When the original Xbox came out, Microsoft needed a mascot to promote the console as Nintendo had Mario and Sony with the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and Sir Daniel Fortesque. So what did Microsoft come up with? Well, a time travelling cat was supposed to be it but sadly didn’t gain the recognition as the game kind of bombed. So with the failure of Blinx the Time Sweeper, Microsoft still needed a representative for their console. Enter Voodoo Vince. Strange as I’ve never played this before and didn’t hear much about it in the last 15 years. But it’s been remastered and so that means its good right?
Being a platforming game from 2002 I’m guessing this will amount to the usual assortment of a plucky young misfit as our hero, who’s off to rescue a damsel in distress from a comedic villain that just plain hates everyone. Voodoo Vince pretty much ticks off every point in the Golden Age platformer checklist that helped shape classics such as Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie.
But does Vince live up to those classics?
As Vince, a Voodoo doll that’s been given life after his owner was kidnapped one fateful night. The reason Vince is alive is due to a batch of Zombie dust being spilled as it was taken from the shop his creator owned. So now it’s up to Vince and his wise-cracking ways to travel through colourful locations help out the locals and beat big bad foes in order to rescue his friendly owner from a villain who has an image problem.
Yeah, pretty much every Golden Age platformer right here! But this does have an interesting spin on aesthetics with the focus and themes being centred on voodoo culture.
This helps makes Voodoo Vince stand out in many ways, adding a persona we never really saw in video games (unless you played Shadowman). There’s also an interesting concept that you’ll have to put Vince through various painful activities in order to deal damage and interact with certain elements in the environment. This plays very well into many of the various challenges you’ll engage with, as Voodoo Vince’s design, world layout and structure to problem-solving is very similar to that of Conker: Bad Fur Day. You enter an area, have a problem that’s blocking your exit and with different methods in the environment, you deal with said problem.
An example would be that Vince will have to light himself on fire and traverse a short gauntlet while staying alight in order to set two mean spirited gas pumps on fire and destroy them. Highly creative for a mission objective and there are other moments which carry the same level of ingenuity. Another clever segment sees Vince climbing a clock tower in order to change the time and allow certain venues within the area such as a Jazz club, pawn shop and Burlesque club to open. Doing this allows Vince to buy a trumpet, learn how to play it like a pro and jam with a funky skeleton who’ll open a door Vince needs to pass through. Pretty great stuff so far!
Plus there’s plenty of collectables to obtain that’ll increase Vince’s life meter and the number of special attacks he can perform within a certain encounter. Among these factors, there are big set pieces and lateral elements to engage with.
What is a let-down to Voodoo Vince being an overall great experience are a few major issues. Firstly the controls can be God awful at times and it’s highly recommended you at least play an Xbox One controller as the keyboard and mouse approach will be far too agonising. Controlling the camera is clunky, restrictive and downright annoying as it can be prone to switching position at the worst times. This results in your vision being impaired and for a platformer game that requires a lot of jumping and general platforming, it’s painful. At least Conker didn’t have vastly tedious jumping segments whereas Voodoo Vince demands at times you traverse large areas by jumping on pipes with little collision detection. Also, double jumping has a 50/50 success ratio which again for a platformer isn’t good.
As stated with some of the brilliant mission objectives come the array of tedious ones that revolve around dull fetch quests that usually embark Vince on overly long, boring levels with very little breaking up the bland platforming. You’ll come across a set piece every so often but these are normally long-winded and dull. Such as riding a bucket down a super long washing line, where you’ll have to gather clothes I order to create a Hot air balloon. It wouldn’t be so bad if these types of events were made shorter or just threw in more interesting threats or dynamic elements that revolve around Vince’s power.
This became the main problem as this whole concept of using Vince’s “pain” or the ability to withstand certain factors like fire and all don’t show up all the time and instead the game falls back to generic and dull platforming. Besides, Vince is rather boring as a protagonist. I felt more of a connection to his creator who was kidnapped rather than Vince himself. He may deliver a snappy line every so often but he’s a bland persona and one that doesn’t even have good comedy value. Even though Mario doesn’t talk or show much personality, at least you know he’s invested in saving Princess Peach. At least Crash Bandicoot is lovable and humorous when he gets hurt and we enjoy his comedy value. There was a missed opportunity to have Vince be funny and being hurt with humorous reactions would’ve done it. Not hearing the line “The grim reaper says hi” 30 – 40 times doesn’t cut it.
Voodoo Vince is something that could’ve been great if the concept and interesting gameplay elements were explored more. This game did feel a little too long without actually being very long at all. You can finish this title within 7-8 hours and only half of that would’ve been worth your time. While some levels are great for having inventive missions objectives, some colourful locations and quirky characters (such as a jazz-loving skeleton) there were things that hold this back heavily. The dull combat, tedious fetch quests, the lack of dynamic objectives and gameplay elements and a boring protagonist. I’m sad to say but I’m sure why Vince was brought back from the dead.