In the 90s the first PlayStation released and it went on to sell 102.49 million units. This system also saw the rise of many PlayStation mascots; Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid), Crash Bandicoot, Sir Daniel Fortesque (Medievil), Spyro the Dragon and Lara Croft (Tomb Raider). The platformer genre has expanded extensively over the years and has peaked with Mario Odyssey. Recently many old PlayStation platformers have returned to the limelight, the Spyro trilogy, Crash Bandicoot and Medievil all getting remakes; of those I actually played Crash Bandicoot and Medievil were close to their original 90s iteration in both bad and good ways. For Crash it was slippery platforming and for Medievil it stuck close to the original messy combat. But, what does this have to do with Pumpkin Jack? Well, Pumpkin Jack is a new game created by a single developer that tries to capture the magic of old 90s platformer games, specifically Medievil. Does it succeed? Yes, but that doesn’t make for a good game as the charm the game started with is quickly washed away to show a game full of frustration.
In the Great Arc En Ciel Kingdom life was very uneventful, this bored the Devil who wanted to give the people a real show to “entertain” them. This was actually a curse, a curse of eternal night. This curse caused untold destruction and killed thousands. The humans needed a hero, and a hero they did find. A wizard rose to fight back the forces of the Devil and in response the Devil sent the great trickster known as Jack to stop him and continue the path of destruction. Outside of narration the story of pumpkin jack is told completely through text boxes which after a while I skipped through. A gimmick the story uses way too often are references, and my god do they get annoying after a while.
For a game made by a single developer Pumpkin Jack is incredibly inventive. Every level feels and plays different to the last, from a winter wonderland and a murky swamp to a minecart rollercoaster, the chases are really fun. The race with the knights and the cart race are the highlights. Each level has its own chase scene and puzzles that for the most part don’t outstay their welcome. That is until you get to the temple with the clock people, the puzzles there honestly go on way too long and use some really tired gimmicks way too often. The puzzles in the rest of the game require you to take off your head and explore smaller locations where you need to move something to somewhere else but the process of moving the objects is frustrating as 80% of the time the objects fly off in the opposite direction.
The boss fights are a real highlight though and are honestly a testament to the single developer who created them. Even though the structure of the boss fight is simplistic, hit them 3 times and avoid their attacks. The design and the unique ways you interact with them always feel fresh and new such as teleporting into their body to stop them. Where Pumpkin Jack fails the most is in its controls. Jumping feels way too floaty and can lead to a lot of frustrating deaths as you try and be as precise as possible. Combat is very frantic, a lot like Medievil, and just feels like a scrap. As you play the game you unlock more weapons such as a shotgun and scythe. Half the time there is no point to the combat so it’s easier to just run on by. After a while the structure of Pumpkin Jack becomes all too familiar, the game has 3-4 parts which it never deviates from. Sure, the inventiveness is amazing for such a project but the game never thinks to swap around its chess pieces and this is really disappointing.
For a very simplistic looking game Pumpkin Jack has a wonderful pallet to work with when it comes to the visual department. The world has this over the top cartoony style which really works. Characters look like something out of a kids cartoon and the gloomy style of this horrible world helps set the mood for this adventure of spooks and scares
The enemies are varied and every level has something new to show and to experience. Pumpkin Jack is definitely an ambitious game but I feel its over ambition has let some areas suffer. Games made by a single person are a very rare breed and Nicolas should be commended for what he made. I noticed on steam that the game has a very favourable score and I’m glad that he is getting the recognition he deserves. But unfortunately for me, there are too many issues for me to recommend this game
Should you play it? NO
Why: the game controls poorly from platforming to combat
But: the game has some bright spots like the boss fights, chase scenes and music
Reviewed: Ps4 code provided by Headup Games
Developer: Nicolas Meyssonnier Publisher: Headup Games, Playable On: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One Released: February 23rd 2021, available now on steam Cost: £29.99