“Voodoo Lockdown” Review
Release date: .
Verdict: 3/5 stars. Surprisingly not terrible! I say this as somebody who considers most puzzle games to be terrible, but this isn’t that, so it’s got some good in it.
Voodoo Lockdown is one of those games that looks like it would be complete hell to develop for, but is in fact one of the easiest concepts to put into a well – coded, well – maintained, and highly – respectable engine that’s available for any prospecting developer to use, and also Unity. All you gotta do is spawn an object, destroy that object, and make a few flags to make sure destroying the object doesn’t also destroy the engine you’re running on, because in games development everything is a genie in that it all looks like magic, but how the magic happens is some bullshit in itself. Then you mix in some prefabricated physics, some easy – peasy art assets, and bingo bango, sugar in the game engine, you got yourselves a video game.
I’m considering writing an article about how to work in the games industry, but the first step would be a seventy – two point header saying “DON’T”, and every other step being a list of reasons why everything to do with video games is mad, mad, mad, and you’d have to be a complete nutter in order to even consider the prospect. So let’s all take some time to appreciate the developers of this title, who I’m not looking up right now because it’s past my 6 P.M. bedtime and I can already feel the shadows closing in on me, for being such a madman — and, or, plus perhaps in addition to, mad woman. Yeah, we don’t discriminate against gender around these parts, except when we do, because women have cooties and other STIs.
Ignoring that previous comment
Voodoo Lockdown, which is a name inviting me to make a “Love Lockdown” pun before I realised Kanye West stopped being a real person around 2008 and instead became a corporate brand used to sell meaningless music to idiotic teenagers, is about this spooky voodoo shaman who falls into a pit and discovers the magic of computers being able to manipulate reality itself! He, or perhaps she as part of the trendy initiative to make gender – netural silent protagonists in order to further make them as generic and uninspiring as possible in a sea of generic and uninspiring gender – neutral silent protagonists, pulls some dark magic, and uses the power of the Latin alphabet in order to solve physics, platforming, and spacial reasoning puzzles. How they do this is unknown, but how you do this is through smashing a letter on your keyboard, and hey, it magically appears on the screen! Wow! Look at what computers can do!
I’m taking the piss a little, because at its core this is a puzzle – platformer instead of anything even remotely story – based. It was unfortunate to have this game come up out of the forty on my backlog, because I have no idea how to rate puzzle games. Do I rate them based on how stumped I was, or how stumped I wasn’t? Do I rate the cleverness of the puzzles, or how much satisfaction I got out of solving them? Or do I ignore the puzzles because they will be subjectively difficult to different people, and instead focus on the other aspects of the game? I have no criteria for this use case, because my big dumb Gamer Brain is only built for first – person – shooters and walking simulators, and the last time I played a puzzle game I got stuck on one level for three hours and was almost disqualified from the mystery games tournament for stalling.
I suppose what I can say about the more objective portions of the game is how well it all works out. The art style is well – designed in that, unlike so many other puzzle games, there’s nothing to distract you from the fundamentally simple experience of exploring rooms and solving the logic puzzles therein. It’s stark white on stark grey, with no pomp and circumstance, and the only moving things on screen is you and the occasional generic glowing death ball. The animation is also nice and fluid, which is impressive considering how hard it is to animate anything on a fundamental level, making me think the developer of this game — who I still cannot name because it’s closing in on 6:30 and my mommy’s coming home soon — took some extra time to figure out how to do such a thing. Interesting to note this was originally a game jam title, a game jam title I haven’t played, so perhaps all the art assets were paper cutouts and photographs of the developer in whiteface.
Like Metroid with words
The core gameplay involves running around a labyrinth and using the shapes of letters in order to advance, in some form or another, while finding Computer Terminal MacGuffins to complete the game with. There are puzzles where you jump on letterforms, puzzles where you navigate around them without getting telefragged, puzzles where you have to roll letters towards you with the magic of physics, and puzzles involving — wait for it — spelling words! Wow! Look what letters can do! Because there’s usually one letter per room, you can spam letters instantly, and they spawn in the same location every time, it makes the puzzles open to experimentation and easy to figure out empirically, though at the same time forgettable when you come back and have to derive the solution again. It does make for a puzzle game that is uniquely not frustrating, and because the game is a platformer at its core, abusing the physics to cheese your way to the finish begets a sense of smug satisfaction, like abusing the Ocarina of Time map geometry in order to clip out of bounds.
Unfortunately this is also an exploration game, meaning you’ll be wandering aimlessly around the compound with no input on whether you’re going the right way, causing you to solve similar puzzles over and over again without knowing if you’re going in circles or making some progress towards the finish. Because the goal is to collect all six terminals — I believe, as the game has no words beyond what you make yourself — you have to blindly travel ahead despite knowing you certainly missed a few, because despite the puzzles coming at you easily, you never get a sense of tangible progression until you stumble across a terminal tucked away in a corner, hidden inside a wall during a freefall, or across the path you decided not to take under the vain impression you would be able to travel both during the same session. Oh, you fool! It’s like you’ve never played a Metroid game before!
So as for the question of if the two gameplay styles complement each other, I would say they do, but then you didn’t come to my website to read my own opinions, now did you? Let’s see what the developers — who I still can’t look up the name of right now because it’s 7:00 and writing bad opinions is the only way I can ignore my abusive parents screaming at each other for six hours at a time before I get in twenty minute naps during the interludes when my dad’s crying on the floor and my mother once again threatens to leave forever, which she never does — has to say about this game: “Voodoo Lockdown is a puzzle platformer game I originally created for Ludum Dare 39”. Yep, that about sums it up! Please help me, I still wake up screaming with nightmares about my childhood.
You know, I actually had a lot of fun with this game. Yeah, that’s right, having fun in a puzzle game! Who would have thought it possible, when Tetris only sells a billion copies a day and the newest Madden sells a billion and one? I did have some trepidation with the prospect of finding every one of the terminals, because the material design doesn’t make it obvious where the bloody things are located and so you just have to guess, I still enjoyed going through the labyrinth as a means to see what puzzles came next, despite not personally finishing this game. Oh, no, I didn’t finish the game! The rest of my opinions are irrelevant because I didn’t play for an arbitrarily long amount of time to see an ending that’s probably not worth the effort anyway! I’m sure to have my Critic Pass revoked now!
I did get to the ending room, or what I’m assuming is the ending room because it told me to “FIND MORE TERMINALS”, involving an even bigger terminal that you can type commands into, silly me for not realising “SSSSDSDA” wasn’t a valid command. So my first command was “HELP”, betraying the massive spoiler that I had to find more terminals. And all was well in the land of Froge. But then my second command was “EXIT”, and the thing went: “WILL DO… :) :) :)” followed by my game closing. Oh, you snarky cunt! If only you were running Linux instead of whatever bootleg operating system your incredibly primitive command line interface ran off of. Then I would get my revenge. Just you wait…
But launching the game again to see exactly how I got nae – naed revealed something startling: the game saved right before the final room! And my progress was intact, too! In a world where indie games are so short and inconsequential that even basic features like a save feature are cast aside in order to shove in more catgirls, it was pleasant to have the comfort of being able to pick up where I left off, a privilege I have forgotten in the indie scene. I suppose that I now have the ability — nay, the duty — to go through the Achromatic Caverns and once again assert my dominance over a video game that I’ll forget about in a week’s time anyway! This is the Froge’s Power!
So congratulations, developers of Voodoo Lockdown. You’ve made the only game this month I’ve wanted to play after I finished the review. What was their name again? Oh, here it is: “anttihaavikko”!
Who the fuck names themselves “anttihaavikko”?