Pumpkin Jack Review: Out of the Pumpkin!

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Steven L. Ken
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Pumpkin Jack offered us the proverbial sweet, but every now and then the new Halloween themed platformer also played some tricks on us, here is the review!

We are here for this year too. We have come close to those days when children wear teeth from Dracula and shoot eggs like snipers. Of course, this year is different from the others for the reasons we know and this time we escaped the eggs (maybe). Many will necessarily have to pass Halloween at home with the usual film seen and reviewed or maybe playing a video game. So, coincidentally, that just today arrives in virtual videogame stores Pumpkin Jack, a platformer that Halloween made its own banner.



The funny title of Headup Games seems to have popped straight out of that shelf where you keep the games of PlayStation 1 and 2. Playing it, many good memories related to the platformers that a few decades ago were blockbusters on the historic Sony hardware machines have returned to our memory. In this review we will try to explain to you how Pumpkin Jack triggered such nostalgic memories in our minds and what the sweet (and the treat) that he offered us.

Whoever does it alone makes for three

We are used to imagining video games as the product of the combined effort of immense teams of IT and non-IT laborers. The world indie it is beautiful precisely because it subverts this idea. In this context, almost innumerable productions boast a single element in the credits. Pumpkin Jack, whose review you are reading, is just one such lonely project. 4 years ago, the then nineteen year old Nicolas Meyssonier was animated by an admirable project: to revive the light-hearted magic of the gods in the current videogame platformer of the past, MediEvil primarily.



Long before the remake of the first MediEvil gave us back Sir Daniel Fortesque in flesh (no indeed that no) and bones, Meyssonier had in a certain sense perceived that emptiness existing in the dark comedy videogame. And so the young developer draws heavily from Anglo-Saxon folkore and adapts the myth of the drunken blacksmith Jack (Jack-o'-lantern, the one who had deceived the Devil 3 times) to the videogame medium. One comes out platformer cartoonesco, (eerie only in jest) who knows a little bit of MediEvil, a little bit of Jak and Daxter, a bit of Ratchet & Clank and, why not, even the very difficult Maximo: Ghosts to Glory.

From the adventures of Daniel Fortesque the title seems to have inherited part of the combat system while the level design distantly reminiscent of the one seen in Naughty Dog's Jak and Daxter games. The title also aims to be a bit difficult at some stage and in this respect it therefore refers to Maximo. In short, we are faced with a sort of compendium of action-platforms. We quote these high-sounding names here with a little fear reverential because in many cases Pumpkin Jack is limited a little only to making the verse. We are clearly not facing the true heir of this illustrious lineage. Yet the game in question still struck us in some way.

Turn on a devil in me - Pumpkin Jack review

The premise of Pumpkin Jack, the game we are talking about in this review, is enough to at least turn on the curiosity. Jack, the protagonist, must serve the Diavolo to ensure that the Male triumphs on the Bene. It will take you 2 or 3 minutes in the game, however, to understand that obviously Jack is certainly not the new Cain but a nice daredevil with the joke always ready. The reign of Rainbow it has always been peaceful until Satan himself, fed up with all that boring harmony, decides to make his trusty monsters stretch a little. 



In no time at all, the kingdom passes from pleasant stasis to iron and fire. The panicked subjects turn to the only one who can put a piece of it: a powerful one Mago arcane. The caster then embarks on a journey to break the evil curse. Satan certainly does not sit idle and hires Jack, the man who had deceived him 3 times, to defeat the Wizard.

From this opening, Pumpkin Jack's narrative proceeds fairly quickly, limiting itself to doing what narratives usually do in this type of title: narrative context. The story conceived by Meyssonier is the background to the videogame adventures of Jack in modo quite worthy. The plot is fairy tale and humorous just enough. Many situations in the story are even explicitly (and ironically) called by their name by the characters themselves: narrative devices.

There is no shortage of little ones twists and variations on the theme. The dialogues are mostly funny even if it is not always possible to maintain the required standard. In fact, every now and then the bar goes down and down colorless trivia. Furthermore, the characterization of the characters is not memorable or particularly adequate. The Magician, specifically, would probably have benefited from a gooey and swooning disposition much more than the impertinent and pestiferous one that was sewn on him. Jack also fails to be as sharp as one might expect. In this case we would have liked it a little more treat than the sweet.


Anyone who doesn't skip a pumpkin isn't - Pumpkin Jack review

As we will see in the course of this review, Pumpkin Jack is based on the linearity, like any good old-school platformer. This means that, as Jack, you can delve into 6 diverse location each of which is characterized by a specific path to follow. Each area has one and only one unique way to be explored. Every now and then you will happen to see some path outside the choir. These will systematically lead you to Raven skulls. This is the game currency with which you can buy some costumes to dress up Jack (of course, otherwise what would Halloween be?). 


Going through the various paths that from time to time will send you straight into the arms of the boss of each level represents the preponderant part of the gameplay. Jack can scurry around like a cat from platforms, crumbling towers, wooden crates and giant mushrooms that spawn when needed. The blow up it is the key mechanic on which the entire exploratory juncture is hinged. Right from the start, the game will familiarize you with the double jump in mid-air. This feature, apparently obvious, will instead be of vital importance in the advanced stages of the game and must be mastered properly to advance in exploration.

Jack's movements are sufficiently precise and quite loose. In the early stages of the game, where large fields of flat pumpkins stand out, you feel a little lack of a button dedicated to running that would have allowed you to go through them in a flash. For what concern level design we would like to fully promote Meyssonier's work. There is lots of variety, the paths are studied with great care and attention. Every single obstacle gives the right pace exploration without ever boring the player. Some situations will be a bit difficult, but never punitive.

In fact, on the whole, exploration never reaches heights of particularly pronounced difficulties. You will find yourself walking along tracks suspended in the void thousands of meters above the ground or jumping from one floor to another in a dilapidated farmhouse. The whole is definitely enjoyable and fun and the progression in terms of difficulty is well studied.

In the course of your wanderings, of course, you will not be alone. There will be lots of cute giant rats, skeletons and demonic knights to keep you company. Here the game seemed to show us its side a little. The combat system it is in fact essential and a little rose water. Missing a target system so you will find yourself throwing a little blindly with an elusive hitbox that makes it all a bit inaccurate. At times it almost seems to be in a musou old style in which with one shot dozens of enemies are sliced ​​serially. Everything is resolved in a random jump, dodge and hit without ever having to pay attention to timing. Fortunately the bossfight they raise the fortunes of battling a little as they are very varied and quite successful.

Furthermore, to give a pinch of originality and freshness to this phase, the developer has also decided to place it by our side a crow which will help us to repel enemies or to break down some obstacles in our path with the simple pressure of the left backbone. The idea is good but the realization is really a lot simplistic and a little superficial. The bird will simply settle a simple one shot on demand. End of the story.

Everyone on board! - Pumpkin Jack review

We will be very schematic now. The gameplay of the game essentially stands up four points. We talked about the first two in the previous paragraph of this review: scouting linear and combat system. The further two features of the game system consist of puzzles and quicktime events. In some exploratory situations you will have to stop and to proceed you will have to use your head, indeed the pumpkin in this case. Yes, because our Jack has the possibility, in some specific locations, to remove the pumpkin that contains his fiery spirit. 

This can therefore enter otherwise inaccessible areas and move within them using creepers to move, as if they were limbs. Here you will essentially have to solve some puzzle. This is not Breath of The Wild sophisticated stuff. The puzzles will be rather spartan. Move a bomb from one point to another on an obstacle course operated by switches or hit some mushrooms in a specific order. This is a great way to give variety to the gameplay. Unfortunately, however, for the extreme simplicity, such puzzles they are not satisfying like the exploratory phases and they turn out to be an end in themselves, leaving the time they find. 

We called the last gaming system highlight we hinted at in this Pumpkin Jack review quicktime event for sheer convenience. In fact, these are not mere cutscenes in which you have to press keys with the right timing.

In some specific circumstances of his wanderings, to advance, Jack will have to jump on demonic steeds, throw himself on mine carts or decrepit barges. The game engine will automatically move all of these forward strange means. You will have the task of swerve, jump to avoid obstacles in the way or knock them down by throwing the I trust crow like a bullet at them. In this case, the rudimentary simplicity of attacking with the bird falls like a bean making everything immediate and compelling.

Precisely these phases, so elementary and natural, although not particularly innovative, undoubtedly seemed to us the most successful and fun of the game. Meyssonier managed to brilliantly condense it in these moments light-hearted and cheerful spirit of its title.

Orange matches purple - Pumpkin Jack review

Pumpkin Jack, in terms of graphic design, had almost obligatory color choices to respect and the developer has kept faith with the agreements in a practically way impeccable. There would not be Halloween without theOrange pastel or the dark and crepuscular tones of violet and lavender essence .

Meyssonier based the entire visual component of his videogame creature on this color palette and undoubtedly managed to make it pleasant and in its own way attractive. The warm and purple hues give the game the right oxymoronic atmosphere gloomy and lively that any production of dark gothic comedy should have. Furthermore, in the aesthetics of the characters, a little of the old is revised Sir Daniel Fortesque and Tim Burton's stop-motion masterpiece, Nightmare Before Christmas. Everything is cartoonically distorted and rendered funny grim. In short, without bothering who knows what textures or polygonal models, the young developer has put together something successful and pleasant that will bring to mind, with a glance, the good old days of PlayStation 2

Some technical considerations now. Before writing this review we got to try Pumpkin Jack on PC e su Switch. On our hardware equipped with an older GTX 1060 the game showed the best could have been expected. Frame fluidissimo and stable at best, a fair number of graphics options, DLSS support and, drum roll, Ray-tracing! Unfortunately we could not try these last two features due to our hardware but it is entirely reasonable to assume excellent results. 

Su Switch, on the contrary, Pumpkin Jack is a little undertone. There are no frame drops but in portable mode there resolution it is very low and you lose a lot of the landscapes and good details of the PC version. The colors then seemed less bright and with a tendency to become a little indistinct on dark colors. Things are better in docked mode but our advice (if you clearly have the choice) is to opt for the version you find on Steam (or on PS4 and Xbox One).

Frankly speaking, however, what impressed us is the quality of the audio component. A great variety of tunes and orchestrated pieces accompanied us along our spooky adventure. The music was perfectly adequate at all times. Many of the tracks even reminded us a little of those from the Luigi's Mansion series. In short, on the technical front, Pumpkin Jack proved to be decidedly pleasant

Variety above all else!

So what about Pumpkin Jack at last? The project is the work of only one e single architect. Meyssonier's work is undoubtedly appreciable. The young developer made an effort to give variety at any cost to his title and in some situations the purpose has succeeded brilliantly, in others, such as the puzzles and the auxiliary crow, things went a little less well.

But one eye closes easily when you consider what Pumkin Jack really is: one small and pleasant experience which certainly does not aim to be the new heir of MediEvil or Jak and Daxter while clearly paying homage to these titles. In many cases, if the developer had aimed more strongly atoriginality perhaps it would have created an even more memorable experience. 

But after all we liked this platformer even so, light-hearted and hilarious like the jokes that are usually made on this day. Thank you for taking the time to read this Pumpkin Jack review. Stay tuned to techigames for all the news and curiosities from the world of gaming and beyond.

7.2 Trick or Treat?

Points in favor

  • Varied and successful level design
  • Simple and fun "mounts"
  • Color palette and compelling graphics
  • Audio sector above expectations

Points against

  • The characterization of some characters is not convincing
  • Combat system with rose water
  • Subdued puzzles
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