Blogtober 2020 – Pumpkin Jack

As I was browsing the Steam Autumn Demo event several weeks ago, I came across the demo for Pumpkin Jack. After having a lot of fun playing the demo and fitting the overall Halloween vibe, I decided to add the game to my list of ideas for my Blogtober posts.

Pumpkin Jack is a spooky action/adventure game in which you run, jump, fight, and ride across the Kingdom of Arc en Ciel, wreaking havoc and helping evil triumph over good. The game was created by solo dev Nicolas Meyssonnier and published by Headup Games – who were extremely gracious in providing me a review code of Pumpkin Jack as I continue forward with spooky Halloween games.

The story of Pumpkin Jack begins with the Kingdom of Arc en Ciel(Rainbow Kingdom) seeing an age of prosperity and contentment. This is temporary, however, as The Devil himself grows weary of such times and casts a spell unleashing an army of monsters and pestilence across the land. In response, humanity calls upon a powerful wizard capable of sealing the Devil’s curse. Not to be bested so easily, the Devil resurrects the soul of Stingy Jack – legendary trickster and liar, containing it within an ordinary pumpkin atop a human body. Players control Pumpkin Jack as he journeys across Arc en Ciel to defeat the wizardly foe and in doing so, bring peace to his tormented soul.

What I loved most about Pumpkin Jack was the way it nails the tone, humor and atmosphere of the cartoony, 3D action/adventure games of the late 90’s/early 2000’s that I spent countless hours playing(and STILL enjoy playing). My very first thought upon seeing Pumpkin Jack in action was its resemblance to the MediEvil games, though Jack assumes an anti-hero role to Sir Daniel’s comically tragic hero. I was pretty impressed with the overall variety of gameplay contained within Pumpkin Jack. As expected, there are plenty of enemies to vanquish, platforming sections to navigate and bosses to defeat on the way to stop humanity’s wizard champion. There’s also a number of sections which are traversed by a ghostly steed, ferry, or even mine carts as well as sections only accessible by Jack’s pumpkin head after being separated from the rest of his body.

Jack has left Halloween Town and entered Christmas Town…

The vivid color palettes on display through the game’s six levels add a very familiar, cartoon-like vibe and the soundtrack and effects fit the tone of the game perfectly. The soundtrack manages to sound familiar in its spooky timbre and tone – very reminiscent of the Danny Elfman scores used in Tim Burton movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas or Beetlejuice.

Another of my initial impressions that stuck with me throughout Pumpkin Jack was how, despite its obvious influences from the Playstation/Nintendo 64-era, it also manages to feel quite similar to Fortnite. This makes clear sense as the game was created using Epic Games’ Unreal 4 Engine, causing much of the movement and combat of the game to feel like something of a Halloween-themed Fortnite campaign. This is not meant as a slight in any way and adds a modern feel to the generally retro flavor of the game. I could somewhat simplify my description of Pumpkin Jack and call it a combination of MediEvil and Fortnite, which is perfectly acceptable to me.

As for critiques of the game, I could think of just one – control precision. Some of the movements, jumping in particular, could be a little tighter. This would have added just a little more precision in some of the platforming areas. I don’t feel this hampered my enjoyment of the game in any significant capacity, however. I mentioned feeling a similarity to Fortnite in terms of gameplay “feel”, which I especially noticed as you have the extra split-second of mobility while mid-air. This works well for combat situations, especially after acquiring the shotgun/rifle(which also brings back the feeling of jump-shoting other players in Fortnite). There also could have been more in the way of combat moves/abilities, but this is a very minor complaint as the combat itself works very well and doesn’t end up feeling overly repetitive in the relatively brief 4-5 hours it took me to complete.

Final Verdict? Recommended? As someone who grew up playing a lot of these type of games, I really enjoyed Pumpkin Jack and it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of the MediEvil or Legacy of Kain games. Gamers who aren’t generally fans of horror games can also appreciate the game’s “colorful and spooky” rather than scary aesthetic when looking for games to play this Halloween season. The game is available now on PC, Xbox One and Switch

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Note: My apologies for not getting this posted sooner as I have been away from my pc and have not had my usual access to WordPress…

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