Growing up, the vast majority of games I played were 3D platformers. Of course, in the year 2021, 3D platformers are pretty much an antiquated genre of games. That’s not to say there’s not some good ones out there, but they’re getting rarer and rarer. Pumpkin Jack is a classic 3D platformer in all regards, in a similar vein to Jak & Daxter or the MediEvil games. Jack, not your typical hero, has been revived by the Devil himself to annihilate the Wizard in the way of the Devil’s evil plans. Here’s the full synopsis:
The peaceful Boredom Kingdom, with its happy citizens, monotonous calm… and adorable little bunnies, has sent the Devil himself into a flying rage! With dreams of turmoil, torture, and bloodshed on his mind, he unleashed the dreadful Curse of the Eternal Night upon the land. Not in love with the idea of a change in their peaceful lifestyle, the humans summon their saviour — a mighty wizard with the power to put an end to the evil curse. In order to stop these party crashers from ruining his fun, the Devil summons the spirit of Jack, the Pumpkin Lord, to fight against the wizard’s army of beasts and destroy the killjoy wizard!
The development studio developer behind Pumpkin Jack is Nicolas Meissonier. That’s right, a solo developer behind an entire game! Crazy. Pumpkin Jack has a respectable playtime of around 6 hours and exudes a quality that’ll have you in disbelief it’s the work of one sole developer. It takes that PlayStation 1 and Nintendo 64 nostalgia and bundles it with modern visuals but this is very much a classic 3D platformer.
Following in that trend, and perhaps a limitation of a game made by a solo developer, there’s no voice acting in Pumpkin Jack. Nonetheless, the text dialogue is genuinely funny with zing after zing. The anti-hero angle of playing as Jack allows for some interesting back and forth with the supporting characters. The wit is dry but anyone with a sense of humour will find themselves laughing at some of these lines. Dying is no laughing matter…except in Pumpkin Jack. Every death screen will tease you about your death. Die enough times and you’ll get congratulated for breaking a record. I couldn’t help but chuckle.
The game spans six distinct levels and each one lasts between 30-45 minutes. Though, anyone collecting all the skulls might find themselves taking closer to an hour to finish the level. This is a short game but it feels like the perfect length. There was enough variety between level design and bosses to keep me entertained throughout. Pumpkin Jack definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome. Each level is appropriately gothic; especially the level in a dark forest with the riding an undead horse segment.
Between the platforming, every level features a smaller-scale puzzle level. These can be some simple puzzles like pushing a bomb to dynamite. There’s some fun mini-games like the whack-a-mole equivalent puzzle. These turn out to be a welcome distraction from the main game, and they’re simple enough that they don’t present too much of a challenge. The mine cart, undead horse, and boat sequences also help keep the game fresh, and a welcome break from the platforming which by itself is quite basic.
Graphically, Pumpkin Jack is surprisingly a slick-looking game when you take into account it’s from a solo developer. I’ve certainly seen many worse-looking games from actual development teams. Though, it’s worth noting there’s a fair bit of reused assets. Character design is pretty great too with every cheater having a distinct look and personality to their design. Overall, the spooky, Halloween atmosphere is nailed in Pumpkin Jack, mixing a cartoon-style art design with some spookier elements. Technically, the only issue I ran into was the fact that some trophies glitched out and weren’t popping, despite fulfilling the requirements to earn them.
Combat is fun and kept fresh by gaining new weapons at the end of every level. This means your move-set gradually expands, but at just the right pace. The weapons are fairly simple but in the 5 or so hours that the game took me, they never really got tired. If you lose health, you simply smash objects or defeat enemies to pick up green health orbs. Bosses are designed well but do feel too simplistic as their move patterns become very obvious. I might have liked a bit more of a challenge in these sections.
All in all, Pumpkin Jack is a nostalgia-filled rumbustious ride that will leave you shocked to learn a solo developer is responsible for developing it. There’s a fair bit of reused assets, it’s not very challenging, but it’s a fun experience that will be enjoyed by any fan of the platformers many gamers grew up playing.
*This Review Code was so generously provided by the publisher for review*
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