When I was growing up, my brother and I would play platformers together on our family PlayStation. You know how this goes if you've ever shared a single player game with a sibling — you take turns, swapping the controller after the other one dies or if you finish a level. It was tradition before we faced off against the brutal, final boss in our favorite Crash Bandicoot games to always stockpile the maximum of 99 lives just in case. Of course, the boss was never that challenging, and we never needed such an amount of lives, but you didn't know that as a kid. As I prepared myself to enter the final area of Voodoo Vince: Remastered, I found myself stocking up on a few extra lives out of habit, something I haven't done in a decade.
When we entered the 2000s, our consoles changed, and so did our platformers. Over on Xbox in 2003, there was a little game called Voodoo Vince. Vince got accused of being a little too similar to his predecessors in the genre, like Crash, but the game had its fans. It was the story of a little voodoo doll named Vince whose magical master, Madame Charmaine, was captured by the evil Kosmo. The catch was that Vince, being a voodoo doll, harmed his enemies by harming himself. The whole game was set to the unique backdrop of New Orleans. It had clever and fun gameplay, a good sense of humor, solid mechanics and a wonderful soundtrack.
Voodoo Vince: Remastered still has all those things, and thanks to 14 years worth of advancements in the gaming industry, it has a new bag of tricks. It's what a remaster should be — a classic game getting a fresh lease on life. It can be played on Xbox One or PC with shared progress thanks to Play Anywhere. It's running at 1080p/60 fps. It looks and runs great outside of some occasional sluggishness. Any gripes you may have with Vince are complaints of the original game as opposed to the quality of the remaster; for example, the camera can be a bit finicky, and some of the areas are still a bit dark, both typical for games of the time. For anyone who knew Vince in his prime and is already aware of these quirks, Voodoo Vince: Remastered will feel like a joyous reunion with an old pal.
That's not to say Voodoo Vince: Remastered won't be appreciated by those who never got the chance to play the original. Whether you're a platformer lover in general or looking for something new to try, Vince does a lot of things right. One of the most important aspects is the variety in gameplay. Vince is a busy little doll. Whether solving a wide array of puzzles, completing traditional platforming sections, having a trumpet jam session with a skeleton, navigating a dangerous monorail, flying a light aircraft, boat racing a famous gumbo chef or tangoing with the plethora of bosses and mini bosses, there is a ton to do, and the gameplay is never boring because it's never the same.
"Do not let Vince play..." aww, crap.
Voodoo Vince also has hundreds of collectibles to accumulate, but they're done right. While some games will have you tediously scouring location after location for collectible after collectible for no reason other than a shiny 100% completion badge, the collectibles in Voodoo Vince will upgrade Vince's capabilities. With every 100 Dust Bags, your health bar will increase. Every 50 Skull Pages will give you a shot at a Power Skull to bump up the amount of energy you can store to use Voodoo Powers, and every new Voodoo Icon will unlock a unique Voodoo Power for Vince. The collectibles aren't hidden discreetly, and the developers are not trying to trick you. Most of them are right out in the open, and you can use Vince's All-Seeing Eye power to scan for any you may have missed.
Voodoo Vince also has a lot of nice quality-of-life features that may not be noticeable if you're used to modern games, but are much appreciated by anyone who's gone back and revisited an older game lately that was lacking such conveniences. For example, say you just traverse a lengthy platforming segment and now find yourself high above where you started the level. If for whatever reason you needed to return to the bottom floor and then go back up, instead of making you redo the entire platforming section, there is always something like a lever that can be pulled to power up a lift that goes between the top and bottom floors or a shortcut in the wall will open up that leads to an area that was previously tough to access, so you can conveniently revisit sections of the level. It's these nice little touches in level design that make a big difference in the enjoyment factor of the game.
Can we get this show on the road or are you going to keep taking screenshots of me?
The gameplay isn't the only thing that's held up well through the years. Voodoo Vince is still bursting with atmosphere and personality. It was never really a little kids' game like other platformers in the genre, earning that "T" for teens rating over the "E" for everyone. The main theme of the game is voodoo and the undead. You'll meet zombies, skeletons, creepy possessed dolls and more. Zombie dust released in the city has caused mayhem in New Orleans, so you'll experience the sights and sounds of the city with an unsettling twist. The soundtrack hammers this point home more; it's jazzy, but can be eerie.
Voodoo Vince is well-written and voice acted convincingly. Most of its humor seems directed at adults, and it was already poking fun at genre and industry cliches long before games like Yooka-Laylee. "What's next, a boss battle?" Vince will joke as a boss enters the room. The fourth wall is also broken here and there; Vince will turn toward the camera and exasperatedly whisper to you that "It's a musical door puzzle," another genre favorite, or ask if you could please be more careful after he's died at your hands a few times too many. Vince is a likable protagonist due to his self-deprecating humor, others' remarks toward him — even his beloved Madame Charmaine refers to him as her "third-best voodoo doll" — and his unwillingness to be the hero. His personality is well fleshed-out almost from the get-go as the game's major antagonist shows up to confront him, and Vince responds by slowly trying to inch behind a flower pot in an attempt to hide.
Gamers will be pleased with the achievement list; it's just about as perfect as you can get for revisiting a game from your childhood. There is a steady chain of achievements earned along the way for completing levels, defeating mini bosses or unlocking new abilities, with big payoffs for amassing all of Voodoo Vince's collectibles. The miscellaneous achievements are fun to attempt, and levels can be revisited using the trolley system or from the main menu's Chapter Book feature, so you can go back to get them if you didn't manage to unlock them the first time.
It's not clear if collectible progress is saved after completing the game, so it might be a good idea to find them all before fighting the final boss. While levels can be replayed from the main menu, collectibles were still present in the levels despite having collected all of them. Most importantly, the achievements are fun, and they all work. All things considered, it's about a 10-12 hour completion, with plenty of room to progress faster or slower depending on your prior familiarity with the game and its puzzles.
SummaryVoodoo Vince: Remastered is the definitive version of the classic original Xbox platformer. It's still got the same delightful soundtrack, unique New Orleans atmosphere and laugh-out-loud humor that you remember from the original, but now it's upgraded with all the new features of the Xbox ecosystem. Whether solving puzzles, piloting a submarine or running yourself over with a train to defeat the newest mini boss, the gameplay always feels fresh thanks to its diversity. There are hundreds of collectibles, but they're purposeful and fun to collect. There are a few small downsides left over from the original game like occasional camera problems, and there are a couple areas where the frame rate feels sluggish, but the issues aren't breakers. If you were already a fan of Vince, Voodoo Vince: Remastered will be a worthy testament to his cult classic legacy. Not only that, but the game holds up well enough that Vince is on track to woo a new generation of fans.
- Clever gameplay with well-designed levels
- Tons of variety in tasks
- Collectibles done right
- Has a sense of humor
- Well-defined atmosphere with fantastic music
- Big upgrade over the original
- Some camera problems
- Occasional performance issues
EthicsThe reviewer spent 14 hours with Voodoo Vince: Remastered, defeating every boss in style and assembling all of the various voodoo collectibles. 41 out of 41 achievements were unlocked for a total of 1,000 gamerscore. While Voodoo Vince: Remastered can be played on Xbox One or Windows 10 with Play Anywhere capability, the Xbox One version was played exclusively for this review. A review code was provided by the ID@Xbox team.
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