Saturday, 15 February 2014

Chapter IX: Voodoo Nightmare

While I was growing up, still in elementary school, I was known through my neighbourhood and school as “Computer”. Yes, that was my nickname, just “Computer”. It all started in first grade as I was the smartest kid in my class, but as we say here “In the land of the blind, who has an eye is king”. By second or third grade this nickname was getting more settled because I had an Amiga 500, which no other kid in school had.

Almost everyone wanted to play with my computer and I made lots friends. I was the Amiga, the Amiga was me. Our identities were intertwined and there was no way that I was going to escape my place in (elementary school) society. By the time fourth grade arrived more kids started to have Amiga’s, but I was seen as the elder statesmen of our “cult”. I had more games than everybody else so I was the one to speak to when you needed games.

One Saturday morning some kids ringed on my house bell. My mom said I was going right there in a second. When I stood in front of the guests, I realized these were kids that I never ever talked to. I knew who they were. They were kids from a nearby shady neighbourhood who were kind of bullies. They were definitely the kind of kids that I usually didn’t dealt with if I had the choice. They said they heard about me and my games and asked if I could lend them some games. Obviously, even though I was young, I was not that stupid, and knew that those games were never to be seen again by these eyes.

This forest is just a stone raft in the middle of the ocean. Magic realism at its finest
My first excuse was to say that I only had strategy games, because those were the only kind of games that I liked. They didn’t know what was this “strategy” word, so I had to explain. I did it in a way to make it sound the least appealing thing ever, and I thought it wouldn’t be hard, but I was wrong. They insisted, they wouldn’t mind even a strategy game, if that was all I got. I needed someone brave, someone to sacrifice for myself and my safety. That one was Voodoo Nightmare.

Sorry Voodoo Nightmare for letting you go like that and never even making the minimum effort to see you again. We parted ways the in worst possible manner, but I made it through. I didn’t need my mother’s help and I stood there like a man, even if I had to shove you in front of me.

I used to think that "Voodoo" was the name of the protagonist. True story
Revisiting this game after so many years it’s quite a curious endeavour, as I remembered more of this story I just told than the game itself. I do remember it being an isometric adventure, which means that I’m quite eager to play it, since it’s a genre that has been lost in time but I’m quite fond of.

After loading the game memories started pouring in. The loading screen, the music and general atmosphere. Everything reminded me so much of my youth, my bedroom, and my Transformers action figures sitting next to the computer.

First impressions are good, even when trying to disconnect from all the nostalgia associated with it. While the game has a garish colour palette than was quite common in the early days of the Amiga, and usually meant an Atari ST conversion, it’s still pleasant enough. The music is catchy in a very menacing way, and sets the mood perfectly.

Problem is, when the game starts everything falls apart due to the insane control system. The game uses a positional control system which means that directions are dependant of where the main character is facing. Eventually I got used to it, but even then once in a while it felt like I was playing drunk. Maybe it’s intentional and it’s a way to reflect some kind of vertigo our character is experiencing due to a voodoo curse. Even so, a better control system wouldn’t make this game a classic, since there are many other problems.

This spider chipped off my limbs
Voodoo Nightmare plays a lot like other classic isometric action adventures as Head Over Heels and Cadaver, except that in this case there’s a much bigger emphasis on the “Action” part. That would be ok, if it wasn’t for the aforementioned problems of the controls that make jumping on the enemies heads harder than it should. Also, the “Adventure” part lacks the ingeniousness of the classics. The puzzles usually revolve around searching for movable pillars and rocks to find secret passages or transporters. If it sounds tedious that’s because it is. The feeling of satisfaction that is present when solving good puzzles would be replaced by a sense of relief if it wasn’t for the boredom that we know will come next.

After being stuck on the first temple, I searched the game manual and online walkthroughs for clues. So it seemed that I already got all the gems that are required to finish the first pyramid, but still I didn’t know what to do next. According to the game manual I should offer the gems to the temple god, but that hint is as good as nothing. After passing through the same rooms over and over again I gave up. It was never my intention to play through the games I write about, and if these play sessions prove me anything, is that I was right in giving this game away. I can only imagine the frustration on those kids trying to play this thing.

The Spider God isn't interested in my gem offering. The precious stones were already inside his temple anyway
It wouldn’t be fair to not mention the game’s manual. It’s full of good looking and humorous illustrations detailing the background story of the game and explaining the game mechanics. Apparently, the game character, called “Boots”, was travelling through Africa on a balloon with his wife and best friend when he was thrown away by the so called friend. The rest involves waking up with a big mask on that he can’t remove and an evil witch doctor. Well, I guess it serves him right for taking his “best” friend instead of having a romantic trip alone with his wife.


  1. I stumbled upon this blog because I am right now playing through the Amiga emulator version of this game. I like your review - and your cool game hero story (I have an almost similar story from my childhood), although I think you're being a bit harsh on the game as you have only brushed a little bit of the beginning.

    I used to play this as a kid, and at the time, not having that many games at my disposal I was forced to give this one a fair chance. It was either that - or sit and listen to my mother complaining about the color of the curtains, or - God forbid - go play soccer with the other boys.

    That's how I came to love this game. I loved the story, I loved the gameplay and absolutely loved the music. It is so mysterious and atmospheric. And the game just kept me trying and trying until I got it. Because, granted - the first temple can be quite frustrating, but once you figure out how it works, it isn't that hard. And the prize for completing the first temple is a huge exploration world: The Jungle. After you complete the first temple you get to explore the jungle, and here, among other, you find stores where you can buy lots of stuff. One of those things being a very useful machete, that you can use to kill the annoying animals. You see: spiders are only the beginning of your headaches. There are snakes and monkeys and... evil eagles... and all sorts of dangerous creep in the jungle. And there are temples spread out in the jungle and even one in the sky.

    The game opens up to the real story after the first temple which is to find a voodoo doll and some pins so you can go fight Voldemort. Or someone even more evil! Not quite sure, because the version I had as a child was a crack and when you get to the big temple in the middle of the jungle the game crashes. And this is supposed to be part 2 of this game which is already quite big before you get to that part.

    So now I'm playing through again to see if I can get to this ominous part 2. It is either that or listen to my wife complaining about the color of our curtains. Or - God forbid - play soccer with my boys.

  2. Yes, i know i wasn't completely fair in my analysis, but i still think this isn't a good game. Making us transverse such a boring temple before the game opens up is just bad design. It's quite a shame really, as i liked the look and overall atmosphere of the game.

    Obviously, when it's about nostalgia we're much more forgiveable when it comes to the games faults, but like i said, my memories didn't come from the game itself, as i had very little playtime back in the day.

    I hope you have a better experience than me while playing this game after all this time. And sorry about the curtains. But i suppose you get to have new good looking curtains every now and then:)

  3. I was older when I got the C64 and later an Amiga. I never really had any kids come to my house demanding that I loan them games. Here in the US, it was always understood that if you wanted games from someone, you brought a supply of blank disks and copied what you wanted.

    I did have one sort of bad experience though. I had a group of people come over to "trade", but all they had was old stuff that everyone else already had. Normally I don't mind copying stuff for people, but they wanted me to copy 30-50 disks. It was obvious that they were just using me as a supplier.

    After the first time, I made excuses to keep them away. The leader of the group would call and ask if I had anything new and I'd tell him that I didn't.

    1. At least you are an American with an Amiga. My parents had american friends and every time they came for holidays, their sons would embarass my computer like if it was some prehistoric artefact that only us poor Europeans could cope with:)

      And that their SNES was so much better. Congratulations on your good taste!