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The source files and a precompiled ZMachine storyfile of this adventure were recovered from a salvaged "Infocom hard drive", and made publicly available on GitHub in an effort to preserve them.

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Ballyhoo

by Jeff O'Neill

Mystery
1985

(based on 31 ratings)
5 member reviews

About the Story

Spangleland! 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.

Game Details

Language: English (en)
Current Version: Unknown
License: Commercial
Development System: ZIL
IFIDs:  ZCODE-97-851218
ZCODE-23-851218
TUID: b0i6bx7g4rkrekgg

Editorial Reviews

SPAG
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
See the full review

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(2)
4 star:
(14)
3 star:
(12)
2 star:
(3)
1 star:
(0)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


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.

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.

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.

See All 5 Member Reviews

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This is version 10 of this page, edited by Zape on 23 August 2020 at 12:41am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item