The Xbox will be two years old this November. During its tenure, we’ve seen a surprisingly low number of platform games for Microsoft’s gaming console. The last one I played was the rather forgettable Blinx the Time Sweeper. Full of promise with its intriguing time control system, the game simply failed to deliver. Beep Industries’ Voodoo Vince holds a similar ace in the hole in terms of a unique gimmick, as gamers look to kick their own ass in order to defeat their enemies. No pain, no gain, as the game professes.
In Voodoo Vince, players assume the role of Vince, a third-rate voodoo doll. Our reluctant hero is thrust into action when his keeper, the voodoo high priestess Madam Charmaine, is kidnapped by Kosmo the Inscrutable, a dim-witted hack with plans for world domination. With help from his clairvoyant mistress, Vince sets out to locate her whereabouts, but it won’t be an easy task; Kosmo has spread monster-creating zombie dust all over Louisiana, the same magical powder that brought Vince to life.
Voodoo Vince is a fairly typical platformer. Vince can perform a variety of moves, from the standard double jump to a head slam, but what would a voodoo doll be without voodoo powers? When Vince collects enough Mardi Gras beads, he can summon great misfortune upon himself and then transfer the carnage to enemies around him. Poor Vince gets pricked with pins, ripped in half by chainsaws, melted in acid, zapped by aliens, diced in blenders and squashed in bear traps, just to name a few, but believe me when I say this is going to hurt his enemies more than it’s going to hurt him.
Vince’s potent ability plays a key role in boss battles. Rather than trying to deduce a way to kill a boss character, the goal shifts to coming up with a plan that will result in the most harm to Vince. Oddly enough though, this voodoo trait isn’t consistent throughout the adventure. For example, in the opening level of the game, Vince can jump into a giant fan, thereby shredding surrounding monsters, but shortly thereafter, when Vince catches aflame, his enemies fail to feel the effects of the searing heat. Similarly, Vince can fall great distances without causing pain to nearby enemies. Only voodoo powers and pre-determined objects result in the desired voodoo effect.
While making his way from Madam Charmaine’s Voodoo Shop in The Quarter to Kosmo’s Carnival DePrave hideout, Vince will venture through a number of locales, from the Main Street of New Orleans to the Louisiana bayou. Some areas feature traditional platform-action elements – jumping and switch pulling affairs – while others require puzzle-solving skills. For example, in order to enter the science museum located in the Square, Vince must jam with Bones McMurty, the jazz-loving musical gatekeeper. In order to do that, Vince must acquire a trumpet from the Pawn Shop, but first he’ll have to earn some money by finding a costume and then entering the costume contest. Once he’s purchased the trumpet, a quick visit to the Jazz Club is necessary so as to learn how to play the instrument. To top if off, completing these tasks will require Vince to manipulate the town clock in order to get the owners of the various venues to open their doors for business. Believe me, it’s not as complicated as it sounds, but it should give you an idea of the kind of puzzles you’ll be faced with. Interspersed throughout the levels are mini-games that will see Vince pilot a rocket plane, ride in a laundry basket and race around the bayou in a fanboat. Variety is the spice of life and Voodoo Vince has it in spades.
Because Vince is a voodoo doll, there are few things that will actually cause him physical harm. The magically altered creatures can hurt Vince, but you’ll probably find them to be the least of your worries. Instead, Vince’s main perils are water (voodoo dolls can’t swim) and bottomless pits… lots and lots of bottomless pits. As long as you can avoid such disasters, you should be able to finish Voodoo Vince is about ten to twelve hours, and once you’ve done that, there’s little reason to re-visit Louisiana other than to find every last zombie dust bag and spell book page. In other words, Voodoo Vince offers very little replay value.
A lot of games try to be funny, but few succeed to arouse more than a snicker out of me. Voodoo Vince, on the other hand, is a surprisingly witty game. Vince and the supporting cast are all very well voiced and acted, and their dialogue is sharp. Most of the game’s humor is directed at itself, mocking everything from its unlikely hero to the generic elements found in the platform genre. At one point, Vince scoffs at the obligatory boss fight, before commenting on how original a one-eyed beast is. When he sees the beast has two heads, therefore two eyes, both of which shoot lasers, well, you have to be there; clever stuff. The musical score, which mixes blues and jazz tunes, matches the New Orleans atmosphere perfectly.
Offering cartoon style visuals, the graphical presentation is true to the light-hearted nature of the game. Vince himself is nicely animated, complete with patches, voodoo pins sticking out of his head, and a sewn-on button for an eye (his other eye is a detachable glass eye that tends to pop out when Vince idles too long). The environments are brought to life with strong light-sourcing and great textures, and there’s a nice variety of enemies to encounter, despite their aforementioned lack of physical prowess.
Despite its shortcomings (with the emphasis on short), Voodoo Vince is an imaginative and fun platform game, full of wit and charm. A weekend rental might suffice for experienced players who are likely to breeze through it, but younger gamers are sure to get a kick out of Vince and his unlikely adventure.