I recently managed to pick up another adventure to further expand my Infocom collection – this time it was Ballyhoo from 1986. It arrived in a lovely condition throughout with just a few worn edges and corners to bear witness to its 34 year lifespan. I was really impressed that the ‘The Travelling Circus That Time Forgot’ balloon was not only still in the box but also in once piece.
This particular adventure takes place in a circus setting, beyond which ‘lies a seedy world of deception and crime’ according to the description on the box. A young girl has been kidnapped and it falls upon you to investigate her disappearance. The description continues; ‘…watch your step. As the night progresses, you realise you’re in as much danger as the little girl… the kidnapper is lurking right on the lot, trying to set you up for a permanent slot in the freak show!’
Ballyhoo’s difficulty level is rated by Infocom themselves as ‘Standard’ which means it is supposed to be playable by normal mortals. I’ve never played this particular adventure before so that remains to be seen. However they do have two higher difficulty levels of Advanced and Expert so that does encourage me somewhat. The easiest difficulty for reference is ‘Introductory’ which they say is suitable for kids aged 9 and above.
Official Souvenir Program
In many Infocom games there’s often a short story to set the scene for the game. In Ballyhoo the scene is set within an ‘Official Souvenir Program’ that actually forms part of the box cover. It provides a brief history of the circus and introduces several of the ‘acts’ that perform in it, both past and present. The program then gives way to the games instruction manual, describing how to play the game and even giving tips on drawing a map and so on. It’s an essential part of the packaging for sure.
Inside the Infocom Ballyhoo box
As with all Infocom games there’s more than just a disk inside the box.
Infocom’s Ballyhoo offers a number of circus themed extras tucked away inside its box.
Normally there would be a reference card included that gives directions for loading the game but it looks like that is missing from my copy. However the 5.25″ disk is present and correct and in really good condition too with no signs of mould on the label. It loads fine as well although when I play it I’ll be using a copy or just using a disk image to preserve the original disk.
Also included is a single ‘Admit One’ circus ticket and a trade card for Dr. Nostrum’s ‘Wondrous Curative’, ‘Guaranteed to sooth all ills’. As I mentioned at the beginning, the balloon is still in the box too which I’m delighted about. Admittedly it is now rock solid and could never be blown up but as a memento of a gaming period gone by it’s a terrific addition. Many of these little trinkets are missing from the games now as they were easily lost over the years.
Quite a lot of effort has gone into the creation of these extras. For example, reading the reverse side of Dr. Nostrum’s trade card reveals the ailments it can be used to treat. These include Toothache, Grippe & Catarrh, Constipation, Pin Worms and even ‘Singer’s Throat’, whatever that is. It even gives directions on exactly how to use it for each type of ailment. Snake oil remedies like this were commonplace in this time period so this all helps to build atmosphere.
The back of the ticket gives details of the acts you will be seeing and also warns you to be wary of pickpockets, gamblers, thugs and thieves which doesn’t bode well! It also reminds you that you are entitled to three sessions with ‘Rimshaw the Incomparable’. Apparently he will read your palm, the bumps on your head and even hypnotise you!
It definitely has the foundations of a good mystery thriller and I look forward to getting stuck into it one day very soon!
If you enjoyed looking at this page then here’s a look at some of the other Infocom games in my collection that I’ve posted about.