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Ballyhoo

by Jeff O'Neill

Mystery
1985

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Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 5
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Didn't enjoy it, September 29, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 10+ hours
I'm surprised this has gotten the good reviews that it has. I didn't enjoy this one at all. In fairness to the game I think that I'm still a little rusty on thinking (and using verbs) the way Infocom thought when designing these games. However, I managed to get through most of Zork and Deadline alright. In those games I think I figured out 80% of the puzzles without hints, but with Ballyhoo I think I only got 20% without hints. Even finishing it with a walkthrough as I did, I still don't understand some of what was going on or how I would have ever figured it out on my own. The ending in particular is crazy.

So having to use a walkthrough for 80% of the game is a big strike against it, but even beyond that I didn't care much for the story or characters. Most of the characters are unlikable and the story feels thin. I think I finished the last 30% of the game by strictly following a walkthrough because I just wanted it to be over.

Oh well, they can't all be winners.

ADDENDUM: I bumped up my rating on this one star after listening to the Eaten By A Grue podcast episode about the game. I wrote the above review right after finishing the game and while I still hold to it, I think my frustration at the ending in particular made me forget about all the humor earlier in the game. This game is legitimately funny at points, in ways that not many pieces of IF are, and so I think that is worth an extra star.

Comments on this review

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deathbytroggles, October 2, 2020 - Reply
You were kinder in your review than I was!
RadioactiveCrow, October 2, 2020 - Reply
Just went and read your review. I feel your pain! Yeah, having someone else highlight the best parts after you've finished the game makes it easier to appreciate those parts, but in the middle of the game I wasn't laughing even at the funny things. My head was bleeding too much from beating it against a wall!

Thanks for the comments!
Andrew Schultz, August 15, 2020 - Reply
It's difficult for me to evaluate old Infocom games, too. I found Ballyhoo a bit clearer, but maybe that's because I got further and spent more time on the rest of the game. I do remember the ending being a bit ... crazy.

In particular I think there was a lot of die-and-try (Spoiler - click to show)in the trailer to get evidence, and also it was frustrating that if you didn't (Spoiler - click to show)help Comrade Thumb get a drink of water early on, you were blocked out of a winning ending. While it seemed like the right thing to do, it's still one of those things that bumps the game up to "cruel" on the Forgiveness Scale.

But I think one thing that helped me was reading the manual. There were a lot of clues there, in the text and the pictures. I think a lot of that was copy-protection.

I do remember having all kinds of trouble (Spoiler - click to show)trying to use the balloon right to raise my voice, while I was fighting with the parser.

As for Zork: I do remember getting pretty far in Zork 2, but mostly because I read the 4 gamebooks based on Zork. It was my favorite. I remember waiting for a new one to come out and not just for the story but also to have more Zork clues. Sadly, it never did.
RadioactiveCrow, September 29, 2020 - Reply
Thanks for the comments! I agree with all your points on the puzzles. I did read the manual and remember it helping out with a few things for sure, but then I had to take a break from the game for awhile and I think some of the details faded. I definitely would have solved more of the puzzles with the animals if I had re-read the manual when I came back to the game.

I listened to the Eaten By A Grue podcast on this game and I think my frustrations clouded my vision of some of the humor in this game. It might deserve to get bumped up a star because it was laugh-out-loud funny at times and I love to see that in a game.
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