Good day NAG denizens, and welcome to the first instalment of a new weekly column. In Throwback Thursday, we’ll be delving into the past and examining random bits of classic gaming; sometimes noteworthy, sometimes obscure, sometimes good and sometimes bad. We’ll get things started with this gross-out experience that was doing the rounds back in the mid ’90s, aptly named Bad Mojo.
Cockroaches aren’t the sort of fauna to win any awards for endearment. Being part of nature’s clean-up crew, they’re dirty and repulsive and outnumber us a million to one. Still, if you happened to be transformed into one – by, say, a magical locket – you might feel somewhat different about things, and that’s the premise behind the game in question.
In Bad Mojo, you take on the role of a rather unscrupulous character named Roger, who just seems to have the worst luck in the world. Nonetheless, he’s not exactly the most sympathetic of people: as a vengeful embezzler, it seems almost like poetic justice when he gets changed into his roach alter-ego. Once in this form, players have to navigate him throughout the bowels of a run-down, seedy, filthy bar (which also happens to be Roger’s home) in an attempt to return him to his human state and figure out just what the hell is going on. If you’re at all familiar with the works of Franz Kafka, you might think it sounds slightly familiar, and you’d be right: it’s (very loosely) based on Die Verwandlung, albeit in a deconstructionist and post-modernist setting.
Roaches are notoriously tough little guys – their ability to survive a nuclear holocaust is the stuff of legend – but poor Roger is pretty much a near-weightless weakling. Water, spiders, rats and even Roger’s pet cat will all spell doom for our hapless invertebrate. As such, the world needs to approached tactfully, and players will have to literally think small. Making little adjustments to the environment to ensure your accessibility is a fairly recurrent theme, and none of the puzzles are exactly head-scratching stuff; a fact helped by the random tips that players receive during the course of play. For example, a rat may be disposed of by pushing razor blades on top of him. It’s kinda gruesome, and just so you know, they used real scans of dead rats and other animals (but don’t worry, the critters had already died).
The presentation goes out of its way to be as repulsive as possible. The gritty, surreal world is fully-realized through the use of images of decay and dirt, accompanied by an industrial soundtrack and slightly hammy acting. It’s a short affair that defies strict categorization, but it’s a very memorable experience, despite quirks such as being overly easy and having somewhat wonky controls. It’s a testament to the creative spirit found in the early “CD-ROM” era that defined modern PC gaming, and it’s an excellent example of pushing boundaries.
While the original game came out in 1996, a remastered version called Bad Mojo Redux was released in 2004. It featured re-encoded videos and a whole slew of interviews and behind-the-scenes looks at the game’s development. Both versions are becoming increasingly difficult to find, though you can vote to get them on GOG.com. It’s also available on Amazon, so if you want your fix of ’90s post-modernist video game weirdness, you’d better start saving up and clearing space on your hard drive. For extra lulz, check out the trailer: