Home of the Underdogs
About News FAQs Contact HOTU GoogleGroup Music Manuals
Category Applications Action Adventure Education Interactive Fiction Puzzle Role Playing Games Simulation Special Sport Strategy War

Support the EFF
Welcome How you can help
Browse Games
Welcome Random Pick
Welcome By Company
  Welcome By Theme  
Welcome By Alphabet
Welcome By Year
Welcome Title Search
Welcome Company Search
Welcome Designer Search
Welcome Freeware Titles
Welcome Collections
Welcome Discord
Welcome Twitter
Welcome Facebook
Welcome File Format Guide
Welcome Help: Non PC Games
Welcome Help: Win Games
Welcome Help: DOS Games
Welcome Recommended Links
Site History Site History
Legacy Legacy
Link to Us Link to Us
Credits Thanks & Credits
Abandonware Ring

Abandoned Places


Creative Commons License

Game #2131
Hall of Belated Fame Inductee  Ballyhoo    View all Top Dogs in this genre
Interactive Fiction   Conventional

Rating: 7.35 (20 votes)

Ballyhoo box cover

Ballyhoo screenshot
One of Infocom's most underrated releases, Ballyhoo is a fun, intermediate-level text adventure set in a premise not commonly found in IF games: a circus. I'll let Joan Rouleau's 1986 review in now-defunct Compute! magazine speak of how great the game is:

"From up in the bleachers, the circus is all glitter and daring, a magical kaleidoscope of improbable images. But watching the circus I always want to sneak backstage, to see the performers between acts and explore the shadowy world lurking beneath all the glitz. At last I've found the opportunity with Ballyhoo, Infocom's richly evocative, often exasperating, and very clever text adventure.

The game begins as the circus performance ends. You are prowling around behind the big top, trying on stray masks and peering into the prop tent, when you overhear a conversation between the circus boss and a detective about the mysterious disappearance of the circus boss' daughter. Neither the boss nor the detective sounds terribly concerned or competent, so you valiantly resolve to find her on your own. Thus begins your foray into the seamy underworld of the circus.

Once you become immersed in the game, though, you may discover that your mission to find the abducted girl becomes secondary to exploring the bizarre and chimerical world around you. Sympathetic as you are to the girl's plight, you can hardly pass up the opportunity to walk a tightrope, watch an impromptu clown act, play with the exotic animals, or be hypnotized by Rimshaw the Incomparable. And often in pursuing these seemingly pointless diversions you can pick up some clues to the mystery. But Ballyhoo, true to the Infocom tradition, is not for the impatient. Clues are hidden under layers of red herrings; some maneuvers have to be repeated two or three times before they'll work, while others are stubbornly refused; and each of the circus folk, from the tiny midget to the 827-pound Tina, is evasive when not downright cantankerous. Even the seasoned Infocom player is well-advised to draw a map, take copious notes, and leave no gorilla suit unturned.

While the game can frustrate - don't expect to complete it in a day - it can also charm. Great care was taken to evoke the atmosphere of the circus: You hear a calliope in the distance, you smell the musty elephant tent nearby, you feel the rough canvas of the tent as you sneak behind the big top. Many of the scenarios and props are added solely for their humor. And often the responses to your commands are whimsical or ironic.

The parsing in Ballyhoo is surprisingly flexible. You can, for instance, make commands such as 'Take the apple. Polish it. Put it in the box.' or 'Drop all except the mask and the cheese morsel.'. You can also ask questions of specific characters, or use invaluable Infocom commands such as VERBOSE (for a thorough description of each location) and OOPS (which allows you to retype only the word you typed incorrectly in the last sentence). As can be expected from Infocom, the packaging of Ballyhoo is splendid. The game comes with a circus ticket (or Annie Oakley, in circus lingo), a balloon, and a superbly illustrated circus program (or bible). Included in the booklet are a brief history of circuses, a colorful description of each of the key Ballyhoo characters, and a glossary of circus jargon (so that you too can toss around terms like Annie Oakley, bible, lotlice, etc.). There are also several pages of clearly written instructions, explanations, and tips. But don't be mislead: The mysteries of Ballyhoo are not easily unraveled. Or, as the program has wryly told me more than once, 'You'll have to do that yourself.'"

Reviewed by: Underdogs
Designer: Jeff O'Neill
Developer: Infocom
Publisher: Infocom
Year: 1985
Software Copyright: Infocom
Theme: Modern, Mystery
None that we know of
System Requirements: DOS
Where to get it:
Related Links:  
If you like this game, try: Everybody Loves a Parade, Curses, Theatre

© 1998 - 2024 Home of the Underdogs
Portions are copyrighted by their respective owners. All rights reserved. Please read our privacy policy.