I wanted to save this review for after Halloween because Pumpkin Jack is more than just a great platformer with some good old Halloween spirit, but I also had 30 VODs for the podcast that needed to be edited. I won’t spoil anything but Pumpkin Jack throws some homage the way of some classic Halloween movies, cough cough Nightmare Before Christmas cough. Anyway, as many of you already know, Pumpkin Jack as my game of PAX East 2020 aka The Last Convention of Our Existence. Did the full release of Pumpkin Jack live up to my expectations? Rhetorical question! It absolutely did, this game was a blast from start to finish and everyone should play it.
Pumpkin Jack puts you in the shoes of Jack the greatest con man to walk the lands who was just recently given the duty by the devil of defeating mankind’s champion and allowing for monsters to take over. Jack gets his damned soul sent into a scarecrow adorned with of course, a pumpkin for a head to get his gourds back on land and bring havoc to the kingdom. Boredom Kingdom is overrun with monsters waging war with man, and just about everyone in your pal is out against you.
Gameplay wise, Pumpkin Jack is the perfect amalgamation of old school N64 collectathons and PS2 classics like Banjo Kazooie and Jak and Daxter. I couldn’t praise a game more for being like these 2 incredible games. Pumpkin Jack is the perfect blend of 3D action platforming and secret finding. Combat and platforming are all relatively straight forward and simple but really bring the formula together is the absolutely gorgeous art style and environments. This game was designed by one person, Nicolas Meyssonnier, with the intent of looking and feeling like a PS2 era platformer and it nails it better than any other game I can think of.
Level design follows a similar pattern of, explore here, platform over to that area, solve some puzzles as a pumpkin head, travel across the entire map on some form of vehicle, fight a boss. The formula is simple, but again, it is executed in such a wonderful way where no one level seems too long and gameplay tends to flow well even if you are searching every corner for hidden crow skulls. You upgrade with new weaponry at the end of each level and can buy new skins with the hidden crow skulls you collect.
The game plays perfectly and run a modest 5-8 hours which IMO is a prime length for a single player, non open world game. The art style is visually beautiful and you can tell a ton of effort went into making Pumpkin Jack feel like a PS2 platforming classic. I did have 3 problems with it that aren’t huge, but worth noting. The first being, I genuinely wish there was more to collect and some more progression. Give me some Ratchet and Clank lite mechanics of obtaining currency to upgrade weapons and whatnot. Enemy variety is a little lacking as well. You tend to fight a lot of skeletons, rats, bird things and totems. I’m whining about these things because I just want more. That’s how you know its a great game, when the majority of complaints are a desire for more. One other issues I had was with the text dialogue. It would have been awesome to get some VAs to cast for these awesome characters, but it is essentially a 1 man team in the middle of a global pandemic. We’re given text boxes which are strangely placed at the bottom right of the screen, so you have to look away from what’s going on in the cutscenes to read what’s being said. It would have made more sense, at least to me, if the text boxes were right in the middle under the scene so you can still watch the artwork at play. With that being said, Pumpkin Jack is an absolute must play for anyone looking for a good nostalgic 3D action platformer. The game is gorgeous, the gameplay is solid and I genuinely hope this gets picked up big someone like Microsoft to make into a franchise.