‘Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me some …. excellent 3D platform levels to beat!’ Sorry for my unseasonal outburst there. You see Pumpkin Jack came out for Xbox One, Switch and PC back in October 2020 – when the nights were drawing in, leaves littered the streets, and socially distanced trick or treating was in full flight. Now PlayStation 4 owners get to experience this spooky love letter to 3D platformers of yore themselves.
It feels good to be bad
In the game you lead Stingy Jack, the pumpkin-headed emissary of the Devil, on his quest to defeat the Champion of Humanity and doom the world to eternal darkness. So you’re the bad guy. And boy, oh boy does it feel good to be bad. Jack’s snarky attitude is unfaltering throughout and he reluctantly pushes on towards his goal. You’re accompanied by a cowardly crow who is one of your most lethal weapons, a haughty owl who acts as a guide, and a talking sword. To be honest there isn’t too much more to say here; it’s pretty linear stuff but I enjoyed the ensemble cast and overall presentation.
Like a good trick or treat haul, Pumpkin Jack has a bit of everything in it.
The main gameplay element is linear 3D platforming. Jack jumps and double jumps his way up and over obstacles. Level design is varied and colourful. Where another path does open up it inevitably leads to a collectable crow’s skull – that you exchange for new outfits for the protagonist – or a hidden gramophone that, when found, treats you to a little dance from our gourd-headed villain.
Beyond jumping over stuff, you’ll need to defeat enemies too with a variety of weapons. Combat is straight forward but still requires that you don’t just spam attacks, especially when it comes to boss fights which were probably my favourite part of the game. These battles, against often colossal opponents, need you to study your enemies movements before striking at the pivotal moment. The final boss battle was the toughest which also made it the most rewarding when I finally defeated them (no spoilers from me here).
It gave me MediEvil vibes which is most certainly a good thing.
Add to that the fun segments like mine cart riding, chasing down a witch while on the back of a spectral horse, and racing against guards in carts. You’ll also take part in mini games where Jack takes off his head and you solve different types of puzzle. The variety here adds to the overall experience and keeps the game fresh throughout it’s 5-7 hour run time.
Did you see that?!
The halloween palette has been deployed in full force, so expect deep oranges and sickly green glows to dominate the visual presentation. A cartoony aesthetic has been applied to the world and characters, again reminding me of MediEvil. The cutesy-spooky look dovetails nicely with the light-hearted plot – this game really doesn’t take itself seriously in terms of story or looks.
The animated sequences between levels are well done and help remind us of the wider context of our actions.
This game looks polished and would have been the product of a full studio back in the 90’s.
Did you hear that??!!
The soundtrack was glockenspiel-heavy, with spooky remixes of some classical tracks being particular standouts. I never tired of the background ambience or even the dramatic dum, dum, dum, when I died – and I did die (57 times – the game reminds you) – which is testament to the job the developer has done here.
Overall the audio experience is very well done.
Pumpkin Jack is a good game. Make no mistake about that. Yes, sometimes the platforming feels a little off and you end up falling to your death. But you’re soon straight back into the action so it doesn’t become tedious to the point of despair.
At it’s core, we’re playing a great 3D platformer that is unashamedly echoing 90’s classics. It’s not trying to be something it’s not and has taken the best elements of those linear games and elevated it for a modern audience.
Fans of MediEvil, Jak and Daxter, or Crash Bandicoot could do far worse than checking out this title now it’s out on pretty much every platform.
Pumpkin Jack is out now on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC
To find out more about the game visit the official site
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