December 9, 2004
Got Game Entertainment
Release Date: December 2004
Bad Mojo was initially released in 1996 and became something of a cult classic, in addition to winning several awards for its unique and wildly original design. Since the original release is long out of print and not easy to obtain, it is a good thing that Got Game decided to re-publish the game. The 2004 version is not a remake but it's also not just a re-release.
The 2004 game is exactly the same as the 1996 original as far as gameplay is concerned. There are however two major differences. One, all the in-game videos were remastered from original footage and their technical quality is far superior to the initial release. Two, the new version contains an additional DVD with bonus material: a "making of" documentary, an audiovisual walkthrough, storyboards, concept art and similar goodies.
What makes Bad Mojo so original? The "hero" of this game is an insect, a cockroach to be exact. The documentary reveals an unexpected reason for this: Technical constraints. With mid-1990s technology, a small insect shown from overhead view was perfect for a CD-ROM based game. The authors initially intended a very different game, but over time their ideas evolved into the dark vision of Bad Mojo.
Bad Mojo has a fantastic and incredible (as in "not intended to be credible") story. The lead character is Roger Samms, an entomologist living in a rented apartment in a dingy bar on the San Francisco waterfront. Thanks to some incredibly bad mojo, Roger turns into a cockroach. As an insect, he must explore his home from an entirely new perspective and in the process learn a lot about himself, his own past and the people around him. He is aided by a mystical oracle who keeps dispensing slightly cryptic hints.
Life as a cockroach isn't easy. The world is full of dangers - spiders, cats, rats, wet paint, gas burners, vacuum cleaners, hot pipes, pesticides, you name it. Did I mention that you will die a lot in Bad Mojo? Fortunately, your cockroach has several lives, and if that's not enough, there's always the save/restore routine. Besides surviving, your main objective will be finding your way through the house. For a cockroach, a house is one big labyrinth, and there are lots of spaces to crawl through.
The graphics in Bad Mojo are realistic, with almost photographic quality, which might be a serious disadvantage for the squeamish. There are many images in the game that aren't very pretty. 3D rendered and animated graphics is combined with live action segments, and the game's visual design is remarkable. It is plainly obvious that the authors are filmmakers. Technically the game runs in 640x480 resolution, just like the original release. But while the 1996 version required 256 color mode, the updated release runs in true color only. For the game backgrounds and sprites this doesn't make a lot of difference, but the videos look almost completely different. Where the old release had very blocky video and ugly colors, the new version sports crisp video with bright and warm colors.
The sound quality is good, though the music is not remarkable in any way. Since insects don't do a lot of talking, there's not much to speak of where voice acting is concerned. The acting in the live action sequences is over the top, apparently by design -- the authors were worried that otherwise most of it would be lost due to the poor technical quality of the video.
Somewhat unusually, Bad Mojo is almost purely keyboard controlled. The controls are very simple: you can move your roach forward or backward and rotate to the left or right. You'll get used to the controls quickly after crawling around for a short while. There is one or two small timed sequences in the game, but for the most part you're free to explore the house at your leisure. Just watch out for the lurking dangers.
The inventory management is exceedingly simple -- there isn't any. All you can do is walk on objects and push things around. This would seem to severely limit the puzzling options but that is not the case, and getting around the house is not so easy. Often seemingly insignificant actions will have unexpected and far reaching consequences throughout the environment. Perhaps the most disorienting factor is the roach perspective. Most of the time you only get to see a very small part of the room (just like a cockroach would) and have to mentally piece together the big picture.
If you're looking for well integrated puzzles, look no further than Bad Mojo. There are no strange slider puzzles, no alien alphabets, no complex dialogue trees. Just things that a real roach can do (maybe with a bit of artistic license). That's not to say the game is very easy, in fact it has about medium difficulty. The house is big and you will only gradually uncover what the story is all about -- exploration is the biggest part of the puzzle.
Bad Mojo has fairly linear structure and you can only progress through the rooms of the house in certain order, although you can (or have to) return to previously visited areas. Within each room however you have significant freedom of movement, and there is a great deal of background information which you don't have to (but should!) view strewn around the house -- photos, documents, newspaper clippings. Explore as much as you can in order to fully understand the story.
In my opinion, Bad Mojo is undoubtedly one of the "must play" adventure games. There is simply no other game quite like it. The 2004 release is not a new game and not even a remake, however the significantly improved technical quality and wealth of additional material, combined with an attractive price, will make the newBad Mojo appealing even to existing owners of the 1996 version. Everyone else, unless you really really can't stand the sight of cockroaches, go get Bad Mojo. I'm giving it A- for sheer originality and entertainment value. Bad Mojo isn't perfect, but without a question it's worth playing, just because the world looks so different when you're a roach.
Final Grade: A-