Platform(s): PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Genre: 3D Action Platformer
Nicolas Meysonnier must have loved 3D platformers and indie fares like A Hat In Time. So much so that he spent the last 4 years developing a 3D action platformer of his own. While he did get some help here and there, his latest game Pumpkin Jack is entirely his blood, sweat, and Halloween-infused tears. That is incredibly admirable and should be a truly inspirational story for others wanting to jump into game development but can’t find people to team up with. If someone like Nicolas can create a game as polished as a 2000s-era platformer on his own, what’s stopping you from your dream, right?
How’s the actual game? If you love the aforementioned 3D game tributes but needed a tinge of ghoulish flavour ala MediEvil, you’ll find a lot to love in Pumpkin Jack.
Trick or Treat
The premise is such: you play a bad guy named Pumpkin Jack and have been tasked by the Devil to stop the Wizard from saving the world and being the world’s champion of Good. You traverse through six meaty stages to get to your goal. Many 3D action platform challenges will be in your way, from bad guys that need killing to a ton of minigames and chase sequences.
Pretty on course for the genre that’s obviously being called back here in a 2020 game, but with a Halloween and fantasy horror PG-level twist.
What actually makes this title a bit solid is its presentation and delivery. Much like an actual treat-or-treat bag, Pumpkin Jack is full of variety and surprises. You’ll not only be hack-and-slashing, but also jumping across swamps on mushrooms, playing a version of Simon Says, taking a crazy zombie boat ride and having to jump back-and-forth while staying afloat, and taking a minecart ride ala Donkey Kong Country but in 3D. With smooth controls and precise platforming with mantling options, playing these segments can be tough but fair.
Your main man Pumpkin Jack not only has melee weapons from shovels to scythes, but can also summon a long-ranged attack in a form of a crow via your controller’s bumper button. In terms of collectables on course with this genre, you collect crow skulls and can trade them for extra costumes for Pumpkin Jack. Our horror hero also gets a shotgun and a magic orb thing that summons crows too, each with their own attack animations, damage, and patterns. The most useless weapon so far is the scarecrow’s polearm; it lunges you forward, meaning in a game full of one-hit kill ponds and bottomless pits, it’s going to get you inadvertently killed. Just stick with the broomstick and scythes.
All of these culminates in a kind of 2000-era 3D platforming fun that’s made polished and fun. At the same time, it offers some nice touches to make the experience not feel like it came out of 2000; areas that glow from “green” to red to signify an already-explored area, highlights to point to your objectives, and “silent” checkpoints that restart you before a possibly challenging bout like an insta-kill on-rails section or a jumping sequence. All of these are really appreciated.
A Bit Of Rot In The Pumpkin Core
My gripes? Pumpkin Jack may be short -clocking in at 5 hours or so- but any longer and it’ll wear out its welcome. Enemy variety during stages can get a bit stale, though the boss fights can be challenging and are puzzle-worthy. There are also some technical issues; some graphic options like the RTX toggles do slow down some cutscenes and on-rails sequences that make it play like a slideshow. Thankfully there’s nothing game-breaking here. Also, while the story tries to be a tad cheeky and humorous, it does end on a middling note.
Pumpkin Jack is a good first effort from a one-man game-designing army. It’s fun for its short length, it offers a bit of variety with its puzzles and challenges, and the platforming & design is solid. It’s not a huge gamechanger and its narrative could use a bit more punch-up, but it ain’t too shabby. I do hope to see developer Nicolas get accolades for his work here and hopefully assemble a team for a bigger & better project that’s in line with his fascination for 3D platformers. As of now, Pumpkin Jack is a solid treat for the haunted holidays and beyond.
- Great controls and platforming.
- A decent nod to 2000-era 3D platforming.
- Nice variety of puzzles and stages to liven up the pace.
- Retains insta-kill platforming moments like in a 2000 3D title.
- Dull enemies in regular stages.
- Some technical bugs here and there.