Review by MrLipid
Yuck! I'll Take It!
Bad Mojo's original publicity spin asked players to imagine
Myst, directed by David Lynch and scripted by Franz Kafka.
While arresting, the blurb is more than a bit misleading. Players
expecting a creepy/weird point-and-click, first-person experience
a la Myst found instead a creepy/weird third-person (or should
that be third-roach?) adventure driven by nothing but the
cursor keys. Spin aside, for those with a taste for the creepy/weird
and a willingness to see through the grime of the world into the
heart of the spirit, Bad Mojo is an extraordinary adventure.
The Roach Game, as it became known, embodies what Drew Huffman,
Pulse Entertainment's founder and president, calls the "Booger
Principle": something really disgusting will attract and hold
lots of attention without generating too much backlash. It worked.
I remember picking up my copy of Bad Mojo back when it was
first released in 1996. It was given a full end-of-rack display
... and there were even Bad Mojo gimme caps!
Bad Mojo wore its disgustingness like a yellow plaid sports
coat, daring players to confront all that crawls in the walls and
sewer pipes (and kitchens!) of all the seedy bars in all the seedy
neighborhoods in all the cities of the world. (For whatever reason,
Bad Mojo made a particularly big splash in Germany. No comment.)
Our Story So Far ...
Bad Mojo begins in a bank of moonlit clouds. There is a
crack of thunder. A noirish voiceover begins as the camera sweeps
down past a bridge, then into a rundown riverside neighborhood and
finally through the upstairs window of Eddie's Bar: "All my
life I've felt helpless, cheated, stepped on. I was always the little
man, the square peg, the forgotten one. So I decided to do something
The voice belongs to Roger Samms, an unhinged entomologist who
specializes in developing new ways to exterminate one of the world's
oldest life forms: roaches. He's gotten his hands on enough money
to live the good life in a poor country and is about to make his
break. And then he picks up his mother's amulet. Turns out to be
an amulet with magical powers: a mojo. It turns Roger into a roach.
Oops. Bad mojo?
I'm Crawling as Fast as I Can ...
What was once Roger now faces a challenge of enormous proportions.
A room a human could stride across in seconds is now a vast expanse
of potential danger. Can he, as a roach, learn what he needs to
know to return to human form by exploring the shabby rooms (among
other places) of Eddie's Bar? It's a daunting journey for something
as weak and fragile and small as a roach. There are creatures that
would gladly turn Roger into an tasty snack. There are sticky patches
that could become his final resting place. There is fire and water
and electricity. It is a world filled with threats and peril.
It is also a world filled with unexpected kindness. The creatures
who don't want to put Roger on their menu (a list that includes
a slug, ants, a termite queen, a silverfish and a moth) supply him
with advice and guidance in the form of surreal oracular rhymes
delivered by a woman who looks familiar.
Unable to have more than the mildest effect on the world he skitters
across, Roger slowly uncovers the truth about himself. And with
that truth comes responsibility. Can Roger, on his way to becoming
human again, do the right thing?
Less (And More) than Meets the Eye ...
When Bad Mojo was first released, "unique" was
the word most often used to describe it. This uniformity of response
can be considered a variation of the "Booger Principle"
in action: make something disgusting enough and people won't pay
a lot of attention to how it actually works. Reviewers were so stunned
by the content that few noticed that Bad Mojo's gameplay
is essentially a combination of two old standbys: the maze and the
warehouse. The player must find safe passage (the maze) and can
only push things (the warehouse).
Player control begins in the sewer. While there are six pipes leading
to various rooms in the building that houses Eddie's Bar, there
is only one pipe open at the beginning. As players discover how
to move from room to room within the building, the other pipes open
to become a sort of roach rapid transit system.
There are points throughout the game when Roger's travels trigger
QuickTime clips of Eddie, the bar's owner, going about his lonely
life in his rundown establishment. These clips remind us of the
gulf that opened between Roger's old and current life following
his transformation. As Eddie walks into the bathroom, it's almost
impossible not to yell, "Watch out! If you're not careful,
you might flatten the odd guy that rents that lousy second floor
walk-up of yours!"
While the gameplay mechanics are hardly unique and the QuickTime
clips as grainy as ever, the richly grimy background visuals and
the haunting soundtrack create a compelling, albeit unlikely, venue
for a quest. Toss in the highly articulated roach animation (the
antennae can be turned on or off in the game preferences) and Bad
Mojo remains, for those willing to face it, an unforgettable experience.
(Pointless Scholarship Corner: While much has been made of the
obvious links between Pulse Entertainment's Bad Mojo and
Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosisboth feature guys who
wind up transformed into insects; Roger Samms becomes a roach and
Gregor Samsa awakens as a "monstrous verminous bug"that's
pretty much the beginning and end of it. Once Roger is a roach,
he's a roach. Once Gregor is whatever he is, he's a bug the size
of a man. And Gregor, at least for a while, can talk. For those
interested in reading Kafka's masterpiece, it can be found here.)