Saturday, February 18, 2023

Voodoo Nightmare

It's a jungle out there!

Palace Software released Voodoo Nightmare in 1990 and is an isometric action/puzzler not too dissimilar to the older Ultimate games I used to play as a kid on my ZX Spectrum. We are Boots Barker, a guy with a silly name and little good fortune, who went on an African holiday with his wife and best friend. Hang on, both his wife and best friend? Yep, I'm also getting a bad vibe and wondering what naughty things she has been getting up to behind his back!

Anyhow, they all went up for a ride in a hot-air balloon. Suddenly, but not surprisingly, he gets pushed over the side and falls into the deep jungle wilderness! Thankfully, he survived that horrendous fall but was left unconscious in the mud. He awoke to find that a medicine man had crammed a mask on his face and, try as he might, the thing won't come off.

Our task is to find eight pins that we can stick into a voodoo doll of that African witch doctor to get the mask removed. These are earned by materialistically satisfying the five temple gods who each have a pin to provide. The rest are collected by completing jungle tasks - helping an injured native, feeding a monkey and finding a lion cub's mother.

These images I have taken from the game's manual, and brilliantly depict the outlandish narrative...

What an insane expression!!

This artwork is outstanding. Love it.

Dazed, assaulted and mocked. A great start to anyone's day!!

Now's my chance to be Sabreman?

We begin in the jungle, a beautiful place with lush green trees, an assortment of plant life and many dangerous animals. The wilderness is designed like a kinda like a turf maze, so getting around takes a little practice because you can easily make a wrong turn and feel lost. Wild animals are roaming but they only come out during the daytime - which is odd but also rather handy as you will later discover. The jungle is also home to native residents, shops, and (wait for it) casinos!

Okay, I gotta admit something, my first impressions weren't favourable and I didn't care for Voodoo Nightmare at all. After playing a game or two, I left it for several weeks because I didn't appreciate the concept of blindly wandering around a restrictive maze. I think a lot of this was also down to the control system and positioning my joystick at an awkward angle - something I never did in Knight Lore or Fairlight! Yep, this game didn't gel with me whatsoever. 

Thankfully, I returned once I accidentally stumbled upon some screenshots that I had previously taken. These piqued my interest and I gave it a second chance - I even surprised myself by reading the manual. Yep, I did that. So, I decided to give it another go, just in case I happened to prejudge it too harshly and incorrectly. Sheesh, turns out I had!

In light of that revelation, I think I better roll on with a selection of funky screenshots...

Come on, this is the most gorgeous jungle with stunning colours. Love it!!

Watch out for holes in the bridges. Sloppy workmanship, I say...

Yikes, look at that angry fella!! What's his problem?

Out of Africa

So, the basis of the story is to simply collect 8 pins from each temple and some jungle tasks. Then we can end our masked torment by beating the living daylights out of that witch doctor! Sounds easy enough but it's a lot harder than you may think: each temple is home to a greedy god who must be showered in gems before giving up his pin.

The first is the Spider Temple, a maze of many rooms containing gems that we need. It's daunting with some inaccessible areas and locked doors. So this is where the puzzle elements come in - either killing a nasty beast, moving objects, or using teleporters. You are alerted for nearby gems in the status menu to make sure you don't miss anything. Once we have collected enough, the spider god can be visited who will cough up the first of our pins.

Not only that but she rewards us with the power to break webs so we can get out and discover more, like the jungle tasks. The first, that I found, was a lion cub who needed to be returned to its mother. This is just a case of heading back through the jungle to find Mom. But that's easier said than done thanks to the jungle being a maze of angry animals.

Yes, the jungle itself is a formidable force of nature and home to many animals and also natives who use poisonous blowpipes for varied effects - one of which is temporary blindness. The animals only roam during the day and can drain your energy unless you're quick to stamp on them - and they sometimes drop a plate of food. Very handy!

It's not complex whatsoever but it is a massive game. Wanna see more screenshots of stunning 16-bit artistry...

Unlike most cities, it's safer to go out at nighttime when the nasties are sleeping.

Here I've returned the baby lion to its mother. She looks so... happy!

Hang on, what have we here? Shall I say hello to this peculiar gang of natives?

Shopping and nightlife

The jungle isn't like we saw as kids watching Tarzan. No way, this jungle has shops stuffed with helpful items like weapons and maps. These places are only open during the daytime and are manned by Romero. He's a nice chap and has several of his Supply Huts dotted around different parts of the jungle. Shop around to find specific items.

Wanna know what you just purchased? Hit the spacebar to reveal the inventory and use the joystick to choose an item. I would first advise purchasing a weapon which makes it much easier to kill those nasty animals roaming the jungle. However, this does mean you can no longer jump which makes no sense but it's easy alternating between items.

During the night, casinos open their doors to anyone wishing to try their luck. That's right, we can gamble away our warez by taking a chance in the jungle casino - Vegas style! It's called a Treasure Tree and is open only at night but it may prove fruitful for the lucky willing to risk a gamble? Or you might just get yourself in big trouble... How is your luck?

Yep, it always pays to explore everywhere because you never know what you may stumble upon...

Jungle stores are plentiful with supplies but it pays to shop around.

Inside is Romero, dunno where they got that original name from.

Casinos are only open at night and great if you have loot burning a hole in your pocket?

Jane's big tips

    • It may help you a bunch if the joystick is held at an angle. But get familiar first before you jump into the gameplay. It may be awkward but it's not impossible! Ugh, trust me...
    • Starting in the spider temple is an overbearing experience. Take your time and make use of the teleporters whilst also making a mental note of those that appear to lead to a dead end.
    • Watch the status bar for a flashing red gem alert.
    • Getting sick of those rabid animals constantly sapping your energy? So you didn't bother to master the controls? Nor have you shopped for better weaponry? Well, you can pause the game - when the sun comes up. Now, unpause when the moon is out. What, a cheat? Yep, try it!
    • The jungle quests are confusing only because the jungle is a challenging labyrinth. Why not memorise it? Plus there are maps to purchase (only if you have an abundance of funds!)
    • Jungle tasks? The lion cub is so easy, head back north and grab a weapon.
    • Stuck in the spider temple? Try pushing some central objects.
    • Blades are great but also mean that you don't need to jump on the animals anymore.
    • Did you know some of the jungle's brush can be slashed?
    • Holes in bridges - use your inventory to put your boots back on.

The spider temple is actually very easy once you realise the rooms follow a structured layout.

Look out for a flashing red gem in the status bar. Very helpful for hidden objects.

Finally, I made it and reap my rewards. Onwards to the next temple?

Tarzan aesthetics!

I cannot deny that I absolutely love the visuals, all thanks to the talents of Lyndon Brooke and Lorne Campbell (Operation Harrier and Barbarian II). This design is something that Ultimate could only dream of back in their colour-clash days on the ZX Spectrum. Thankfully, they didn't make the mistake of going overboard to produce something garish. No, each temple looks incredible with fine attention to detail and the jungle is lush in stunning technicolour. I love it all!!

As for the audio, well, the master himself Dave Whittaker created both the effects and background music. The effects are nice but it's the music that I enjoyed the most. Okay, it's not his finest work but it certainly functions as a subtle background melody. It's timid so doesn't overpower the sound effects and this shy approach works perfectly.

Check out these screenshots from the Snake Temple. Stunning visuals with a menacing design...

The snake temple is one of cruel design and silly puzzles. How will you escape this trap?

Watch that status bar and collect all gems like the one here, it's easy to miss.

A brilliant design. Hopping across the void is superb - just be careful!!

The CryptO'pinion?

I may not have liked Voodoo Nightmare at first but I'm so glad I returned to try it. This is now growing to be one of my favourite ST games and feels somewhat like a "modern" Sabre Wulf with its jungle setting and crazy critters.

My only quibbles are because of my first impressions - the constant onslaught of angry animals and the time it took to feel comfortable with the controls. As it happens, the jungle would be boring without the animals crazily running around and they're easy to kill thanks to available weapons. Plus the fantastically fast & fluent joystick controls are a joy.

That's right, you start the game cautiously walking through the animal-infested jungle but soon you are running through like a Tasmanian Devil. Ironically, compared to my initial experience, I would say that the joystick controls are one of the game's main strengths. And that's saying something for such an addictive feature-rich adventure like this.

Voodoo Nightmare will entertain you for hours if you can spare the time? Incredible game and highly recommended!!

> The floppies can be found on Atari Legend and you can also run it directly off your hard drive.


  1. Thanks for the review. Never heard of it before. Looks interesting and it one of this late releases > 1989 I missed somehow.

    1. Glad you like this :)

    2. Im not sure i like those isometric games for the ST, like Cadaver etc. They are usually very hard to control. But this is a joyful game.

  2. I think I'm going to get lost in this game because I'm a road hog

    1. It’s a great game to get lost in!