It's a great month for 3D platformers on Xbox One.
First came the superlative Yooka-Laylee, and now the original Xbox classic Voodoo Vince is back as an Xbox Play Anywhere title. Voodoo Vince Remastered is a charming platformer that can now be enjoyed by a whole new generation.
As an Xbox Play Anywhere title, anyone who buys either the Xbox One or Windows 10 version of Voodoo Vince Remastered will get the other version for free. You can save your progress, and Achievements transfer between both versions, as well.
An Xbox classic reborn
Voodoo Vince first arrived on the original Xbox way back in 2003 during the last days of the 3D platforming craze. It was created by Clayton Kauzlaric, who is now Creative Director at Microsoft Studios Global Publishing. Reportedly, the game's use of custom code prevented it from being emulated on the Xbox 360.
Fourteen years later, Clayton and his team (the largely defunct Beep Industries) have finally brought Voodoo Vince back to life on Xbox One and PC. The Remastered version features widescreen visuals and enhanced assets, but it is otherwise unchanged (for better or worse).
A doll on a mission
As Voodoo Vince begins, we meet Madame Charmaine, the owner of a New Orleans-based voodoo shop. A group of thugs working for Kosmo the Inscrutable (the game's irritating antagonist) breaks into Charmaine's shop in search of her magical zombie dust.
After the bumbling thugs spill the zombie dust and wreck the shop, they escape with a kidnapped Charmaine and the remains of the dust. But the spilled dust inadvertently brings Vince (a formerly ordinary voodoo doll) to life. Following psychic instructions from Charmaine, he must now recover the rest of the spilled dust and rescue his mistress.
The basic premise of Voodoo Vince is quite good. Like many games of this genre (even Yooka-Laylee), the story eventually involves wacky animal characters and creatures such as a skeletal jazz musician (justified by the zombie dust) and an aged female scientist who is a turtle (I have no idea about that one).
I do have a few nitpicks, namely that the dialog is sometimes clunky, and Kosmo is like a lame proto-Kaos from Skylanders. Vince's voice, performed by Ken Boynton, is nasal and annoying – not the albatross you want to hang on your main character. Ken has appeared in numerous games, such as Halo: Reach and Destiny, but his Norm MacDonald impression mostly grates in this one.
Voodoo Vince is a 3D platformer, that once common genre that barely exists nowadays (2D platformers are still common, though). Vince's most basic moves include running, jumping, punching, and a spin attack. The spin attack has its own face button and is so effective, it renders the punch pointless. Beating up enemies gets you beads, which can charge up Vince's powers.
Many levels contain simple puzzles and goals that must be completed before Vince can progress. Sometimes he'll have to pick up and carry an object, using it somewhere else. If the object is too heavy for Vince to jump while carrying it, trying to jump will make a fart sound. It's dumb but fun. Other puzzles involve harming Vince, like throwing him into fan blades, producing a sack of material to weigh a switch down. Being a magical doll, Vince regenerates unharmed.
Vince's nature as a voodoo doll provides him with attack powers, as well. Upon activating a voodoo power, Vince will harm himself in some silly way. This kills all nearby enemies. A few of the 33 powers include a 1930s mob hit, a shark attack, and even a fatal dose of laxative inside an outhouse.
The new powers are hidden throughout each level as magical talismans, one of the many collectibles to find. Others include zombie dust bags (every hundred of which gives Vince a new life bar) and skull pages. Finding all of the skull pages in a level causes a purple skull to appear. If Vince manages to chase after and catch it, he gains another charge for his voodoo powers.
Tracking these collectibles is relatively easy because you can see the current level's count in the pause menu, and the levels are much smaller than Yooka-Laylee's stages. I can find everything in a level on my own, so the difficulty feels just right to me.
A few gameplay elements don't feel quite right, though. For one, Vince walks too slowly. This makes traversing large distances, and especially farming for lives in the Docks level, a hassle. The use of lives at all feels archaic in today's landscape, as it really just slows the game down by forcing you to farm.
Vince has a double jump, always a good thing. But the timing window for activating the second jump is too small – press it too late and you'll just plummet to your death. Vince's hovering ability is also a bit problematic. Instead of pressing and holding the jump button, like in every other game that lets you hover, you have to hold the left trigger to float. I'm so wired to float by holding the jump button (as in Rayman Legends) that Vince's weird implementation throws me off.
Finally, the camera controls are too slow and clunky for their own good. You can reposition the camera at any time. The game sometimes fights you for it, though, just like in Yooka-Laylee, and it always resets the Y-position of the camera instantly, making it impossible to look up while moving around. Camera issues were especially common in older games, but I wish we could at least speed up the camera movement here.
Achievements and Xbox Play Anywhere
The Xbox One and Windows 10 versions of Voodoo Vince share 41 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. Because this is an Xbox Play Anywhere title, Achievement progress transfers between both versions of the game. Save progress automatically transfers between platforms via the cloud, as well. The Steam version of Voodoo Vince has its own Steam Achievements, but it's not cross-buy like the Xbox version, making it less appealing for the Windows faithful.
Many of the Achievements are progression-based, and some involve finding all the collectibles. But Beep Industries got creative with some of them, as well. You'll get Achievements for dying or defeating enemies in certain ways. My favorite involves visiting all five shops in a certain level. This requires a surprising number of steps, but it really rewards you for doing something that would've been largely pointless in the original Xbox version.
Levels are replayable at will, and Vince can even pass back and forth between the exit of a level and the entrance of the next one. Thus, none of the Achievements are missable, and they're actually really fun to go after.
Overall impressions of Voodoo Vince Remastered
Voodoo Vince Remastered does something important: It rescues a classic Xbox game that few people played (I had the system but still missed it) and brings it back for today's gamers. The enhanced graphics look good for an indie game, although some of the textures don't hold up, and the frame rate really chugs now and then.
This generation has so few 3D platformers to play that perhaps Voodoo Vince will find a wider audience than last time around. Fixing the archaic control and design issues mentioned earlier, and releasing farther apart from Yooka-Laylee, would have helped find that audience, but this is still a game worth playing and remembering. Let's hope more original Xbox games like fellow 3D platformer Blinx the Time Sweeper eventually get the remastering treatment as well.
Voodoo Vince: Remastered is available on Xbox One and Windows 10 as an Xbox Play Anywhere title, and (without cross-buy) on Steam. It costs $14.99, making it an affordable alternative (or follow-up) to Yooka-Laylee.
- A classic game that most gamers missed is back and looks better than ever.
- You play as a voodoo doll and hurt him in amusing ways.
- Clever Achievements truly enhance the game.
- Antiquated elements, like the controls for double jumping and hovering and slow camera movement, have not been updated.
- Vince's voice sounds like a less lovable Norm MacDonald.
- The jazzy soundtrack offends my ears.
Xbox One review code provided by the publisher.