Game: Pumpkin Jack
Genre: 3D, Platformer, Action, Adventure
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PC, Xbox one and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Nicolas Meyssonier | HeadUp Games
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: UK £24.99 | EU € 29,99 | US $29.99
Release Date: October 23rd 2020
Review code provided with many thanks to Headup Games
The 3D Realm
The 2D platformer genre has garnered a lot of love from the indie scene over the years with great successes. However, you don’t often see a lot of 3D titles, you know the ones that tickle the nostalgia bones from the PS2 era. Pumpkin Jack comes along to haunt us this Halloween to prove to gamers young and old that the 3D platform genre is far from dead.
The Devils Work
The Devil is not too happy with all the happiness and bunnies in the kingdom so he unleashes the Curse of the Eternal Night on the land. In protest the humans summon a mighty wizard to put an end to the evil curse. The Devil then decides to counter this by summoning Jack the Pumpkin Lord (who you play as) to hunt down the Wizard and avoid the possibility of a happy ending.
The story is light hearted and devilishly funny. This is a horror story that will have you laughing at the silly jokes more than being scared for your life. The highlight by far is Jack himself. A soulless character lacking any sympathetic bone in his body. As he interacts with various characters in the game he’s quick to ask them to get to the point of a story and he’s not shy about being rude to NPC’s if they stand between him and the wizard. It makes a change to play a villain like this as opposed to the usual hero protagonist.
Although, it may not seem family friendly to play as a villain. The game contains absolutely no gore and the combat is mostly against villain-like characters who are just as nasty as Jack is. So don’t be scared to share this title with the young ones. They may get a kick out of the colourful character designs and general silliness on display.
A Mixture of Gamplay Styles
Pumpkin Jack spans six 3D based levels. The design is mostly linear with some wiggle room to explore for collectables and to take in the the gorgeous dark themed environments from castle walls to murky swamps. There are nice touches in the level design such as when you knock over a lantern it will burn areas of wood and spread; just be warned you can get hurt by this. The game does a good job of pointing you in the correct direction so it’s hard to get lost. Most of your time will be spent platforming and stopping to attack a few enemies with your melee weapon. The combat is generally fine, you can hit and dodge but when there are a lot of enemies on screen things can get a little messy and hard to follow. Early in the game Jack gets a handsome crow companion who he can order to attack enemies from afar, a handy feature indeed. Often he will stop to mock his bird friend because, don’t forget, Jack is literally an evil pumpkin person.
The platforming in the game felt solid with the controls feeling responsive. Just be careful not to look down when you climb some of the really tall towers in the game. Should you make mistakes there’s usually a checkpoint that’s not too far away. I rarely found myself getting frustrated in the game.
To keep things interesting in every level the game throws in puzzle sections where Jack removes his head and you crawl around in a mini dungeon. There are also on-rails sections where Jack might ride a horse or a mine cart while avoiding hazards. These sections felt hit and miss but nicely broke up the pace of the platforming. Finally, every level ends with a satisfying boss fight requiring you to assess the situation and strike at just the right time. A fitting conclusion to each level.
Not a Moment Wasted
While Pumpkin Jack has the odd niggles a lot of it is overshadowed by how well the game is designed in pace. Jack is a funny protagonist that I just loved. While six levels sounds short it doesn’t feel like a section of this game is wasted. Pumpkin Jack comes in to tell its horror which will take around 8 hours and then finishes. But during that time I never felt bored, I looked forward to future play sessions and even after the tale concluded I could easily see myself replaying this title and attempting to find any collectables I missed. These are used to unlock additional outfits for Jack in game.
Performance wise the game controls well in both handheld and TV modes. The graphics took a notable dip when playing in handheld with textures looking more murky but the game still performed solidly with no slow down.
The Pumpkin King
Pumpkin Jack is not just a good platformer for Halloween, its a treat for any day of the year. If you miss the platformers of old or just fancy a platformer that doesn’t star a blue plumber for a change, Pumpkin Jack is well worth your time.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot!