Deep in recesses of my backlog is Voodoo Vince, a 2003 title for the Xbox that has not been playable on any other platform since its original release. This one missed backwards compatibility on the Xbox 360, due to custom code used in the game. Anyhow, few years ago, I got about halfway through it and I still have that savegame, but I’ll likely never return to it. Reason being, Beep Games has released a Remastered version of the game for the Xbox One and Windows 10 which I have been playing this past week (on Xbox One). Only the visuals have been updated — resolution, framerate, aspect ratio — all gameplay elements are the same, but if you’ve ever played Voodoo Vince, that’s not really a bad thing as it’s a pretty great action platformer today as it was nearly fourteen years ago.
So you’ll take control of Vince, the “third best” voodoo doll owned by Madam Charmaine, who owns an occult shop in a stylized New Orleans setting. One day Kosmo the Inscrutable sends his henchmen, Jeb and Fingers, to steal Zombie Dust from Madam Charmaine. They succeed, managing to also kidnap her, but they release some of the Zombie Dust into the atmosphere on accident which causes Vince to come alive. Charmaine establishes a telepathic link with Vince, and it’s up to him to stop Kosmo and rescue his creator, Charmaine.
Being a voodoo doll, Vince as the ability to withstand a lot of pain and use this to his advantage to combat Kosmo’s numerous minions. In additional to some creative voodoo powers that you unlock by collecting the special power-ups found in most levels, you can also punch with X, do a spinning punch attack with B, and a head-drop with A+X. Vince is able to double jump, and being an action platformer, you will find a good balance between simple button-mashing action and platforming. Vince’s ability to hover is vital, as some of the jumps and landings you have to make require precision. Often times, but not overwhelmingly by any means, this precision is either met successfully or Vince plunges to his death. Fortunately, a shadow is cast beneath Vince when he’s above a landing spot to help you know where you’re as you land.
Typically each level has several collectibles for you to track down. These include small bottles of zombie dust, which, for every 100 of these, you expand Vince’s health meter by an additional “bar.” There are also Skull Pages, typically a couple of dozen or more. If you collect these, a power skull appears somewhere in the level (you’re shown where). Going to it and activating it by pressing X when prompted causes it to fly on a scripted course, leaving a purple trail behind it. You have to quickly platform your way over to its stopping point, and collect the skull within about five seconds before it resets back at the starting position. If you’re successful (and you can try as many times as you want to), Vince gains an additional Voodoo Power slot. The Voodoo Powers are used to clear out multiple enemies at once, which gets increasingly useful as you get further into the game. Other items include Beads from fallen enemies that restore health, and hearts give you additional lives. From the pause menu, you can see your progress as far as collecting all items found in a level.
Interestingly, most levels also include a transit station, which allows you to fast travel back to previously visited levels. This is very useful for collecting additional hearts as the latter stages can get pretty difficult. You can store up to 99 lives, and it’s not a bad idea to maintain ten or so, lest you die and have to restart a level with only three lives. Being able to revisit areas does not really have any more benefit than allowing you to stock up on Hearts or try to get the other collectibles, but I like that players have that option. Also, going through a transit station saves your game.
The creativity in Voodoo Vince is apparent from the start and is commendable throughout. Jazzy music, colorful art design, a variety of enemy types and powers, there’s a lot of good charm to the game that makes it standout a bit from the pack. I’m not calling this the best action platformer of all time by any means, but for me at least it does the basics right and reaches beyond that with some creativity and gameplay that reminded me why I was interested in this game when it was originally released.