Voodoo Detective review | Adventure Gamers

It’s immediately apparent that the developers of this noir-infused comedy are ardent fans of classic adventure games. From the traditional point-and-click interface to the hand-drawn backgrounds and animations, Voodoo Detective blends influences from Monkey Island and Grim Fandango in a vibrant Voodoo love potion serenading the golden age of Sierra and LucasArts.  

The setting is New Ginen, a small island town with a rich Voodoo culture threatened by encroaching chain stores and tourists. You play as Voodoo Detective, a, er, Voodoo detective trying to keep his bills paid and the old ways alive by solving cases with his characteristic blend of hoodoo and wry sense of humor. But when Mary, a mysterious woman with no memory of her past, enters his office, he’s swept up in a mystery that threatens not just the island but reality itself.

You start with only one lead – a pendant Mary was given in a dream – but this connects you to various shady characters with ties to Mary’s past. I enjoyed delving into their backstories and potential motivations, but there ultimately isn’t much mystery to the culprit’s identity or Mary’s history, despite the enigmatic setup. The story doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the narrative soon careens wildly from a grounded, personal mystery into a more comically (and cosmically) villainous tale without resolving the former.

It’s only because this was so full of promise that I was left hungry for a little more development of the world and characters overall, including Voodoo Detective himself. VD’s motivations are kept quite basic, and, though his hatred of the faceless corporate takeover of his hometown is apparent, he remains something of a mystery (even down to his name). This is most noticeable after significant dramatic developments, when his sardonic, world-weary attitude can register as emotional flatness. I was intrigued by the mention of his grandma, a Voodoo priestess, and the attention to cultural details, so more exploration of his roots and Voodoo connection would be welcome, especially with the game’s focus on cultural integrity.

The gameplay will be familiar to adventure fans, with environmental exploration and inventory puzzles, as well as a few welcome refinements to the classic formula, including text-skipping and speed-walking options, condensing any inevitable backtracking. Hotspot highlighting isn’t provided, but pixel hunting wasn’t an issue due to a pretty focused selection of interactive objects (perhaps a tad too focused in places). One throwback I didn’t love is a couple of timed sequences resulting in game over screens after a few seconds of hesitation, but you can easily continue where you left off without losing progress.

The main distinguishing puzzle-solving mechanic involves concocting spells using a Voodoo recipe book. Therefore, in true adventure fashion, random inventory combinations are obligatory, but there’s an underlying logic to them. Puzzles are generally fairly straightforward, with some creative solutions required – including a potentially notorious golden toilet handle moment – but these aren’t typically too arcane, unlike the game’s classic source material. I did get stuck a couple of times, where I found the logical leaps a touch wide, but the game is generally good at guiding you with prompts that aren’t overly obvious.

The visuals are beautiful, with a timeless 90s-era Disney quality to the colorful hand-drawn animations and painterly backgrounds. I found the animated character portraits slightly jarring in conjunction with the unmoving character models during dialogue, however, so these could’ve perhaps been differentiated in style or integrated. Nonetheless, the visuals are among the game’s greatest strengths, alongside the atmospheric, finger-snapping jazz featuring live instruments from Peter McConnell of Grim Fandango and Monkey Island fame.


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