Probably my favourite thing about the revitalisation of older niche genres is that we can get that burst of nostalgia from a lesser-used gameplay style, but with refinements from the modern era to make them a much smoother experience. Whether it be the wonky camera angles of 3D platformers, tank controls that make many survival horror games unplayable for many, or the ridiculous moon logic puzzles so common in point and click adventures, modern iterations usually tend to address these ‘problems’.
Which brings me to Voodoo Detective, a game that draws heavily inspiration from the Monkey Island series but without throwing a ‘monkey wrench’ into the works.
Can it live up to the high bar set by such a prestigious franchise, especially coming out just over a week after The Return to Monkey Island? Let’s see!
Many thanks to Short Sleeve Studio for the review code.
HOODOO? YOU DO!
Voodoo Detective stars a voodoo detective called Voodoo Detective (I am not making this up). As with any detective noir story worth its salt, he’s low on cases and has a landlord chasing rent payments. Guess there’s not much need for a private eye in such a small town. At least, that’s until Mary Fontule walks through his door asking for him to take her case.
You see, she’s completely lost her memory. Supposedly she’s the loving wife of local business magnate Victor Fontule, only she’s not so sure. The only lead she has as to her origin and to what happened to her is a mysterious golden pendant that was given to her in a dream. Of course, Mr Detective takes the case!
There’s a great story here sprinkled with voodoo mythology to spice things up. It’s the fantastic all-star voice cast though that really sets this apart from most other games in the genre; with voice actors from the likes of Fallout, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy, and more, expect nothing less than stellar performances all round. I couldn’t pick a single fault with any character in the game, but the titular detective stands out as being the cream of the crop – William Christopher Stephens has an impressive resume, but this is probably his best work yet.
VOODOO YOU THINK YOU ARE KIDDING, MR FONTULE?
Anyone who has played a classic point and click adventure game will know exactly what to expect here. Using an on-screen cursor, you’ll be spending your time exploring the environments for objects you can pick up and characters you can interact with. Whilst conversations are the most entertaining part, thanks to the aforementioned excellent writing and voice acting, it only really serves to develop the plot and help you gain more items with which to solve the game’s puzzles with.
Puzzles are typically common-sensical for the most part, with a simple click on Voodoo providing you with a subtle clue should you need it, although there are a few notable exceptions that forced me to head to a guide to help me progress. These are pretty rare instances though, thankfully, and such problems are alleviated by the game having only a small area to explore per act, and by the lack of objects that require pixel hunting.
To spice things up, some objects will need to be combined in creative ways – usually to concoct one of the Voodoo spells from Grammy’s Book of Voodoo. It’s a neat little addition as the flavour text for the various available spells often provides hints as to how you can obtain that item. Any other game would have ruined such a mechanic, but Voodoo Detective pulls it off with aplomb, and they actually became some of my favourite parts of the game. Whether its forcing a romance on a cruise ship, or taking control of a dead soul, there’s a nice number of spells at your disposal.
Everything comes together really well, and the result is a classic feeling point and click adventure that doesn’t feel like it will put off modern audiences. It really is a masterly crafted game from a development team that knows exactly what makes a game like this fun.
It’s the small touches though that really make the game feel like something special. Unnecessary details that they didn’t need to put in, but they add so much more to the game. For example, there’s one running joke about the quality of the items from the Island Trader shop, but it’s weaved in to the game’s mechanics as a way of tying it to the game world. Using items makes them disappear from your inventory, which is normal as you don’t need to use them again; however, with items where it wouldn’t make sense for you to discard it after use (like a screwdriver), the removal is explained away by it breaking due to shoddy Island Trader manufacturing. It’s things like this that make the world of Voodoo Detective feel cohesive and believable, and elevates it alongside the genre classics that it takes inspiration from.
With top notch voice acting, a superb soundtrack, beautiful visuals and (mostly) fair puzzles, Voodoo Detective is a game that point and click enthusiasts won’t want to miss out on. I only hope that we see more adventures from Mr Detective in the future, as there’s potential here for an amazing franchise.