you last have a good argument with your computer? No, it's not quite
as bad as Hitchhiker - this one admits when it's been lying to you!
But now, not only can you argue with the computer, you can even
argue with some of the characters in the game! Try approaching the
EGRESS (carefully!), or getting some straw, or asking the guard
about the kidnapped girl - I haven't had so much fun in ages.
Excellent! Superb! Sublime! Magnificent! Intelligent! Mind-boggling!
Hilarious! Challenging! Magical! Frustrating! (Need I say more? Why
haven't you bought a copy yet? What? No disk drive? Go and buy one
Within seconds of starting the game, as I balanced precariously on a
tightrope, I was already chortling to myself at the text scrolling
up the screen. It is so much fun to play an Infocom game. You type
things in and it responds. The amount of text inside the game is
amazing, and the tortuosity of the minds of the Infocom
storytellers, who have thought of clever, amusing, and misleading
responses to some of the most ridiculous and irrelevant things that
you could possibly type in, is, quite incredible. (You may have
guessed by now, probably just by counting the superlatives, that I
think this is a rather good game!)
The game is classed by Infocom as being of their Standard Level,
which does NOT mean it is easy! It is by a newcomer to their fold,
by the name of Jeff O'Neill, who seems to have as devious a mind as
the rest of them. Using their superb game systems and support teams
he has produced an excellent adventure. Lots of interesting things
to try, lots of puzzles and lots of very logical solutions - at
least they are when you look back on them and wonder how on earth
you couldn't have worked out what was going on sooner!
The game is set in a circus. The show is over. You are hanging
around the lot when you overhear the circus owner telling a
detective that his daughter has been kidnapped. You start
investigating. Much later, when you find the detective unconscious
(dead drunk, to be slightly more accurate) and you realise that you
are completely on your own in a hostile world, surrounded by
unfriendly performers and savage animals. But like all good Infocom
games, clues are to be found all around you - if only you can
recognise them! You will of course succeed in rescuing the young
girl, providing that you can master several circus skills, but even
then your troubles will not be over. Things go disastrously wrong at
the last minute and you will find yourself forced to attempt one
last death-defying feat. And just when you REALLY think it is all
over... But I mustn't spoil your fun!
The packaging is as usual superb - you get your very own circus
program, ticket, balloon (you have to provide the helium,
unfortunately), and trade card advertising Dr. Nostrum's Prehydrated
Genuine Preparation of Naturally Nitrated Compound Herbified Extract
(gets rid of Pin Worms by paralyzing them, gets rid of detectives by
making them dead drunk, and also useful for cleaning the trim on
caravans! - if you manage to get hold of a bottle, then whatever you
do, don't drink it!).
The only slightly disconcerting thing about Ballyhoo, apart from the
fact that it doesn't understand the word JOIN - I suppose the
Americans don't use it in the same way as we do? - is the way that
the game moves forward. The laws of cause and effect appear to have
been slightly bent! For instance, when I first found the detective
lying dead drunk on the ground, I backtracked a bit (by RESTOREing)
to discover how he got there. I eventually deduced that it was my
success at befriending the gorilla (worth 10 points) which had
caused him to appear there. But next time I played through the game
from the start, doing various things in a different sequence, he
didn't appear there! The previous three Infocom Mystery Adventures
all have clocks ticking away in the corner of the screen - one
minute for every move you make - and the events of the story are
dictated by the passage of time. In Ballyhoo there is no clock to
race against, you can spend as much time as you wish solving most
problems. It is only when you gain certain points that time is
deemed to have passed. And some events, like finding a drunken
detective, are dependant upon your gaining multiple sets of points,
regardless of sequence. Quite effective once you get used to it, and
certainly a lot easier than racing against the clock all the time!
Expert or beginner, you are guaranteed to get a lot out of Ballyhoo.
Infocom have proved yet again that a thousand words is worth far,
far more than a picture.
P.S. Watch out for the shaggy lion - he's mean!