Who said voodoo was dead? Not Vince, Madame Charmaine’s 3rd favorite voodoo doll, that’s for sure! One dark night in an old voodoo shop in New Orleans, Vince awakens to find that Madame Charmaine has been kidnapped and her stores of zombie powder have been stolen by the henchmen of the evil Kosmo the Inscrutable. To make matters worse, Kosmo’s bumbling henchmen spilled zombie powder everywhere during their getaway, causing reality to warp and bring evil enchanted monsters to life. Now Vince sets off across New Orleans in a bid to free Madame Charmaine while she communicates with him telepathically, giving him helpful advice along the way. The original Voodoo Vince released back in 2003 and hasn’t been seen much since, due to the fact that it was never made backwards compatible on Xbox 360. I suppose that is a long enough span of time to warrant a remaster, no?
To me, Voodoo Vince encapsulates everything good about old school 3D platformers. It’s full of quirky, offbeat humor, a great cast of kooky characters (yeah, you’re damn right I said kooky), plenty of collectibles with useful benefits, a wonderfully weird world to explore, and tight controls. And gimmicks! There is always a gimmick. In this case, since Vince is a voodoo doll he is immune to many things that would normally be dangerous. This gimmick ties in directly with the gameplay mechanics. Let me give you a few examples here to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about. In one segment early on in the game, Vince has to light himself on fire in order to blow up an angry talking pair of gas pumps. The problem is that Vince doesn’t stay lit up indefinitely so he has to pass open gas sources on his way to the pumps so he can keep on burning. Obviously, the fire would kill you in any other game, but since Vince is a magic voodoo doll, he is impervious to most normal types of harm.
The other example of what I was talking about is in the way Vince’s special voodoo attack works. When an enemy dies, they drop beads for you to pick up. Collect enough beads to fill up your meter and earn a skull and you will be able to unleash a special voodoo attack that kills any enemy in your immediate vicinity. What happens when you trigger the attack is this: Vince does something horrible to himself, and then the enemies around him suffer the effects of it, killing them instantly. Vince comes through unharmed because he is made up of magic (just roll with it). One of my favorite specials that I have seen is when Vince swallows a bottle of poison, and then an outhouse falls on him and you can hear him loudly voiding his bowels as the outhouse jumps and shakes. Vince then reappears and all the enemies drop dead. Classy stuff. However, Vince is not impervious. Since the enemies are made up of dark magic, they can deal damage to him. There are also bodies of water and bottomless pits that can end Vince’s life, should he fall into them (fire is ok, but water bad? Alrighty then).I guess you can’t win them all, eh?
Vince has a few more moves in his arsenal, besides his all-powerful special attack. He has a basic punch move, a weaker spin attack that can also be used midair, and an attack where he jumps into the air and comes crashing down onto an enemy headfirst, similar to Mario’s butt stomp move. Voodoo Vince contains some really tricky platforming bits. Luckily Vince has the ability to hover, slowing his descent. What I really love is that the camera automatically shifts downwards when you activate the hover, giving the perfect view for a precision landing. I found myself navigating areas like a pro, very rarely falling to my doom like I normally would. It made the whole game a lot more satisfying to me because there is nothing more frustrating than dying repeatedly due to a series of narrow, high-up platforms. There are also segments in the game where Vince has to use a vehicle, such as an airplane or a saddled mouse (yes, you read that right). They add a pleasant bit of variety to the game and they aren’t too difficult to control, which can be a problem in some games when the vehicle controls are poorly executed.
As I mentioned previously, the collectibles have actual benefits to collecting them: they aren’t just put in the game to add more busywork. Collecting 100 bags of zombie powder increases your life. Collecting the crystal skull effigies give you new voodoo attacks. Finding all the skull pages in a level unlocks a floating pink skull somewhere in the current level. Once you find it, it will start floating through the level and you have to keep up with it so you can catch it when it stops, or else it resets back to its starting position and you have to do the whole chase again. Catching the skull adds another stored charge for Vince’s powerful special voodoo attack. And the thing I love most is how easy it is to keep track of everything. The in-game pause menu shows you how much of the collectibles in the level that you’ve gathered and how many there are total. Furthermore, later on, you find an all-seeing eye ability that highlights the collectibles hidden throughout the level that you missed, making it a bit easier to scoop up the last stubborn few that you had trouble finding. There is also a handy fast-travel feature in the form of a magical train that can take you back to the previous levels. Collecting has never been so easy!
Each level is a genuine pleasure to explore. Some are more straightforward than others but mostly all of them contain plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and a give off a nice sense of verticality. Each area is made up of multiple levels that eventually culminate with a big boss fight. The environments are varied as well. Vince explores locations ranging from city streets, a spooky imp-filled graveyard, and finally a dark carnival. My personal favorite is the Main Square in The Quarter. A huge clock sits atop a building. Various shops litter the area, and they only open at certain hours. By making use of the clock you can open the shops that you need to visit in order to acquire what you need to play some tunes with a skeletal jazzman who won’t let you pass through the gate until you have a jam session with him. This is game design at its finest and definitely makes for some memorable moments. Each boss is a unique encounter. Vince must find elements in the environment that he can use to hurt himself in order to do damage to the boss. This often requires both skill and timing, and the way is not always readily apparent. A good example is the Dolly fight. Dolly sits in the middle of the play area launching projectiles at you. To beat her, you need to find the switches hidden throughout the area that activates two trains and sends them on a collision course with one another. Once activated, Vince has to get to the indicated spot where the two trains will collide and put himself in the middle of the crash, resulting in damage being dealt to Dolly. The unique scenarios that each boss poses help set them apart from one another, keeping the encounters feeling fresh and fun. I actually looked forward to the boss fights just to see what kind of craziness I would have to deal with next
It’s always a pleasure to see a game that deserves getting the remastered treatment. I won’t name names, but certain remasters out now are nothing more than ports, shoddier than the originals in some cases. I never got to play Voodoo Vince when it was originally released, and having played it now, I feel like I missed out on a good thing back then. With its crisp, charming visuals, tight gameplay, wonderful level design, and offbeat characters Voodoo Vince is a must play in my book.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 9/10
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