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Ballyhoo

by Jeff O'Neill

Mystery
1985

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(2)
4 star:
(14)
3 star:
(13)
2 star:
(3)
1 star:
(0)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 5
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1-5 of 5


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.

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Hello cruel world, I don't want to join this circus, April 30, 2019
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)
Jeff OíNeillís first game with Infocom pits the player in a circus mystery involving a kidnapping and a cast of crazy characters. OíNeill certainly brings forth his vision of the shady underbelly of circus life, and there are several puzzles apropos to the atmosphere (e.g. getting across a tightrope, taming some lions, etc.). However, the mystery itself is highly convoluted and not all that interesting.

It becomes very difficult, even early, to determine exactly whatís going on, and several puzzles related to the mystery are barely clued and can be solved with only limited understanding of the situation at hand. Worse yet, there are bugs that require practically restarting the game. Despite several sprinkles of humor and ingenuity, Ballyhoo is simply too frustrating and not worthy of play unless you must complete your Infocom collection.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderful, intricate, intimidating story and puzzles. Better than Sorceror., February 3, 2016
I rushed through Ballyhoo, but even so the story was marvelous and stunning. This is a mystery game set in a dreary circus. The feel is a lot like Not Just and Ordinary Ballerina. You investigate the disappearance of the owner's daughter after hours.

This game could have been played without hints for a month. The puzzle solutions are intricate and the world is detailed.

I relied on hints out of fear that there was way too much I could do wrong. In fact, almost everything is reversible, once you reach an area, you get unlimited chances to return. If not, you don't need to return. The game was shockingly forgiving.

Unfortunately, the walkthrough may have been necessary simply because of guess-the-verb problems, especially with conversations.

The much-feared dream sequence is very easy to map and overcome (the lines situation was harder for me).

This is a fantastic game, the name and blurb really turned me off, but this game was more fun than the Lurking Horror or Sorceror.

**Edit:** I've been asked to clarify what I mean by better than Sorceror (or Lurking Horror). As I considered why I used that comparison, I realized that there are many parallels between Ballyhoo and Sorceror: both contain a dark carnival, both are centered on searching for a missing person, both have a pair of gatekeeper puzzles, many wild animals etc. In both, you slowly develop into an expert in the skills that surround you (magic or circus abilities), and the humor and writing are similar.

Why do I prefer Ballyhoo? It condenses the map of Sorceror, and has far more NPCs and interesting, scripted events, as well as far less red herrings. It has more feeling, too. In Ballyhoo, when you are in (Spoiler - click to show)Eddie's trailer and he realises you aren't a clown, I felt real anxiety for my character, and when (Spoiler - click to show)you break through Tina's shell and she solemnly shakes your hand, I felt a tug on my heartstrings. Contrast this to Sorceror's over the top 'scary moments' like (Spoiler - click to show)burning in flame forever or its few moments of pathos (Spoiler - click to show)which I can't even think of; perhaps giving up your spellbook?.

As for lurking horror, I'm just still mad about the Chinese food puzzle. It's actually a great game.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A hidden gem in the Infocom collection, January 19, 2014
I love Infocom. You really can't NOT love Infocom.

Everybody knows about Zork. Everybody knows about Enchanter. Everybody knows about Deadline. Nobody, however, really talks about Ballyhoo. I decided to check it out, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I'm now 100% convinced that Infocom is incapable of making a bad game.

Ballyhoo is challenging, but not too challenging. It does make you think, but there aren't all that many rooms, so it's fairly easy to wrap your head around navigation. There is one part, though, that is ridiculously difficult and takes a while. If you really want to know what I'm referring to, (Spoiler - click to show)it's the rather infamous part where you are hypnotized. This includes a maze of sorts and a lot of methodical planning, because if you make one wrong move, you have no chance of winning anymore.

As long as you save often (as you can't undo moves), this is a very enjoyable game.

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Flawed, but very entertaining, June 4, 2008
by Mike Ciul (Philadelphia)
I played Ballyhoo with a friend of mine, and it was a great way to experience it. I'm sort of a fan of the circus, and I think this game did the atmosphere very well, despite the typical Infocom in-jokes. The game takes great pains to time events so you never miss anything, which has some mimesis-crushing side effects. The puzzles were not ridiculously hard, though I think we used hints once or twice. There a brilliant dream sequence marred by maddeningly tedious puzzles. We had a lot of fun with it, even while we cursed the puzzles that just don't make sense.


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