In life, there are times when something can sound like a good idea and turn out bad. Sometimes we think, what if it had been done in a different way, would it have turned out differently? Could it have been better? This is the question we have been contemplating when it comes to SideRift’s Voodolls.
Despite having a decent time with it at PAX East 2023, something continued to bother us and we couldn’t exactly place our finger on it. Originally, we thought the lack of co-op during the demo could potentially be the problem, but after getting our hands on the game, we realized it was something else.
For this review, Augusto and I teamed up with another player, Razrsword, to review Voodolls. During our time with it, we all were able to see positives and negatives within the game but all three of us felt the game was not complete.
Publisher: Tate Multimedia
Platforms: PC (Steam)
Release Date: May 11th
Players: 1 to 4
Price: $14.99 USD
Matt’s Impressions (5)
Voodolls as a concept seems like a fun idea but the game itself feels poorly executed. The level design within the game is beautifully done but the game’s engine does not feel like it can keep up. Throughout our time playing the game, we could see the cracks within the game show; we are not talking about the spawn points either. As more things were going on and levels became more in-depth, abilities started to lag or slow down registration.
In addition to visual bugs, the game in general would become more taxing. In the later levels, the game’s processing took an added toll; we could physically feel our computers heating up. This made it feel like the fight against demons was an eternity.
While playing Voodolls, it felt like it was trying to hard to blend a tower defense game with a hero defense game. Although the player could lay out towers to slow down or kill enemies, those towers felt like they didn’t do enough. Towers within each level could be upgraded, but getting the resources to upgrade them felt limited and restrictive; the towers felt like they were an afterthought.
Each Voodoo Doll has its own unique abilities and players can switch between weapon types. Switching between weapons was easier said than done. After switching characters or weapons, a brief explanation was given of what each one does, but how to use it properly was absent.
Before each area’s fight, we could change out our towers to use in the level, but having only four options to choose between on a PC game felt very restricting. In fact, it made us stop caring about the towers and focus primarily on our soldiers fighting. The game fails to give a clear indication of if an ability hits and with the lag/frame rate drop, it becomes more difficult to tell.
For a game that can be played single-player or co-op, it definitely feels like it needs the multiplayer element to make it enjoyable. Playing solo can feel overwhelming between finding the demons’ spawn, placing traps, and towers, avoiding dying, and protecting the summoner; if we include the side quests the game includes, there can be way too much going on.
Voodolls can be a fun game to play if you have a group to play with but Solo play feels more like a chore than a fun experience. The game does have a variety of graphical issues that need to be worked out before it’s worth recommending even if the level design is great. The controls both on a controller and keyboard and mouse are fairly easy to use but if you forget them, it can be a chore to figure them out.
Voodolls can be mindless fun but needs more work before it is ready for the average gamer. Honestly, the game should have come out to early access before having a hard release; it is still a work in progress that has potential but needs a good bit of love and care before it can shine.
Augusto’s Impressions (4.5)
I can’t say I had the best time with Voodolls when most aspects of the game have bugs attached to them. Voodolls feels like Nintendo Wii shovelware that got sent forward in time for some reason.
To start out, every skill I had stopped working every single round. My character could heal and draw enemy attention, but after using these skills, their cooldown would eventually just sit at 0 and stop working. Skills were also largely broken because you could spam the button and trigger it 3–4 times before the cooldown had a chance to activate, and their sound effects also clipped over each other.
The gameplay is largely uninteresting and has your characters defending multiple lanes that converge on your tree spirit. Enemies just mostly slap you for a high amount of damage, so sitting back with a ranged weapon is the solution to all of your problems; you’ll only die if you get so bored you stop paying attention.
None of the weapons have really any impact; their visuals and sound effects are pretty limp and don’t really enhance gameplay; you’ll mostly just hold one button to keep shooting, and that will be the end of it. Aiming is also not fantastic, as it feels like your reticle and where your shot actually goes are two different things.
Every map has a side objective that can be accepted for extra rewards, but they always seem to be broken. The first one we did involved defending a fairy, which randomly died with no enemies around it; the second one we randomly cleared, unsure of what we did; and the third one had us defending a chest against pirates, which never spawned and failed the objective regardless.
Voodolls’ multiplayer is one of the few saving graces it has, but even that has a few caveats. Saving your friends isn’t worthwhile because death is largely unimportant, and dying lets you come back to full life instead of 25% when rescued.
Players can set down structures to help with defending each lane, but the structures are also pretty bland. Some of them, like the most expensive one, are so large that they can’t be built near a road, which is a problem when their attacks can’t reach the enemies.
Voodolls struggles to feel fun or even interesting; it’s boring, buggy, and didn’t have a lot of thought put into it. I don’t want to be excessively harsh because this definitely seems to be aimed towards children, but I also don’t believe that the bar should be set lower just because something is intended for a younger audience. I unfortunately can’t recommend Voodolls in its current state.
Razrsword’s Impressions (4.5)
Voodolls has similar mechanics to Orcs Must Die Unchained in which you have an avatar that you can operate while the traps assist you in slaying enemies. I liked this function because it allows you to have more input on the outcome of the round. The system is confusing in which way the traps function or how they need to be laid out. Indications within the game, do not help you to identify which traps will help against what enemies; in order to find out what traps do, you will need to look at the trap selection menu before the level starts.
In Voodolls, abilities aren’t explained well if at all. An initial introduction doesn’t help players who are returning to the game or switching ability types or even characters between levels. The game’s tutorial was lacking and insufficient leaving you to question what each ability does; the game doesn’t show how abilities can be combined with traps in order to slay enemies.
A clear indication or a more in-depth tutorial would help players understand what each ability does and how each trap works. The controls for combat and trap placements were pretty straightforward, however, an indication of activatable traps or reviving a teammate was not clear.
The variety of enemies is nice but a clear distinction between enemies would be helpful; an indication of their abilities or attacks would help players prepare for what is coming. For special enemies, the removal of the protective color or an indication of vulnerability would help players differentiate which enemies can be damaged from your abilities.
The pathing within the game helps players to know where enemies are coming from and where to set traps. On the map, players can see where enemies are going to spawn from and the paths that they will take to get to the voodoo master; these pathways will continue to glow as enemies move toward your base.
Status effect damage from the environment and enemy spawns should be more clear to indicate proximity for damage and where to avoid in order to not take damage. The health bar indicator on the top left of the screen does not help players track their health as easily as a health bar over your character would; the health bar on the left, does help your teammates but in the heat of the battle is easy to overlook.
The level variety is nice with each level coordinating with the story. The maps aren’t generic and vague, however, the bugs within the game make it so you can not appreciate it as much as it deserves.
Although Voodolls has a lot of potential, but the game in its current state feels more like early access than a fully released title. The game’s lack of a real tutorial causes the player to discover how to play the game rather than enjoy it. Traps do not feel like they assist the player and seem more gimmicky than a helpful tool. Visually, the levels are colorful and change from level to level, but the bugs within the game make it hard to enjoy. If you are considering picking this up to play with your friends, we suggest waiting. Voodolls needs a lot of polish.
The score at the moment is a reflection of the game in its current state. If the developers are able to improve the game and fix a lot of its issues, it does have the potential to be more. The idea isn’t bad, just the current implementation.
Voodolls was reviewed on PC using copies provided by Tate MultiMedia. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Voodolls was released on May 11th, 2023 on Windows PC (Steam).