Bad Mojo is one of those games that I really wanted to enjoy. When I purchased it, I found it in the jewel case bargain bin section of my local Wal-Mart. Plastered in large lettering across what seemed like the bottom third of the packaging was a PC Gamer Editor’s Choice logo informing the buyer that Bad Mojo had been critically acclaimed by my favorite games magazine. There were quotes all over it I recall saying that it was “Fresh” and “Original.”
Originally released in 1996, this game was enough of a success they believed they could re-release it in 2004. Bad Mojo is an exploration adventure game with puzzles that uses Quick-Time graphics, much like the Myst series or other full motion video games of the 1990s. In most of these types of games, you travel to exotic destinations, see amazing sites, and enjoy the extent of what a full multimedia experience could provide. What makes this one original, however, is that you play the role of a cockroach.
Bad Mojo begins with a cut-scene where the protagonist Roger Samms is packing up to get ready to leave for Mexico after successfully stealing a briefcase full of cash. While ogling his ill-gotten gains, he is startled by a knock on the door. His landlord Eddie comes by to demand Roger’s overdue rent. After a seemingly needless argument with Roger refusing to pay and Eddie suspecting he’s about to leave town, Roger pays the rent he owes Eddie. Eddie jokes with Roger that he ought to be careful with all the cash he has lying around, that he should “lock-it”. After closing the door and sitting down to his desk, Roger remembers a locket that belonged to his mother, pulls it out of a desk drawer, and somehow the locket then turns his soul into a cockroach.
Gameplay then begins. The player is transported into a stage selection room that contains six passages. Only one is open. Entering through the open passageway brings the player up through a drain onto a concrete floor with icky stuff all over it. The player can move using the arrow keys. Pressing the up arrow moves the cockroach forward while pressing the down arrow moves the cockroach backward. Pressing either the left or right arrow key will turn the cockroach around.
Bad Mojo runs using Quick-Time as many adventure games in its genre have. Each screen is almost its own game. There is little state saved from screen to screen. Moving off of one screen and then back essentially resets the state of the screen. This in some ways makes it easier to master a given screen, while at the same time making movement from screen to screen frustrating. When moving in one direction from a previous screen, it is possible to be pointing in a different direction when the screen changes. If there is a dangerous item, such as fly paper, on the other side of the screen, it’s easy to walk right into it if you are not careful.
Bad Mojo is an impressive game. I don’t wish to give anyone the impression otherwise. The graphics are actually fantastic and spot-on for the time it was released. The sounds are well recorded too. There is a certain art to this game and a great deal of realism that cannot be denied. But it’s just so icky and gross!
During the beginning cut-scene Samms narrates his feelings on his life and his circumstances. After listening to his rant, I feel completely apathetic to his cause. While he says he’s tired of life stepping on him and he wants to take control of his life and get his payback, he admits to stealing a lot of money, thinks he should have gotten away with it, and is a complete jerk to everyone around him. Even before the game began, I just wanted to step on the little twit. And yet, the whole purpose of the game is to go through six stages of nasty to free him from his cockroach prison. If the game weren’t so gross, I would actually get some satisfaction in seeing him eaten by a spider or a dead rat. As it is, Bad Mojo makes me feel queasy and I’m scared when entering each screen of what disgusting thing I will witness next. I tend to be a very clean, orderly, organized person in my own life, so navigating through this game makes me wish I could just take some disinfectant wipes and Raid to the whole game. That would be winning.
Bad Mojo won several awards for original gameplay and unique puzzles when it was released. It is visually and audibly impressive, and it will certainly leave a lasting impression on anyone who plays it. If you have a strong stomach and you like graphical adventures it might be a game to check out. For me, I think I’d rather play something from The Journeyman Project or Myst series any day.