"The squeaky wheel saves nine,"
echoed the old fortune telling machine. "I wonder what that means," you wonder. If you think this seems a bit strange, you have no idea what strange is. That is, until you really get into The Residents' Bad Day on The Midway. If there has ever been a game where "you don't play the game; it plays you," this is the one.
You start out your Bad Dayas Timmy, a young boy who has nothing to do for the day since school's out for the summer and his best friend had to go to the doctor. So, you decide to go to the old Midway in a bit of a darker, seedier Coney Island. You're just trying to have a little fun and fill up your day as best you can. As you travel around the different attractions you meet different people; different in all senses of the word. When you run into someone, you have the option of becoming them and seeing the Midway through their eyes. The overall idea is to just survive and discover what is going on at the Midway.
There are various characters you are able to interact with. Some include Otto, his pet rat Oscar, Dixie, her husband Ike (who is in a coma), Lottie the living log, and her son Ted, the psychopath. Strange people inhabit this strange place.
Other than the opening, the graphics in Bad Day on the Midway are phenomenal. The architecture of the Midway is as foreboding as the Midway itself. The people are rendered beautifully, though their faces take a bit of getting used to. You see, in order to allow for fluid mouth and facial expressions, it seems that Ludtke did not render mouths or eyes. What he did instead was superimpose filmed mouth and eye movements onto the rendered faces. Instead of detracting from the game, however, it just makes it that much stranger.
The sound in Bad Day is to die for. From beginning to end, the music just adds to the eeriness of the setting. Each of the characters has their own background music, which is played over the normal sounds of the hustle and bustle of the Midway. Some of the best are that of Timmy and Ted.
The game is entirely controlled with the mouse (point-and-click). Generally, this wouldn't really be a good or bad thing, but the way that the Residents use their pointers is quite nice. By moving your pointer around, it turns into an arrow pointing to the direction you can go. When you do, the background warps into a lengthened version. The Residents make excellent use of different pointers, like ones that tell you that you can switch identities, or ones that tell you that things are off limits. Though not as well done as those in The Seventh Guest, it is still helpful.
This game is a bit hard to classify. It may intrigue the puzzle game players out there, and it might intrigue the interactive multimedia users out there, too. There is a good amount of thinking involved in the game, but it is of a different type than some may be used to. This is why many people have extreme opinions aboutBad Day, they generally either love it or hate it. This reviewer is in the former category.
There is one caveat though. As stated above, this is a game where you are the one being played, not vice-versa. This is a very engrossing game. The whole feeling emanating from the Midway is just plain bad, and it will reach out from the screen and latch onto you. As you play the game, you too will feel the engaging darkness that surrounds the Midway, and you might end up having a bad day yourself.