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USK: age 16 and up
A review by slydos 26th August 2002
There are adventures in which I played a grandmother or a child, a rogue, a lunatic or I even was dead. I already was a dog, a dragon, an alien, a pig, a fish, a panther and a koala. But somehow nevertheless all of them had human traits, could usually speak or collect things or even both. But to transform into a cockroach, as Pulse Entertainment requires from me in "Bad Mojo", has a new quality.
Speaking or dialogues are not my thing, perhaps a bit chirping now and then and of course listen well to what happens around. I can observe and even read, run - also at the wall - and touch things, sometimes also move things. How exciting a life with such a limited repertoire can be, we see in "Bad Mojo", what translated means as much as "bad magic".
Naturally one immediately recognizes the basis literary model, "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka. Here too the main character transforms into an insect one day. Surely "Bad Mojo" is also a little hommage to this novel of the world literature from 1915, which seems just as absurd and surrealistic as our adventure game. There is even a name similarity between Gregor Samsa and Roger Samms.
Dr. Roger Samms, entomologist, lives in a house quite run-down, above Eddy's bar in San Francisco. This evening he decided, to change his extrinsicly conditioned insignificant life. He wants to disappear with a giant sum of research funds, that he has embezzled. He has thought through everything, passport and tickets to Mexico are kept ready.
With gently said, mad affectations he caresses the money suit-case and leads soliloquies. So this should be the "hero", with whom I should identify myself? It knocks on the door! Fast Roger stows the money away and opens the door. Eddy, the tavern landlord from downstairs, wants to take the pending rent. Roger reluctantly pays him and tries to get rid of the grim intruder. Being alone again, he wants to leave the house fast, but then it occurs to him that he forgot his mother's medaillon. He takes the jewel from a drawer and suddenly magic emanates from the necklace, which prostrates Roger to the ground and changes him into a cockroach!
In quite surrealistic manner, Roger's mother, the picture from the roach decorated medaillon, speaks to him again and again. She tries during the whole game - sometimes clear, sometimes in metaphors - that it's not only about to regain human shape and leading a beautiful life in Mexico, but also to disclose the secret of his origin.
Roger, better the cockroach, is catapulted into the sewer system, from where he could enter the house through the waste-pipes again. At the beginning 5 of the 6 pipes are still closed, so we enter the one before us with the forward arrow key and arrive in the cellar of Eddy's bar.
The game comes on 1 CD and can be installed under Windows 3.1 or higher with the setup file. The automatic installation routine lets you select the installation directory. One needs approx. 20 MB hard disk space. If one hasn't set the screen colors to 256, an error message shows up and one cannot start the game. Under Windows 95 I had no more technical problems. A very extensive manual in the languages English, German, Italian, Spanish and French does not only offer an exact explanation of installation and controls, but also a translation of all !! English texts, which are on the documents, that come across during the game.
We arrive in the main menu, where we can mouse-select the usual menu options such as "Start", "Load", "Save", "Continue" and "Quit" and additionally the options "Credits" and "Trailer". The menu option "Help" shows a control overview and in the "Options" you can adjust various graphic settings, in order to customise the game to the capability of your computer, e.g. switch on/off light effects and shade.
After we have selected "New Game", have watched the intro movie, which we can stop with ESC, like all other videosequences, we arrive finally at the starting point before the first waste-pipe. After we instructed Roger, the roach, with the forward arrow, to enter the pipe, the game is under our control.
With "Options" you can select, which keyboard range you would like to use for controlling the cockroach. Apart from the standard arrow keys, we can select the letters "IJKL" or "WASD". Outside the main menu, which is to open by spacebar, "Bad Mojo" is completely keyboard-controlled.
We see Roger, the cockroach, in 3rd-person-perspective, or should I better say, in 3rd-roach-perspective? A roach can only crawl and touch things. So there is of course no inventory, because Roger cannot take up objects in his condition. He can hear and observe, and sometimes move smaller items. Moving objects already belongs to puzzle solution, because thereby often new paths are opened.
Roger must try to find a way out. He is often kept from progressing e.g. by liquids or cobwebs. In many places one can move back and forth however to sneak out of the situation. If that should not function and Roger dies, then he dissolves and one of his additional 3 lives replaces him. The available number of lives is indicated by small cockroaches in this moment at the top of the screen. Not until these lives are exhausted, we will be back-thrown with a small cutscene to the sewer system and must again begin the level here (there are altogether 6 levels, as much as waste pipes).
A cockroach is exposed to many unknown dangers, and as this happens frequently also frequent saving is recommended. The save screen is a standard windows pop-up and we can store unlimited savegames there. Unfortunately we are limited to 8 letters (a DOS leftover) and the savegames are listed alphabetical, what makes the whole thing quite unclear.
Though the handling is confined to conceivable few keys and therefore very easy to memorise, controlling of our cockroach in the unknown terrain nevertheless needs getting used to. One must try out often, whether one touches the keys rather carefully or keeps them pressed in certain situations. Roger often doens't move exactly, as we expect and in difficult situations a thoughtless movement can mean fast death.
The background graphics are fixed images of good quality. inventive is the perspective: we usually see only a small cutout of the whole scene. Everything looks great big, is it a peanut hull or a cigarette stub. We can balance on cables or baseball bats and are stopped by icky meal remainders or sticky color arrears. Apropos icky: the game is nothing for lovers of "beautiful" pictures. Here halfdead fish in their own blood are shown, dead and ending rats and a quantity of other unappetizing details in zoomed dust and dirt. Cheers!
Our cockroach hero can touch or enter hotspots and thus release video sequences, which supply frequently background informations for his search. If we come near other organisms, then a water-mark-like hotspot often shows us that we can call special hints in video form, if we hop on it. Pictures from magazines or reminiscential photos suddenly awake to life, and also at the end of each level we receive strange hints from Roger's mother in poem form for our getting ahead. These sequences look blurred and diffuse depending upon selected screen resolution. A part of the videos are shown in full screen mode. So you must move away a bit from screen, in order to see clearly.
There is only little music, which we can hear at the beginning in the trailer and also in some, particular dramatic situations. Both, kind and insertion of the music, succeeded very well. Thus in the main menu rhythmic Bongo sounds are carried by sirenful background singing and electronically distorted but rhythmically exciting sounds are supported by macaber cries and laughter in the trailer. The trailer theme offers the suitable setting also for the intro, as Roger's professional dubbing voice forms an exactly timed unit with the music.
During the game one can less speak of music in the conventional sense, but of sounds, humming background, interspersed xylophones. The tension-loaded surrealistic sphere sounds are complemented by a quantity of realistic sounds, dripping water, spitting of a cat or the noise of the gas stove. Unfortunately for landlord Eddy no bad dubbing voice was engaged, however a very mismatching young and high voice. Also the voice of the oracle/Roger's mother could not convince me, but that may have been caused however by the bad poem texts, which serve us as puzzle clues.
You have to find a new exit in each level by hints of vermin colleagues or also by statements of the oracle/mother. Although the cockroach has only few possibilities of action, the puzzles are still relatively multifaceted nevertheless. In order to find the way out, you can move things by nudging against them or by your weight and so a glowing cigarette can become a deadly weapon. However the glowing cigarette stubs, which our tavern landlord Eddy left everywhere, are somewhat unrealistic, since they seem to burn for hours - in reality they would of course go out after a few minutes.
Roger's task is to find or clear paths. Through the cockroach perspective concise fittings so actually become small labyrinths. In very many places you can't progress because of liquids, poisons or other obstacles. Of course you have to avoid insecticides, go out of the way of rats and other beasts if possible, and don't fall into the loo, what results in immediate death. Frequent saving is recommendable! The individual puzzles, e.g. to set a roll of toilet paper in motion, are solvable in different order. The game is partly nonlinear within a level.
There are even some code puzzles, which must be solved by data found in documents or elsewhere. Therefore it is worthwhile, to read the many (English-language) newspaper snippets, notes, letters etc. what you can do in detail in the translation of the manual.
Honestly said, I actually spent most time in the first level, since I had to learn approaching as cockroach, the controls and the kind of puzzles, which were actually alien to me.
Although the control with the 4 arrow keys (or the 4 keys, you selected) is very simple, one needs actually approx. the whole first level, the cellar, in order to get accustomed to the reactions of the cockroach to the own instructions. A quite long learning phase.
The puzzles are actually logical and of medium difficulty, but are considered harder than they really are by unusual perspective and strange possibilities of action at the beginning of the game.
There are several possible endings, depending on how you behave in the end. It depends on the time factor and if you are too slow, there will rather be a bad ending.
Of course decomposing rats and rotting meal wastes are not everyones cup of tea. It is also difficult to identify yourself on the one hand with strange scientist Rodger Samms and on the other hand with his embodiment as cockroach. But one cannot deny "Bad Mojo" a large originality factor.
Unfortunately already too much from the prehistory to be explored, is revealed too early, so that you already in 2nd chapter get to know, what should actually be betrayed at the end. Contrary to the well set sounds one did not find the correct point here and the surprise factor goes to zero. It's a great pity!
I recommend this game with nevertheless approx. 25 hours play time to those, who are ready, to go into the lowlands of waste without dialogues, inventory and objects by controls that need accustoming, in order to experience an adventure game of a completely different kind.
Total rating: 58%
80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable 70% - 79% good game, recommendable 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable) 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only) 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- 486/66 MHz or higher
- Windows 3.1 or higher
- 8 MB RAM
- Mouse, keyboard
- Super VGA (256 Color)
- 20 MB on hard disk
- 2fach CDROM-drive
- Windows 95
- PII 233 MHz
- 64 MB RAM
- 4 MB graphic card
- 16bit sound card
- 24x CDROM-drive
The main menu
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