Bad Mojo has been on my radar for a long time. I first discovered it in an article listing the most disgusting video games of all time and, frankly, it spoke to me. I’ve always liked media about something small exploring everyday locales. Where a movie like Toy Story does so in a wholesome family home, Bad Mojo takes you into the disgusting nooks of a rundown apartment complex.
You play as a literal cockroach, who has to explore various rooms of a dilapidated building. That article from years ago did not lie: the game is positively rancid. It has hundreds of screens, most of which are decorated with all manner of litter, bugs, stains, and other disgusting details. Great effort went into designing the game’s environments, going so far as to use (and kill) real animals to create some of the game’s setpiece moments.
I was a big fan of the kitchen area. It’s beautifully-detailed and the sheer idea of having roaches crawling all over half-prepared food just gives me shivers. Besides being icky, the critters and filth do also serve a purpose. There are so many roaches about, which help point you towards relevant areas or alert you to dangers. You might wander around on a TV dinner package and spot some doofus roach who got himself stuck in the mashed potato. A stomach-churning detail and a clue that you should steer clear of it yourself.
Bug traps, other animals, and sticky surfaces will be your main obstacles throughout the game. If you get stuck, eaten, or otherwise killed, it takes away one of your few available lives. Run out of them and you’ll have to reload a save.
Realism was a focus throughout development, which is reflected in the puzzles you are tasked with solving. Your only means of interacting with the world is to skitter around in it and push small objects around. Thus, puzzles involve you creating big changes through small manipulations. A broken fan can be temporarily mended by pushing exposed wires together or the business end of a lit cigarette can be used fend off prey.
I did often find it difficult to discern what I had to do. The open-ended nature of the areas means you sometimes have to really explore to even find what puzzle you are meant to solve. The janky controls then sometimes mislead you into thinking what you can and can’t do. At one point I had to make a bridge by pushing a thingy unto a stick surface I couldn’t otherwise cross. This had to be done in such a specific way and spot that I thought it was the wrong solution. Similar issues occur throughout the game and can have you reaching for a walkthrough just to verify what you’re trying to do.
Somewhat fittingly, Bad Mojo is also riddled with bugs. Pausing or saving the game will often change your position on the screen or move you to entirely different places. This can get you stuck out-of-bounds, though reloading a few times will usually fix it. At one point saving caused me to move to a different place that bypassed an entire puzzle. It wasn’t until hours later that I realized this locked me out of finishing the game. So yea, be careful with that.
The story is also a bit of a mixed bag. You actually play as Roger; an angry young man who was transformed into a roach just as he planned to flee America with a suitcase full of embezzled money. Bad Mojo is full of cutscenes exploring his tragic past, as well as that of his landlord Eddie Battito. The acting in these is delightfully camp, but the writing itself is meh. It’s not hard to figure out the big twist way in advance, at which point all the flowery dialogue and cutscenes come of as mostly redundant.
I also found some of the magical influences to be pretty lame. A story where a magical woman guides you around and gives poetic hints doesn’t gel well with the game’s gross-out factor. I can see how some would find the incoherent tone mixed with the silly acting to be one of the game’s charms, though.
Bad Mojo delivers on its odd premise. The game is positively disgusting and I had a lot of fun to explore its gross world. The story is cheesy and the acting amateurish, but that is just part of the experience for these old FMV games. Give it a try, if your stomach can handle it.