I was late to the original Xbox. Though when I did finally grab one, I was sure to grab all the weird exclusives that I had never had a chance of experiencing. Voodoo Vince was one of those exclusives, along with Blinx: The Time Sweeper and Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus that I gave a go. It was probably the only one that I had fond feelings for, as I finished it multiple times since it had come out. News of a remaster excited me, but having spent some time with Voodoo Vince it’s very clear that sometimes rose tinted glasses are better left on.
The plot of Voodoo Vince is rather simple. Two henchmen break into a voodoo shop owned by Madam Charmaine, a local voodoo practitioner who uses her powers to help those in need. During the struggle, Madam Charmaine’s third best voodoo doll, Vince, is awakened. Forming a telepathic link, Madam Charmaine is kidnapped by the goons and it’s up to Vince to find her, while also taking down their master, a school drop-out named Kosmo The Inscrutable.As you’d expect with a game like Voodoo Vince the story is elementary. It provides a nice backdrop for Vince to visit these interesting locations, a warped low-rate Tim Burton-esque adaptation of New Orleans, but nothing more. There’s little surprise and plenty of writing that’ll make you chuckle to yourself here and there. To be blunt – the writing has not aged all that well.
When you first boot you’ll feel like you’re in a time machine. It’s a game that has no flashy cinematics, no brooding prologue setting up the games events. Instead, there’s just plain old fashion, straight forward cutscenes introducing you to the basic premise before throwing you directly into a linear level designed to teach you the basics. From that point on, the level design does get progressively more open, but still feels like it’s stuck (literally) in 2003.Each level is structured similarly, with some surprises here and there. Vince will enter an open area, there’ll be some gimmicks to deal with or items to find that are usually hidden behind a platforming trial. These are usually interesting concepts, Vince is discovering ways to hurt himself to remove an obstacle or defeat a boss. Most of these moments are cleverly written and fly in the face of typical game design – you must die to progress, essentially.
This makes less sense when outside of the scripted moments, however. I won’t mince words here – the combat in Voodoo Vince is a vicious exercise in tedium. Punching and spin attacks are the primary ways to attack, but they lack the oomph needed to feel satisfying. After collecting a certain amount of beads (dropped by enemies) you’ll be able to enact a voodoo ritual on yourself to take out enemies around you.These are a great idea, until you realise they look different but all have the same effect (to the point where animations are blatantly recycled for multiple ones). I’d love to see such an idea realised with the power of today’s hardware. As it is in Voodoo Vince, combat feels like an afterthought you’re better off avoiding than actively engaging in.
To break up the monotony of the standard stages, there’ll also be moments where Vince can pilot vehicles like a submarine, an airplane and the like. These moments do a good job at breaking up the story with something different. Otherwise, those looking to completely find everything in every level may find some tedium in doing so – there’s collectibles (and surprisingly, even the ability to travel back to older levels) but not anywhere near as excessive as those in its contemporaries at the time.As you’d probably expect, Voodoo Vince’s remaster doesn’t have anything new to offer form a content perspective, making it as brief as it was when it released several years ago. For those looking to clear the game with minimal effort, Voodoo Vince will easily last you about eight or so hours. Those looking to explore and revisit past areas to collect everything can easily stretch this out to twelve. Thankfully, the collectibles are done well and are quite manageable to find, so most players will find fun in collecting everything Voodoo Vince throws at them.
Of course, the big question is the quality of Voodoo Vince’s remaster. The love and effort that’s gone into the remaster is clear. A game previously running at roughly standard definition at 30 frames per second has been brought kicking and screaming into the modern day. The remaster runs at a buttery 60 frames per second in full high definition. Performance is the key word here and it shines for Voodoo Vince Remastered.Assets themselves haven’t really been touched up much so there are times where lots of the environments or objects do look blurry and out of place. Lighting has also been improved but sometimes is implemented poorly, to the point where some cutscenes look washed out. Vince himself looks great, the stitching on his body looks realistic enough to give even Sackboy a run for his money. It’s a great new coat of paint to a game that was ostensibly aging, helped by the kooky art direction.
The soundtrack is arguably the aspect of Voodoo Vince that has stood the test of time most – a swinging throwback to an era of lounge-lizard swing and fried green tomatoes. Steve Kirk’s evocative throwback to this appropriate period and era perfectly fits the locales that Vince finds himself travelling through. It’s an incredibly authentic sounding score and one that really sells the atmosphere of New Orleans and its surrounding areas.
Voodoo Vince Remastered is a great remaster, but the game lying underneath this fresh coat of paint simply doesn’t hold up today. There’s some fantastic art direction, an interesting locale and an even more intriguing premise. While it might be fun for a younger audience, Voodoo Vince doesn’t capitalise on its intriguing premise enough to make itself genuinely essential. Voodoo Vince is an authentic remaster, retaining the feel and play of the original, for better or for worse. Unfortunately, some things are best left in the past.
The Xbox One version of this game was played for the purpose of this review. You can read our review policy HERE.