treated to a video sequence of Roger Samms in his dingy room above Eddie's seedy waterfront bar. Roger is a bit of a sad case who thinks like a cockroach and imagines the whole world is against him, but now all that is about to change. Roger has somehow got a case full of money, his bags are packed and he is about to skip to Mexico to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. After an altercation with Eddie, his landlord, he remembers the mysterious locket his mother left to him and, picking it up, he is suddenly transformed by bad mojo (literally, bad magic) into a cockroach.

The game proper begins in the basement with you controlling the movements of Roger the roach and you must navigate your way around a filthy, cockroach and rat infested environment to eventually find a way of becoming Roger the man again. In so doing you will learn, via a series of video sequences and written documents, about Roger's life, how he got his money and who his parents were. You will need to watch the video sequences carefully as these will provide clues not only to the story, but also to solving the puzzles along the way.

Fear and loathing
Even for someone who loathes/fears cockroaches as much as I do this game is strangely compelling affording, as it does, a glimpse of our world from a cockroach perspective though, sadly, you never really get a cockroach eye view. However, the sense of inhabiting a cockroach environment is admirably conveyed by the scale of the everyday objects that you get to climb over, under, around and behind. Graphically, this game is very well done -- perhaps too graphically. The kitchen, in particular, is revolting and yet oddly fascinating as Roger the roach scurries over realistic looking food including bacon rashers, rice, steak (complete with maggots) and a still gasping catfish. (Health warning: After playing this game you may never eat again.)

Basically, Bad Mojo is a very cleverly constructed maze and obstacle course. The areas you can explore in each screen are largely circumscribed by spilled liquids and sticky substances that are impossible to cross. (This is a game where you can literally get stuck.) Overcoming the many obstacles to your progress will require careful exploration and observation and a great deal of thought as your objectives are not always clear. At the same time, as every cockroach knows, the prospect of sudden death is ever at hand. To help alleviate this problem you are provided with four spare lives which tend to give the game an unwarranted arcade feel. Most adventurers will simply save and restore as I did, but this is nevertheless quite a useful feature as it allows you to happily explore your current surroundings and work on a solution to the puzzles with only a minimal interruption by death. Then, once you know what you need to do you can restore your game and continue on with all lives intact. (Though, there is no reason why you cannot finish the game with only one life remaining.)

Keyboard control
All movement of your cockroach is controlled by the arrow keys which, though very easy to use, also contributes to the arcade feel of the game, as do the one or two obstacles where you must act quickly. But, rest assured, this is not merely an arcade romp. It is, in fact, a quite novel adventure game, though one which may not be to everyone's taste.

Some of the puzzles are quite tricky as the only objects you can manipulate are those you can push around or perhaps influence in some other way (hint). And, of course, cockroaches don't have pockets so you can't carry items around with you but must use whatever happens to be handy.

As I mentioned earlier it is important to explore thoroughly to ensure that you trigger the video sequences that provide important clues otherwise the reasons for much of what you can do may remain obscure. As you successfully negotiate each section or room you are transported via a video sequence in the basement to the next location. The basement is an important central area containing inlets and outlets to all the locations you must visit and, later on in the game, this will provide an essential short cut to rooms you have previously opened up. A map of the basement is shown in your manual and this feature will save you some extensive backtracking for one puzzle in particular.

There are several possible endings but only one is correct and timing is important here. If you are successful you will learn the truth about your parentage. You will also discover that crime does sometimes pay.

International flavour
Bad Mojo installs under Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 only and allows you the option of installing the English, French, German, Italian or Spanish versions. There is no on-screen text apart from the many fragments of newspapers and other documents and these can all be read more easily in the manual. The game is accompanied by a thumping soundtrack which, I must admit, I turned off very early in the piece.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the puzzle/maze aspect of this game though it is not one that I would want to return to, and it is definitely not for the squeamish. All the way through I couldn't help thinking that a simpler, cut down version without the sordid storyline and with some of the more repellant screens removed would surely be an instant success with younger players as it has many elements that might appeal to a youthful audience. And, despite my aversion to cockroaches, Roger the roach is infinitely more appealing than Roger the man. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1996. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
486/33, 8MB RAM, 20 MB hard drive space, 2xCD-ROM, Win 3.1, SVGA