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Voodoo Chronicles: First Sign

Score: 78%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Space Monkey International
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle (Hidden Object)

Graphics & Sound:

Voodoo Chronicles: First Sign is a new entry into the adventure/hidden object genre. This time, players will investigate a most unusual murder set in a world that is both less and more technologically advanced than ours.

Voodoo Chronicles' setting of the late 19th Century comes through pretty well. The cobblestoned streets and older looking cars combined with steam-punk styled machinations and more elaborate robotic helpers makes the whole world feel both familiar and off.

Most of the game's locations have a static backdrop with characters moving about a little in the scene. In order to add a bit more motion to the image, there are a few visual effects like motes dancing in sunbeams or electricity arching across contacts. In the end, these little touches do a good job of keeping the game interesting to look at while you try and figure out your next step.

Audio is an odd mix. While the background noises only help to set the stage, there is a good bit of the dialogue and acting that feels out of place. There are times when the language feels too formal, or the sentence structure isn't quite right. Whether or not this is an attempt to portray an English language that isn't quite ours, or some issue in the actual writing process for the game, is hard to tell. Either way, the audio portion of Voodoo Chronicles: First Sign is hit and miss.


Gameplay:

Voodoo Chronicles: First Sign has you taking control of Detective Voodoo as he is asked to look into the recent death of millionaire Mr. Coins. The on-site investigators rule the death as a robbery gone bad, but it isn't long before your investigations lead to an interesting possibility.

In fact, the strangeness of the case starts before even leaving your office as you receive not only a cryptic note, but you also start seeing a tall, dark ghost that doesn't seem to want you to progress in your investigation. It isn't long before you start picking up newspapers that talk about an exhibition Mr. Coins funded that led to the discovery of an ancient island with a mysterious past. It seems like something that happened on that exhibition has gotten off of that island and has some kind of grudge against Coins.

You progress in the game's story through a series of classic adventure-style puzzles and hidden object screens. Often times, you will go into a hidden object screen in order to find an inventory item you need in order to make progress, but you will need about equal skills in both hidden object and puzzles if you are going to make it through the game.

Besides using the inventory items you pick up, there are also a few puzzles that are intriguing. One has you rewiring an electrical box by connecting various nodes with wires, while another not only has a section for rotating pipes in order to make a path for steam, but it also has you placing gears on a series of spokes in order to keep the whole machine running.


Difficulty:

Voodoo Chronicles: First Sign has a pretty even split between the different types of puzzles it throws at you. While there are more inventory-based and hidden object puzzles over the logic-based ones described in the previous section, it does a good job of offering a variety of tasks to keep you guessing.

Voodoo Chronicles: First Sign has a hint system that only works during the hidden object screens. You earn hints by either clicking on the ghostly creatures that seem to be following you, or completing certain tasks. While I didn't use hints often, I found the times I did need to were mostly because I simply wasn't familiar with the term that the hidden object screen asked me to look for.

I did find the game wouldn't give me adequate direction on several occasions. There were quite a few times when I would finish a task and simply not know what I was supposed to do next. The only way I knew how to progress was to open up the in-game Diary where a list of tasks is kept. I would often find a new entry there that I didn't know I needed to do. More times than not, these were simple "explore the train" or other tasks that would lead me to the next puzzle to resolve. As a result, there were a few times when I felt a bit directionless, something that is never good in an adventure game.


Game Mechanics:

Neither the hidden object nor the adventure gameplay styles are new, and the combination of the pair has been becoming more prominent more and more over the last couple of years, so Voodoo Chronicles: First Sign has many examples to follow when it comes to game mechanics. As a result, it's no wonder that the game is easy to pick up and play.

With basic mouse movements, players will navigate through the different scenes, pick up inventory items and use those items in the world around them. The game's hidden object screens are basic and require no real explanation. Thankfully, the game does a good job of keeping the items you are looking for in a somewhat realistic perspective. As a result, every hidden object is laid out in front of you, and you won't have to worry about searching in wood grains or clouds for the outlines of items you are searching for.

Players familiar with traditional adventure games won't have many problems getting through that aspect of this game, but those players who are looking for something that is more hidden object than anything else should consider another game since this one is almost a perfect blend of the two gameplay styles.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP/VIsta, 1.4 GHz Processor, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0, 898 MB HD Space
 

Test System:



Windows 7 Ultimate, Intel i7 X980 3.33GHz, 12 GB RAM, Radeon HD 5870 Graphics Card, DirectX 9.0c

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