While I certainly share Mike's enthusiasm for Voodoo Vince, I can't agree with his final score. The primary reason I can't is one that Mike mentions in his own review:
"At its core, Voodoo Vince is a very conventional platformer, and I suspect that those who frequent the genre will find the game slightly less appealing for its lack of original mechanics."
This sums up the majority of my qualms with the game quite succinctly—and I think it's great that Mike was able to justify his own love for the game while also pointing out that others of us might not wind up quite as thrilled with it as he was. That's good criticism as far as I'm concerned.
Voodoo Vince is easily the best platformer currently on the Xbox, but saying that is a lot like saying George W. Bush is currently the best president of the United States living in the White House—there ain't a whole lot of competition. However, even if there were more games of the platforming variety on Microsoft's big black box, Vince would still be worthy of attention. While it may not be the most original game on the block, it certainly does a fine job of taking the core elements of the platforming genre and implementing them into a game that looks more aesthetically interesting than any comparable game on the market.
My problem with the game lies mostly in the developers' lack of ambition. Voodoo Vince has this wonderful play mechanic idea—in order to hurt enemies, the little voodoo doll must hurt himself. Vince achieves this objective in a number of inventive and entertaining ways—including lighting himself on fire, dumping acid on himself, and all sorts of other macabre little things—each of which comes with a full animation. This idea is the one shining light of originality in the game—and it's a good one, but unfortunately it never rises above the level of gimmick.
While Vince may well be able to pull off these masochistic moves to bring the pain to the bad guys around him, most of the game is spent doing all of the things gamers have been doing in platformers since Mario first turned up on the Nintendo. Players will have to make precipitous jumps, stomp enemies, solve puzzles, drive vehicles, and, naturally, collect lots of things. Doing this, even with the voodoo attacks thrown into the mix, is essentially still platforming 101 at its most basic.
Worse still are some of the game's mechanics. Take, for example, the first boss fight. In order to defeat a giant skeletal dinosaur, players must grab a hat and flip a bunch of switches so that lightning will hit the beast and kill it. Because of this, the entire boss fight amounts to running to get the hat, running to hit the switches (which are all conveniently marked with action icons), then running to a floor switch and pounding the action button one more time. This triggers a cutscene of the monster's demise. Where's the feeling of accomplishment in that? Players will beat the first boss without once ever having to hit it
Despite these problems, the game's still fairly engaging thanks mostly to the writing. Vince is a likeable main character with a wry sense of humor, and some of the game's objectives are pretty amusing. Factor that in with a groovy score (which is sure to please fans of New Orleans-styled jazz), and the experience is still one worth seeing through to the end.
With some more good old-fashioned elbow grease and a little polish, the next appearance of Voodoo Vince could be the first truly great platformer for the Xbox. Until then, players will just have to settle for this game—one that's merely adequate.
A film critic by trade, specializing in Euro-horror, cult exploitation, and Asian action cinema, Mike has written reviews for a diverse group of print and online publications. He covers horror news, movies, books, and games at TheHorrorGeek.com and Horrorsquad.com and spent two seasons as The Horror Geek on Comedy Central's pop-culture game show, Beat the Geeks.
Mike's childhood was spent playing videogames any time he got a chance. His parents had a Pong console and his grandmother had an Atari 2600, where Mike cultivated his skills by playing hour upon hour of games like Space Invaders, Berserk, and Asteroids. From those early experiences Mike learned one thing: he loved games.
In 1999, Mike became a staff reviewer at Cinescape Magazine's website where he spent a year learning the craft of game criticism. After internal changes led to Mike leaving Cinescape in late 2000, he joined up with RPGFan in 2001 and spent several years writing reviews for them. Happy, but looking for an opportunity to expound on a wider variety of titles, Mike joined GameCritics.com and hopes to help Chi, Dale, and the rest of the GC staff bring a higher level of respect to the field of game criticism.