Developed by the one person team of Nicolas Meyssonnier and published by Headup Games, Pumpkin Jack is a 3D action-adventure game revolving around the mythical Pumpkin Lord. It aims to deliver an experience that is reminiscent of that genre while adding its own modern twist. Does it do it justice though? It’s safe to say that yes, it definitely does.
The story in Pumpkin Jack takes place in the Boredom Kingdom. Annoyed with the peace and constant happiness of the citizens, the Devil unleashes the Curse of the Eternal Night upon the land. However, with humans being humans, they aren’t too pleased with this change and their new way of life, so they summon their champion, a powerful wizard who is able to put an end to the curse. The Devil doesn’t want his fun ruined though, and instead summons the spirit of Jack, the Pumpkin Lord, to destroy humanity’s forces and of course, their powerful wizard.
The story is a fairly simple one, but it is told wonderfully thanks to the world and its characters. You assume the role of Jack, whose patience is in short supply and this is usually executed to hilarious effect. He’ll also be accompanied by a cowardly crow and intermittently assisted by a snarky owl. There are also some other characters that you’ll encounter, such as the various bosses and a travelling merchant who sells you cosmetic skins. All of the dialogue is pretty snappy though and the level of humour is just right, which had me snickering throughout my playthrough. I do wish that the game was fully voiced, but the banter is pretty funny, regardless.
When it comes to Pumpkin Jack’s gameplay, it feels like a love letter to the classic action-adventure game, MediEvil, and then some. As Jack, you’ll fight enemies using a range of different weapons, from a shovel to a shotgun. In addition to this, he’s able to dodge any incoming attacks by rolling out of the way. The combat itself is quite simple but rather enjoyable and thankfully never feels repetitive. Repeatedly pressing the attack button results in a combo, however, each weapon also features an attack whilst rolling and in mid-air. It’s also great that defeating the boss at the end of each level nets you a brand new weapon to slay your enemies with, which keeps things fresh.
Aside from the combat, Pumpkin Jack also features a fair amount of platforming. Jack controls pretty well and also has access to a double jump from the very start of the game. It does take a little bit of getting used to though since you don’t have much control of Jack once he’s in the air. It’s a very small issue though and only resulted in me falling to my doom a handful of times. Other than that, the platforming is really good once you get the hang of it. The camera is also rotatable, allowing you to line Jack up before making any jumps or when traversing any narrow walkways.
The levels in Pumpkin Jack have been designed in such a way that they feel quite large and open, but they’re actually pretty linear. Exploring every little corner is quite rewarding though as each level has 20 crow skulls to collect, which can be used to purchase cosmetic skins from the aforementioned travelling merchant. They’ve been designed really well though since they never feel particularly linear and are constantly throwing a new task at you that makes use of a new gameplay mechanic such as riding a mining cart or navigating a labyrinthian forest. It’s always exciting to see how the game changes up the formula.
Visually, Pumpkin Jack looks fantastic on the PS5. In Performance Mode, it targets up to 4K resolution at 60fps while Quality mode aims for 4K resolution at 30fps, however, the latter also makes use of ray-tracing to add higher-quality effects and shadows. The game also has a typically Halloween theme when it comes to the art design with a fair amount of orange and green in the colour scheme. The soundtrack is pretty spooky and this is reflected in the music in each of the levels. The narration during the cutscenes is also pretty suited to the game’s theme.
Pumpkin Jack is a great game. The story is well-told and is filled with humorous banter and never really misses its mark. The gameplay is a suitable balance between combat and platforming through deceptively linear but really interesting levels. The platforming does take some getting used to though. Visually the game looks great on PS5 and features two modes that favour performance and quality, respectively. The soundtrack is also suitably spooky throughout the various levels. Pumpkin Jack is a fantastic love letter to classic 3D action-adventure games and is definitely worth checking out.
Gameplay8/10 Very Good
- Humorous storytelling
- Great combat and variety of weapons
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Fantastic level design
- Platforming can take some getting used to