Publisher: Beep Industries
Release Date: September 23, 2003
Buy 'VOODOO VINCE': Xbox
Without a doubt, the platforming genre hasn't exactly flourished on the Xbox. We had Blinx, an innovative and fun game that got a lot of flack for having an awful camera and a high difficulty level. There's Sega's Toejam & Earl 3, which is a good, fun time, and even offers some fun co-op play. And, well, aside from some multi-platform third-party titles, there hasn't been much action on the 'box. Microsoft Game Studios' latest creation is Voodoo Vince, which puts you in the shoes (or burlap, if you will) of a ten-centimeter tall voodoo doll.
The story here is obviously not the game's highpoint. Vince's owner is kidnapped one day, along with her precious zombie dust. If this zombie dust gets in the wrong hands, certain doom is certain to be seen. So, naturally, the kidnapped lady casts a magical spell on her "third favorite" voodoo doll, bringing it to life, and bringing the game to a start.
The controls work reasonably well. The left analog stick moves Vince, who doesn't run particularly fast - I occasionally wished for the ability to speed him up a bit. The A button will make him jump, and if you tap it again near the highest point of your jump, he'll do a double jump. My only problem with this is that if you're a moment off with your timing, you tend to fall straight to your death. It can be hard to judge when Vince's jump is at it's peak, and before you know it, he's tumbling down with the forces of gravity. Assuming you can keep both feet on the ground, Vince has a few attack moves. He's got a handy punch, a propeller-esque spinning attack, and can quickly fly down and flatten enemies from the air if the punch button is pressed mid-jump. You can also take advantage of a hovering ability; though, honestly, I never found it very useful.
One rather nice feature in the game are Vince's special moves. As long as your magic meter is full, you can pull both triggers to perform a devastating attack on all foes in the nearby vicinity. These attacks are fun; you can collect items throughout the game that influence this power. Though none of the items never really change the effect of the move, each is aesthetically different. One might cause a little UFO to swoop down and zap Vince; as Vince collapses, all of the nearby enemies are vaporized. Or perhaps a huge blade will come and slice right through Vince's stomach - causing everyone else to split in half and collapse.
Of course, Vince always gets right back up after each crazy death-defying performance. Herein lies the main gameplay problem: Vince can be hurt by some things but not by others. Usually, enemies that fight you while you're in control of Vince can actually damage and kill you, while anything that hurts Vince in a cinema scene won't kill him. It's an extremely huge continuity error, and while it was obviously done to keep the game challenging, I can't help but feel a bit disconcerted by it. In fact, the actual gameplay doesn't really require the role of a voodoo doll at many points at all. This is a bit disappointing, as I think a lot of things could have been done with this concept, but instead the game doesn't really play like anything amazingly unique.
That's not to say the game is bad. It really is fun, even if the voodoo aspect wasn't fleshed out. There are some devious puzzles that you'll need to figure out, traditional platforming segments, cute boss battles, and some minigames that may or may not keep you entertained. Some of the mini-games here are just plain atrocious - jumping left and right on a two-lane track, avoiding some items and trying to collect others just isn't fun. Others are actually fun; flying an airplane doesn't seem to be quite in place here, but it controls so well that I wish it was used more throughout the game.
In one stage, the goal is to get through a strong metal fence to move on to the next area. There are a number of little gas-spewing machines lined up throughout the stage, and in the beginning, a small fire. There are two enemies at the end of the level; they're living gas pumps from a gas station. You need to light yourself on fire, gun through the gas machines to keep lit, until you finally you get the gas pumps. Guess what happens then: explosion. You can gather up the remnants of the two evil-doers to fuel a steamroller, which just happens to be hanging around in the level, and smash through the tough metal gate. Wooo! It's levels like these that are fun and do happen to exercise Vince's voodoo powers, if only a little bit.
The level design here is pretty good. Occasionally the camera doesn't agree with a piece of a level, but for the most part, maneuvering around is painless. Each of the environments have a warped, with an almost "The Nightmare Before Christmas"-kind of vibe going on. Odd angles complement other odd angles, bizarre creatures roam around, and the lighting seals the deal. Some of the graphical effects are really nice - Vince catching on fire comes to mind - and cutscenes are really nice most of the time. The framerate is rock-solid, too. This game is not hard on the eyes.
I absolutely loved the music in this game, too. Every tune is wacky yet serious and fit the theme of the game extremely well. I loved all of the instrument usage - how often do you get to hear a violinist freakin' out with his tool in a platforming game? The voice acting's not bad, either. Each of the actor's put some effort into delivering their lines, and it doesn't hurt that the script is pretty nice, too. This is a game you will want to play with the sound up.
All in all, Voodoo Vince is a nice platforming offering for those who are hungry for a game of it's nature. The voodoo theme could have been put to better use, I think, and the gameplay could have been really unique - as it is, the gameplay contains little that you haven't seen elsewhere, but it manages to stay fun throughout. The puzzles are fun to solve and the level design is nice. The art and sound is also really good. It's not gonna go down in history as the next Mario, but Vince is a fun little game that'll keep you busy if you give it a chance.
Score : 7.9/10