Voodoo Vince: Remastered Review – Xbox One

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I never got the chance to play Voodoo Vince the first time around, as I opted for PlayStation over Xbox during that particular console era. However, I did spend a good chunk of my childhood playing games such as Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64, with my head full of jiggies, musical notes and stars. While Voodoo Vince is perhaps a darker take on the platforming collectathon genre that these games fall into, it’s a knowing, mocking type of darkness, full of fourth-wall breaks, lighthearted slapstick and a general brevity to the atmosphere that makes it more welcoming than a game about an animated voodoo doll who self-harms may initially appear.

Voodoo Vince begins with Madame Charmaine, Vince’s owner, being kidnapped from her store and Vince, our hero, becoming animated thanks to Zombie Dust, which plays a pivotal part in the tale. As Vince sets off to rescue his owner, he visits a number of New Orleans-inspired locations, battles numerous enemies and discovers new voodoo powers that cause him to become more powerful.

Uncovering a new voodoo power is almost always a cause for gruesome satisfaction, as Vince uses these powers to cause harm to himself, and transfers the damage that he receives to his enemies. These can range from Vince putting himself into a blender, playing the role of a piñata, or taking part in a reenactment of the William Tell story that inevitably goes wrong. While some of these powers are hidden away, and are more difficult to find than others, the more easily accessible tend to become available at a fairly steady pace, which provides players with a range of animations to witness.

Much of Voodoo Vince is spent collecting items which serve various purposes, such as bags of Zombie Dust which increase Vince’s health meter, skull pages, which can increase the frequency with which Vince can use his voodoo powers, and orbs, which power his abilities. If you’re the kind of player who seeks out every collectible object in a game, you’ll be in your element with Voodoo Vince, as much of the gameplay revolves around digging out objects in every nook and cranny in a level. This approach pays off, too, as the more powerful Vince becomes, the easier you’ll find the latter stages of the game.

One thing that gradually impressed me with Voodoo Vince was both the length of the game, and how much the game opens up as you progress. Early levels almost play out as a corridor, where you’re restricted with where to go and what you’re supposed to do. These levels usually only take a couple of minutes to complete and I was initially concerned that this was all that the game was going to offer. Thankfully, after a few stages, levels began to become more involved, and although there’s still a definite linearity at play in terms of approach and ultimate goal, you’ll find that you’ll need to think a little more than you might expect.

A good early example of this is a level in which you have to trade your way through various items, by entering shops and businesses, but these are only open at certain times of the day. Luckily, you’re able to access the clock in this level’s main square, and here you’re able to travel backwards and forwards in time, opening and closing businesses as you do so. Most of Voodoo Vince’s levels play with a hook such as this, from racing on the back of a rat, flying a plane, and swinging down laundry lines. There’s a great variety in what the game asks you to do, and it never feels as if a particular task outstays its welcome.

Playing through Voodoo Vince, I was initially struck by the lack of extra content within the game. Your goal is essentially to get from one side of the level to the other, and while there’s often a distraction on the way, there’s no real padding inserted to artificially lengthen the game’s runtime. As I spent more time with Voodoo Vince, I realized that this was actually quite liberating. Many recent games are filled with bits and pieces to do that don’t add much to the experience, and are seemingly included for the sole purpose of being able to boost the number of hours that developers can quote for how long their game lasts. Voodoo Vince was a breath of fresh air in this regard, and a welcome return to when a game could just be a game. It’s a little ironic that a game designed around collecting things can have less pointless collection than games based around assassinations, or bringing down corporate giants.

I was a little wary to approach Voodoo Vince initially, as I’ve been burnt before on games that were well regarded in their day but have aged poorly. Nostalgia can sometimes be enough to carry these titles through in the present day, but as I had no experience with the title, I was worried I’d be able to see cracks in the experience more easily than those who had played the original release. However, Voodoo Vince impressed me with how well it holds up. You can definitely tell that this is a game released a generation or two ago, due to both the overall experience, and while the visuals are clean, the lack of texture detail is a dead giveaway.

If you’ve missed the kind of platforming experiences that seemed prevalent 10-20 years ago, then Voodoo Vince goes a long way towards scratching that itch, and could well be enough of a draw to gain some new converts to the genre.

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