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About the StorySpangleland! Sawdust and glitter, buffoons and cotton candy! It's a place where your wildest dreams come true! At least, that's what you think... until you get behind the scenes at the big top. Then you learn how easily sweet dreams can turn into nightmares.
Beyond the spangles lies a seedy world of deception and crime. Exploring the tattered corners of the circus lot, you overhear a conversation about the owner's daughter. It seems she's been kidnapped, and the hired gumshoe couldn't find the nose on his face. Good samaritan that you are, you start poking around on your own.
But watch your step. As the night progresses, you realize you're in as much danger as the little girl. For the kidnapper is lurking right there on the lot, trying to set you up for a permanent slot in the freak show.
When I first played Ballyhoo, I strongly disliked it because of a technical problem. [...] But if you can get past these glitches, you will find quite a nice little game. There are several characters, all well developed. There are everal amusing little responses and sidelights [...] The game captures the circus feel in much the same way that Hollywood Hijinx captures the Hollywood feel. As an added bonus, you get an all text blackjack game in the bargain.
-- Graeme Cree
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Number of Reviews: 3
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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.
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.
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