Bad Mojo Redux

Review by MrLipid
December 2004

Happy Holidays!

Last December, some eight years after the initial release of Bad Mojo, it was my privilege to offer a review of this extraordinary title, easily one of the best adventure games I've ever played. And replayed and replayed and, well, you get the idea. Not that getting it to play was particularly easy. Over the years, as the software and hardware upon which I attempted to run it advanced, running Bad Mojo got progressively more difficult. Born on Windows 3.1, The Roach Game insisted on QuickTime 2.0.3, a palette of 256 colors and a resolution of 640×480. Dragging a modern system—or even a somewhat less-than-modern Win98SE system—back to such primitive specs can be an adventure in itself. Who knows, year after year, what other apps won't run once all but the oldest version of QuickTime have been banished? And what's with all those enormous icons?

This December, in what has to be one of the most unexpected holiday treats in a long, long time, Got Game Entertainment, in association with Pulse Entertainment, has brought Bad Mojo into the new millennium. No more fussing with an ancient version of QuickTime and no more dialing the color palette down to a mere 256. For technical reasons, the best resolution is still 640×480, but that's the only hint remaining of the title's age. And once you're at that resolution, Bad Mojo will fill your screen and, in time, perhaps the darker parts of your dreams.

If the rerelease had consisted of nothing more than restoring Bad Mojo's ability to play, without excessive tweaking, on current systems, that would have been reason enough to celebrate. But when, especially with regard to celebrating, is just enough ever really enough? Never! Fortunately, there's more and, in this case, the more takes the form of the companion DVD, which includes all sorts of goodies, including a section entitled "Goodies."

Stern Warning

If you have never played Bad Mojo, resist the temptation to look at the DVD until you have finished the game. Or, if you can't resist, confine your viewing to the "Hints" section. Don't look at the "Making Bad Mojo" documentary, and don't look at the "Goodies." Think of Bad Mojo as a magic show and the other sections as peeks behind the curtain. Do you really want to know how all the tricks were done before you see the show? Enchantment is a rare state of mind and, when the infrequent opportunity comes along to fall into it, I like it straight, no chaser. Insights into how the machinery was arranged to produce the effects, while endlessly fascinating, belong after the show.

And in the case of Bad Mojo, the insights are indeed fascinating. Interviews with key members of the production team (Vinny Carrella, Director/Writer; Phill Simon, Producer; Alex Louie, Producer; Larry Chandler, Art Director; Dan Meblin, 3D Technical Director; Bill Preder, Audio Engineer), supported by concept art, screenshots and behind-the-scenes footage, detail, step-by-step, the process by which the original idea was nipped, tucked, shaped and adjusted to become the finished game. What emerges from the interviews is a portrait of a team committed to listening closely to what the game itself was saying about what it was and, of equal or perhaps greater importance, what it was not. As a consequence, there is nothing in Bad Mojo that feels out of place or tacked on. The game's uniqueness may have less to do with its provocative content than with the unwavering focus with which its concept was realized.

One Short Step for a Roach ...

Art is a matter of choice and, in the case of computer games, the choices available often reflect technical limitations. Before Bad Mojo was Bad Mojo, it was a technical question: how to create a graphically rich game experience while not overwhelming the data streaming capacity of mid-1990s CD players. The solution was to come up with a small sprite-based character that would provide the game with clues as to the direction of the player and allow the preloading of backgrounds. Once the decision was made to make the lead character small, the next question was what form it should take. Would it be better for that character to be appealing or compelling? Appealing would have been the easier choice. Fortunately, The Roach Game crew made the edgier choice. Instead of turning into a ladybug, Dr. Roger Samms would turn into a roach.

And so on down the path. If the lead is a roach, what's the story? Where does the story take place? What sorts of things will the story require the roach to do? Or, turning the question around, now that the lead is a roach, how will the limitations of the lead shape the story? What sorts of puzzles could a player, controlling a roach, solve? And how should the player control the roach? If the direction of the exercise is toward photorealism, what sort of interface would make sense? Should there be any interface at all? And if there is no interface, how will players figure out what to do?

Those who snapped up Bad Mojo during its initial release had no trouble figuring out what to do. Use the cursor keys to drive the roach. Those who snap up Bad Mojo Redux will find that, in addition to the cursor keys, navigation can also be handled with W-A-S-D or I-J-K-L. One other menu change: instead of the cursor bringing up a Win3.1 menu bar at the top of the screen, the space bar now brings up the main menu.

Extreme Makeover

To give you some idea of just how much better the new version of Bad Mojo looks, here are two images, both captured at 640×480. The image on the left is from the original 1996 game, and the image on the right is from the enhanced 2004 version. Amazing what moving from QuickTime 2.0.3 and 256 colors to QuickTime 6.0 and millions of colors will do. Also, the game no longer insists on a specific color depth or resolution before running. 640×480 is the ideal resolution because it fills the screen and shows off the superb detail in the environments through which you'll be driving the roach.

Old QT (click to enlarge)
New QT (click to enlarge)

The latest version of QuickTime is finally up to the graphic standard of the original Bad Mojo. And with the QuickTime portions no longer serving as chunky punctuation between the navigable areas, there is nothing to break the moody spell of Peter Stone's superb sound design. Stone found a line somewhere between processed ambient audio and techno that remains fresh, arresting and utterly appropriate.

Just Go Buy a Copy!

For those who've never played the original, Bad Mojo Redux is a must-have. Load it up and see what all the shouting was about. For those who've played the Win3.1 version, Bad Mojo Redux is what the game should have looked like and, when coupled with the companion DVD, is the deal of the year. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Pulse Entertainment
Publisher: Got Game Entertainment
Release Date: December 2004

Available for: Macintosh Windows

Four Fat Chicks Links

Player Feedback
MrLipid's Original Bad Mojo Review


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System Requirements

Pentium III 800 MHz
Windows 98/00/XP
System 9.0 (or OSX Classic mode)
50 MB available hard disk space
8x CD-ROM drive or faster
24-bit color video display

G3 or better
System 9.0 (or OSX Classic mode)
50 MB available hard disk space
8x CD-ROM drive or faster
24-bit color video display

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