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Life would be boring if everything went as we wanted it to. No arguments, or wars, and everyone is content with their lot. Everybody is happy with the peace, everyone, except for the Prince of Darkness, that is! If he isn’t happy, then you know there are going to be problems. Pumpkin Jack explores this mischievous story and more. Hell’s greatest trickster Jack will do the Devil’s work no matter who, or what he faces.
Developed by Nicolas Meyssonnier and published by Headup, this spooky 3D platform game asks you to control Jack the trickster. The spirit of this swindler has been trapped in a scarecrow’s body that has been adorned with the head of a pumpkin. This new facade doesn’t stop him from commanding the respect he deserves, though. Creatures listen to his silver tongue and monsters fall to his blade. All that Jack cares about is completing his quest for the Devil, and he will do it whatever the cost.
Pumpkin Jack has a colourful story that relies on old-school mechanics.
For all its crazy and colourful presentation, Pumpkin Jack is simply a well-designed platform game. Relying on tried and tested mechanics, fans of the genre will find a comfortable title to play. Yet, for all its pure platforming gameplay, it borrows heavily from Hack ‘n’ Slash games, mainly the all-out button-mashing combat. This combination of styles makes for a fast-paced and odd story that works well together.
With harmony and content spreading over the realm of man, the Devil decides he’s seen enough. Happiness isn’t what he wants in the world; hatred, famine, war, and more are the tonic that appease. He sends demonic creatures to upset the balance, but the world’s greatest sorcerer repels these dark forces. With the Devil’s plan thwarted, he makes one last roll of the dice and makes a pact with Jack. Complete the Devil’s work, and his former indiscretions will be forgotten. Who could say no to that? Jack agrees to the task, and so begins his adventure.
An owl, a cowardly crow, and Jack’s confidence.
The story is prevalent throughout, but it fades into insignificance quickly. You know what you must do. The only thing is to work out how to do it. This is where the owl guide comes to your aid. Sent to observe your actions, this bird of the night offers tips and guidance on each level. He makes sure that you stay on track and explains new mechanics as they arise. He’s there to offer a “helping wing” if need be. This owl isn’t the only feathered friend that flaps by your side. No, a cowardly crow joins the team. He may fear his own shadow, but he is key to ensuring you get to the sorcerer, and complete your goal.
Pumpkin Jack mixes standard 3D platform sections with mini-game style encounters. You will need to detach your head from your body to solve puzzles and unlock blocked paths. These smaller sub-stages ask you to work methodically and slowly. You will be expected to; move objects, jump gaps, and flick switches, to ensure that you can progress.
Other fast-paced moments involve; knocking down blockades, jumping gaps, and maintaining balance. This mix of approaches kept the action fresh, making sure that the levels never felt stale. With most of the platform/adventure moments leaning on the jumping and fighting mechanics, it could have gotten old quickly. Though it plateaus early on, it keeps your interest with witty dialogue, moderately challenging levels and a good variety in the stage bosses.
Pumpkin Jack looks great.
A Halloween themed platform game isn’t the most original idea, and it’s going to be full of clichéd images. Pumpkin Jack is guilty of hamming up its looks. Think of the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the word Halloween, and it’s almost certainly there. Sadly, it’s devoid of the classic “sexy cat”, but other than that, it’s full of classic images. Magical green flames, cobwebs, spooky creatures, and more. Each is portrayed with a dark and sinister tone that matches the theme perfectly.
The stage design was one area that struck me as particularly well done. Large flowing landscapes give the sense of vast spaces. Collectables hide in the strangest of places, forcing you to explore the well-designed world. The traversing of towers and climbing aboard soaring platforms allow you to look upon the land below from a birds-eye perspective. It was a nice touch that I never tired of.
It wouldn’t be a spooky themed game if it didn’t have a classic scary soundtrack. Pipes and bells rattle out a haunting tune in a minor tone. This slightly upbeat yet sinister melody plays throughout, capturing that ghastly holiday sound. This is accompanied by atmospheric howls from the surrounding creatures, and weird noises from the weapons you yield. It’s a strange combination, but it works well in portraying the theme.
The tutorial and owl are key.
A standard platform game is easy to pick up and play. The only complication is usually the failure in your abilities. Pumpkin Jack’s mixture of mechanics makes it tough to learn. This is where the short-lived, but well designed tutorial is key. Once you run through it, you’ll have a grasp of the fundamentals, but new mechanics are added. Therefore, you’ll rely heavily on the owl to help. The combination of the two makes this a straightforward game to play with an interesting and gentle learning curve.
I love it when developers make the collectables difficult to find. It makes all the hard work and grinding for achievements worth it. Red skulls are hidden on each stage, these act as currency to buy cosmetics, so if you wish Jack to look dapper, you’ll have to seek those skulls. Alongside them, you will discover a mystery item. These are both linked to the achievement list, so completionists will need to keep their eyes peeled. This has replay value if you want the 100% status, but other than that it’s a short one playthrough game.
Is Pumpkin Jack a platform classic?
I wouldn’t say that Pumpkin Jack will ever be regarded as a classic of the genre. Not that it’s poor! No, it simply lacks the originality of the leading titles and fails to capture your imagination like they do. I enjoyed my time with it, and I loved the stage design, style, and characters. Because of this, I recommend you buy it here! The Devil isn’t happy, people aren’t fighting and his plan to spoil the harmony is thwarted. Can you complete his quest and set Jack free?