Voodoo Dice Review

A unique concept only goes so far in this frequently frustrating game that combines puzzle and action elements with uneven results.

You might expect a game about dice to be a freewheeling affair that involves some degree of chance. In the case of Voodoo Dice, you'd be wrong. This is one of the more rigid and challenging puzzle games out there, and its call for precision on the player's part makes it a frequently frustrating one as well. It squeezes a decent amount of variety out of what initially seems to be a limited concept, but its distinctive and peculiar combination of action and logic and its unforgiving difficulty will leave many players cold.

Getting into a given square with the right number facing up can be trickier than you might think.
Getting into a given square with the right number facing up can be trickier than you might think.

Your goal in Voodoo Dice is to roll a six-sided die through a series of levels filled with all sorts of obstacles. Each level is laid out on a grid, on which you can roll your die freely up, down, left or right. Initially, your biggest problem is other dice blocking your path. These dice can be eliminated only by rolling into an adjacent square in such a way that the number on your upper surface matches that on top of the neighboring die. It's a simple concept, and it's the sort of thing that, when time allows, you can just fumble through, rolling yourself up to the dice in your way until you finally happen to do so with the right number facing upward. But you don't always have the luxury of time, and the game gives you some basic information to try to help you use your noggin to overcome these obstacles more quickly. It tells you, for instance, that the opposite faces of a die always equal seven, and that rolling left, forward, and then right will leave you with the same number on top as when you started. If you're good at spatial puzzles, you'll be able to figure out what patterns you need to roll your die in to end up with the required number on top, but while solving these logic problems is initially absorbing, it eventually starts to feel a bit like doing math homework

It's not long before these stationary dice in your way become just one of your many concerns. Some levels require you to push statues onto switches, which is simple in theory, but the level designs often require you to carefully consider each move you make. Should you make a mistake, such as pushing a statue onto a square from which you can't retrieve it or perhaps getting your die stuck in an inescapable position, your only recourse is to restart the current level, which can be extremely irritating if you've already made a good deal of progress. You also encounter indestructible, killer dice called blinddice that roll in merciless, unwavering formations and require careful timing to avoid. These, along with collapsing platforms, curses that reverse the controls or dramatically slow your movement, and other hazards, shift the game from one that you can fumble your way through in the early stages to something requiring precision, calling upon quick reflexes and careful movement in addition to problem-solving. It's an uneasy combination of elements that's sometimes compelling and sometimes overwhelming. Most levels place more focus on certain elements than others, which keeps things feeling varied as you proceed. But it also means that, whether you prefer the quick pace of the action-oriented levels or the more deliberate pace of the puzzle-focused levels, for each one you enjoy, you have to do one you don't care for as much.

There are four multiplayer modes as well, each for up to four players, though they can only be played locally. Race mode challenges you to move smartly, navigating a circuit more quickly than your opponents. Arcade puts you in a level with lots of stationary dice, awarding victory to whoever destroys the most within the allotted time. Flag is essentially a game of tag with dice. Tactics is the most interesting multiplayer mode. Players take turns moving their dice three spaces, trying to eliminate opposing players' dice while keeping their own safe. You may enjoy trying to outsmart your opponents in Tactics a few times, but there's nothing here to hold your interest for very long.

Blinddice are just one of the dangers you face. They're basically the Terminators of dice society.
Blinddice are just one of the dangers you face. They're basically the Terminators of dice society.

Voodoo Dice's visuals aren't technically impressive, but the game has a clean, vibrant look that's appealing. You can rotate the camera around with ease to get a good look at your surroundings, which is often crucial, and there's something almost mesmerizing about the smooth and merry way your die rolls this way and that. The electronic music is pulsating but unobtrusive, so while it doesn't have anything in the way of voodoo flavor, it may make you bop your head without distracting you from the action.

Getting through the game's four worlds takes perseverance and patience, and while Voodoo Dice is great at dishing out difficulty, its challenges aren't ones that you'll necessarily enjoy overcoming. It's a bit reminiscent of that other six-sided puzzler, the Rubik's Cube. You might relish putting your mind to work figuring it out. More likely, you will fumble with it for a while before giving up in frustration or simply losing interest. Unless you have a voracious appetite for spatial puzzles, you'll want to avoid rolling these bones.

The Good

  • Unique brand of spatial puzzle-solving
  • Varied level designs challenge you in different ways
  • Combination of logic and action can be absorbing

The Bad

  • Combination of logic and action is overwhelming at times
  • Frustrating and unforgiving