Review – Pumpkin Jack

Halloween is near us, so you know what that means: publishers and developers will rush in order for their latest horror game to be released alongside fifteen others during that particular period. That’s how we end up getting rushed and bare bones titles like Remothered: Broken Porcelain, but also some great gems like the brand new Amnesia game. With that being said, none of these games are actually Halloween-themed. You know, pumpkins, ghosts, everything being spooky yet lighthearted at the same time. If you really want a proper Halloween game, a sole developer from France has answered your calls with the brand new Pumpkin Jack.

Pumpkin Jack

Jeez, you don’t say?

This little gem of a game is basically what would have happened if last year’s MediEvil remake had been directed by Tim Burton. Plus an even goofier but slightly more goth vibe, with a protagonist who’s basically if Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas had a baby with the Ghost Rider. It’s also what would have happened if that MediEvil remake didn’t end up being as bland as it is.

In Pumpkin Jack, you play as the titular Jack, a Hell-dwelling demon sent by the horned one himself to get rid of all of the good people living in a kingdom guarded by a magic wizard. Not to mention all the demons who were previously sent to raze hell and who obviously failed in their endeavor. Basically, if it moves, you gotta kill it. With the exception of an owl, a sentient crow who acts as your long-ranged attack, and a talking sword, you gotta murder everyone else that comes your way. Albeit in true, bloodless, rated-T fashion.

Pumpkin Jack

There are sections in which you have to play as Jack’s disembodied head.

Pumpkin Jack‘s overall gameplay is very similar to MediEvil‘s, although in a smaller scale. It’s a very traditional 3D platformer: go from the beginning to the end of a level, collect items, defeat enemies, and solve small puzzles along the way. Besides simple combat mechanics and a (somewhat imprecise) jump button, you have a dodge mechanic, which is crucial whenever you’re fighting against enemies that don’t stagger when hit, a long-ranged attack prompt, and the option to swap between weapons you acquire with each new level.

There are also a few sections inside each level in which you control Jack’s detached head in order to solve some physics-based puzzles. I’m not going to beat around the bush: these sections are annoying, but thankfully, not only are they few and far between, but they are also short. Pumpkin Jack also features some more esoteric sections, such as some Donkey Kong 64-inspired minecart challenges, as well as a boss fight at the end of each level. None of them are particularly difficult, but they were well-designed at least.

Pumpkin Jack

The level design can be quite interesting at times. The same can be said about the lighting effects.

The platforming is adequate, despite the wonky controls. There are few sections in which I felt like I needed absolutely precise jumping responsiveness, so I managed to get used to these jankier controls. I did grow up on an unhealthy amount of Nintendo 64 platformers, so if one can beat Castlevania 64, one can beat anything else. The level design can be quite impressive at times, even if each course overstays its welcome after a while. You can clearly see this is someone’s baby, a passion project. The developer did not want to leave anything behind, shoving in as much content as possible inside his game.

He’s even more adorable when dressed as a lumberjack.

Pumpkin Jack‘s gameplay, while good, isn’t the best thing it has to offer. What won me over was its presentation and sense of humor. I loved Jack’s design, being intentionally wonky, moving like someone who hasn’t had a body in millennia. He is also incredibly grumpy and sarcastic, often threatening whichever NPC who tries to talk to him, and always making fun of the poor birds who decided to ally with him in his journey. I also really liked the different skins you can unlock with gems hidden throughout levels. There’s something about dressing a pumpkin-faced monster like a lumberjack that made him even more endearing.

Your crow buddy won’t shut up, but you can use him as a homing attack, at least.

Pumpkin Jack is janky, but still very enjoyable. It’s the kind of simple and straightforward 3D platformer that’s missing in today’s world. It was a lot better than last year’s MediEvil remake, that’s for damn sure. What impressed me the most is that this imperfect but delightful title was made by a single dude. You sir, are a pro. I really hope a bigger company hires him and puts him in the directorial seat for a larger project. One can only imagine what he’d be able to pull off with an actual budget.

 

Graphics: 7.5

A surprisingly well-crafted world with funny characters, good animations, and some decent lighting effects. The framerate is somewhat stable as well. It suffers from having way too many repeated assets, but that’s to expected from a game developed by a single person.

Gameplay: 6.5

Your standard 3D platformer controls, with decent responsiveness. The camera controls are just decent enough. The platforming is a bit problematic, however, as you have little control over your character while he’s airborne.

Sound: 7.5

The soundtrack fits the setting with perfection, but it lacks in variety. Sound effects are pretty standard, doing their job. There is a bit of voice acting during a few cutscenes.

Fun Factor: 7.5

Despite being a bit janky, Pumpkin Jack is neat, albeit far from innovative, 3D platformer that is really appealing for fans of the genre. Certainly much better than the mediocre MediEvil remake we got last year.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Pumpkin Jack is available now on Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Pumpkin Jack was provided by the publisher.