Voodoo Chronicles: The First Sign
Developer: Space Monkey Games Factory International
Publisher: Sanuk Games
Genre: Adventure/Hidden Object
Release Date: 04/10/2013
Way back in the day before I captained this ship known as Diehard GameFAN, I fought for a lot of things here. Coverage of handheld titles. Coverage of PC games. Cover of indie point and click adventure games. Things that just weren’t being covered by the site under someone else’s watch. As I’ve slowly walked away from the video game end of things for a multitude of reasons, Aaron Sirois has been covering the hidden object sign of things for me. Still, I like to dabble in it now and then and so when Sanuk Games sent us a review copy of Voodoo Chronicles, I decided to give it a review. Unfortunately, this PS3 remake of a PC game by the same name is quite possibly the worst point and click slash hidden object game I have ever played in my life. From a nonsensical story to unresponsive controls and multiple bugs that damage your saved game to the point where you have to restart from the beginning, Voodoo Chronicles: The First Sign simply should not have been allowed to make it on to PSN in the shape it is in. This is doubly true when you realize the PC version costs a fraction of the PS3 version and has far less issues. So what makes Voodoo Chronicles an easy frontrunner for this year’s “Worst Game of the Year” award from us. Read on to find out…
Let’s start with the story. It’s kind of hard to make out what’s actually going on here as the game starts off as a two fisted pulp noir story but slowly transitions into so weird psychedelic tale where your protagonist does battle with a Kraken while his flying shrunken head sidekick throws quips at you one moment and the next your are collected neon monkey statues to end a voodoo curse when the all the victims of the curse have long since died. It also doesn’t help that the game is horribly translated into English with nearly every sentence featuring spelling and/or grammatical errors. Just read the newspaper headlines for lines that make “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” look like a top notch localization job in comparison.
The game starts off with a long movie about some evil dudes that slaughtered a tribal village to gain access to their sacred artifact only to let the surviving Houngan place a curse on them and slowly kill the members of the expedition horribly. Then the game switches to the point of view of a P.I. protagonist whose accent is a strange mix of Noir New Yorkese and stereotypical Australian. It is an odd juxtaposition to be sure. You are hired by letter to solve the murder of Mr. Coins, the head of Richtown or Richville. I can’t honestly remember which. Of course, the player already knows what happens thanks to the long cut scene at the beginning but player knowledge is not character knowledge as I always say in the tabletop side of things. Unfortunately for a video game, this tends to make things dull and drawn out. From there you go around to locations solving puzzles that have little to nothing to do with the story while a strange shadowy man keeps tabs on you and tries to attack you with bats and wolves. Eventually you gain your shrunken head sidekick who really adds nothing to the game except being a Jar Jar Binks like annoyance. Then at the climax of the game you shoot the dark stranger who has been stalking you and he turns out to actually be two midget voodoo high priests in disguise. Then at the end of everything your pet cat turns into a woman for some reason and you sleep with her. I cannot make this stuff up. The entire plot of Voodoo Chronicles feels like someone did an inordinate amount of acid, had some weird hallucination that made sense to them at the time, wrote it down and then turned it into a video game. Sometimes this words – like with Super Mario Bros.. Voodoo Chronicles, however is a catastrophic failure in every sense of the word.
Then there is the game’s visual presentation. For the most part the game consists of static images with very little animation. This is par for the course for the hidden object genre, so no surprises here. As well, the game has even been completely redone visually for the high def graphics one would expect from a PS3 game. So colours are brighter and things are more detailed. This is a great step to take with a PC to PS3 port, right? Well not so much. You see, the size of the game’s visuals aren’t uniform, leading to the game being a chore to play. Now what I mean by this is the old height by length of the game’s screen differs throughout your playthrough and some won’t match up with your TV screen size. You’ll be wandering around trying to figure out what you are missing, having looked at every hot spot that you can see. Then you’ll realize it’s not you and your perception that is the problem but the fact the size of the static image background has changed.
Here’s an example. There is one puzzle where you have to deal with three different clerks to get the forms you need to find your friend. You can only see two of the clerks on your screen though. You’ll have to pause the game, go adjust the horizontal and vertical aspects on the visuals in the menu and change the proportions so the full image of the game actually fits in your screen. Then, and only then, will you be able to find the third clerk. Then you’ll have to change things back to find the proportion on later visuals. Unfortunately, while this is a minor headache, it’s still far less annoying than some other aspects of the game.
Audio and aurally the game is sup-par as well. The voice acting in Voodoo Chronicles isn’t the worst I’ve ever encountered, but the deliveries are wooden, the accents fluctuate and it’s just not a quality job. The music in the game fares a little bit better, but there aren’t enough tracks and generally the music is quite forgettable, which is better than being annoying at least. There isn’t a lot in the way of sound effects save for a happy noise when you find a hidden item or a lightning crash when you click too quickly in wrong areas.
Now we come to the actual playing of the game. When it first booted up, I was happy to see that it offered both DualShock3 and Playstation Move support. Unfortunately while both control schemes work fine for a point and click adventure, the game itself is riddled with bugs that make it nigh unplayable. Oddly enough some of these play issues are directly imported from the original PC version of the game.
The first bug is one Sanuk games told me about directly when they sent the review code. There is a puzzle where you have to put a carriage wheel together. If you skip or exit out of the puzzle, it will corrupt your game save, forcing you to start over from scratch. This means you have to do the puzzle all in one go. I appreciate the candor here but they did neglect to mention all the other problems with game has. A big bug is that in the very end of the game, if you click on a section, the game will keep giving you the “ladder machine” as an item in your inventory over and over again. While this sounds minor, it actually replaces items you have collected. Items you can’t go back and recollect. This meant that right at the end of the game when I needed the “magic scroll” that I picked up at the start of the game, it was gone from my inventory and I had no way to progress and thus do the last two puzzles in the game. My reaction was basically an angry one because to be hit with a bug that late in the game that forces you to start over is utterly inexcusable. I chose to just replay the last little bit of the PC version rather than subject myself to the plethora of bugs in the PSN version.
Besides these two game stopping bugs (which is two too many), there are lots of other annoying blurps in the game sure to vex you. The biggest is that sometimes when a hidden object scene loads, the ability for the scene to recognize clicking won’t load as well. So nothing you click on registers as either or good or bad selection. Click click click. Nothing happens. The only way out of this is to choose to exit the Hidden Object scene and come back to it. This works about half the time, but be prepared to reload some of these three or four times before the clicking actually can be detected by the game. Once you can get the detection issues bypassed you have a new fresh hell to deal with and that’s the truly terrible translation into English. How can Engrish be so bad in a Hidden Object game? Well, you have that list of items on the right hand side you are looking for, yes? Unfortunately, what’s on the list might not actually be the item you are looking for. This was also a huge problem with the PC version that caused Voodoo Chronicles to earn the ire of those who played it. One example is that the game might ask you for a crab. You look and look and look, but there is no crab to be seen. It turns out they meant lobster. There are countless items like this. Some are somewhat close to the correct English translation while others are not. The end result is a game where you are either frustrated, confused or randomly clicking on things in hopes that this is what the developers ACTUALLY meant. There are also some items that literally do not show up on the screen but when you click on an area, THEN they will appear and you’ll wonder how the hell you found it when you were just randomly clicking out of sheer ire. This, my friends, is about the worst hidden object game I’ve ever played.
Add in some insane loading time for a game that consists of static images and that will sometimes freeze up upon loading from scene to scene (six times to me!) and you have to wonder how this made it past not only internal quality control but Sony’s QA division at all. Voodoo Chronicles is truly terrible in all ways possible. There’s no real replay value to Voodoo Chronicles either considering the bugs in it. Sure, most hidden object/point and click adventure games are “one and done” titles, but when you can’t even get through this one. I can honestly say this is the first that doesn’t even achieve that low level of replay value.
The bugs make Voodoo Chronicles hard to judge in terms of balance, but I will say this: The puzzles in the game are exceptionally easy and require little to no thought, while the hidden object pieces will drive you insane due to the bad localization, graphical errors and detection issues. As these make up the bulk of playtime, this is yet another reason why you should invest neither time nor money into this game.
When all is said and done, Voodoo Chronicles just might be the absolute worst hidden object game I have ever played in my life. I hated every moment of it due to the bugs and terrible storyline and was actually thankful for the final game killing bug because it meant I could put down the DualShock 3 and never look back. Most Hidden Object fans will have the same ire I felt for this game. These type of games feel clunky without a mouse, although I appreciate the attempt to substitute that with the Move controller. I also appreciate the attempt to bring this almost PC exclusive genre to PSN, but the game is so bad, it will only send Hidden Object fans scurrying back to their PC – and that’s if they are willing to pick up a game that is far more expensive for a console than the PC version, which also lacks most of the bugs and thus is far less of a chore to wade through. No, Voodoo Chronicles is a truly horrible affair in all respects and it’s simply a game you should run screaming from. It’s that bad. If/when it comes to the North American store, you should spend your money on something else. Anything else really.
Short Attention Span Summary
Voodoo Chronicles: The First Sign is not only the worst Hidden Object game I’ve ever had to suffer through, it’s also the worst game I’ve played this year. The best thing I can say about the game is that it isn’t available on the North American version of PSN, thus saving many a soul from the horrors of playing through it. There’s no possible excuse for the game being released in the condition it is in, and everyone involved from the developers to Sony for letting it pass quality control should be ashamed of themselves. Boo-urns.