Is this a joke? A solo developer? Surely there’s some more involved as this looks like a bit of a production. Hats off to you, Nicholas Meyssonnier, Pumpkin Jack looks and feels the part.
While it hasn’t been out for weeks, months, or years, I didn’t know anything about Pumpkin Jack until late last week – and you call this a news site. Well, you might, I don’t.
So, armed with a download, let’s see what this title from Headup Games is like. If you read these reviews rather than look solely at the pictures or score, let me tell you: this is wicked, for a couple of reasons.
Pumpkin Jack PS4 Review
The obvious reason why Pumpkin Jack is wicked is because he’s a baddie, intent on Halloween being every day. But first, he makes a pact with the devil to free his soul, tidy the place up a bit and start writing that novel.
What we then have is the second part of ‘wicked’ – the nostalgic 3D platforming. As a relatively new adopter to the world of RGB lighting, I’m finding more and more that I like the colour purple and not just the film but what a great colour it is.
Pumpkin Jack’s base coat is purple, with all manners of gorgeous blends and retro assets that return us to the genre’s heyday. Despite being a nostalgic title, it’s not retro in the sense of low-poly, and overall, the presentation is very nice throughout.
We’ll move on from the presentation shortly, but it was the first thing worth commenting on. My initial ‘complaint’ was the camera positioning was a tad too far back for my liking, but that doesn’t reduce the rating, just preference as I wanted to check out Jack’s boo-tay.
Giving Your Foes The Bird
Getting straight into the action is easy peasy, as all the hallmarks of a classic 3D platformer are present as you can jump and double jump with a simple tap, through to evading enemies and their attacks with the circle button.
Combat is a little simplistic in that it becomes a bit of a button masher when using melee, but if you can play the long ball and use your ranged attack for most enemies. You will command a crow by pressing the L1 button, and after an attack or two, it will kill your foe.
This is unlimited and has a minor cooldown, represented by the time it takes for the birdie to come back. Another aspect is it doesn’t require any target locking. As long as you’re nearby, the crow will attack, pending you press the button, so the hit and run technique is very prominent.
One factor I noted early on was the difficulty. Pumpkin Jack is a relatively easy game, and from a reviewer perspective and someone who gets through a lot of games, that was good, but hardcore-you-know-the-score gamers might find a slight lack of challenge.
Jack The Lad
Enemies don’t take that many hits, but they hit surprisingly hard. Evading enemies is easy enough, so when you do get clobbered (when you’re standing still, button mashing like a plum), you’ll need to keep an eye on your health.
Fortunately, health is in abundance by smashing objects to restock, but watch out for flammable items. They burn. Aside from health, you can also collect hidden masks. You then use these to customise ol’ Jack from a local merchant. You can also unlock new weapons along the way that can be switched through a weapon wheel.
This will always be a weakness of mine and a further incentive – especially as you can become a samurai. Wait, am I overthinking this? Samurai… Jack… why that’s the name of a famous cartoon. Can’t think what it was called, though. Rugrats?
Between levels are some excellent story sequences, and the main game isn’t shy of some witty dialogue throughout, making the Pumpkin Jack experience a good one.
Throughout the story, an owl will fill you in on what you need to do next, typically a platform section with a few set pieces scattered about for variety, followed by a boss.
Combat wasn’t really for me. There was nothing wrong with it; it was just a little too easy. The platforming was some of the best as Jack moves with grace through each of the six levels, jumping effortlessly to each edge graced with a rope, reminiscent of a Far Cry game, indicating you can climb it.
A lot of these 3D platformers experience poor camera angling, and while I suffered my first death due to camera placement, it’s definitely a highlight. Perhaps coming back to that point about Jack being somewhat distant on screen, you get to see everything around you. And that’s a good thing.
Jack Of All Trades
Between the standard third-person platforming areas, Jack can leave his body behind to complete some sub-stages. These were the weaker points for me. He has the same skill set of jumping but primarily functions as a removal expert.
You have to move a bomb around a stage surrounded by water at an early level, pushing it out of the way. A trajectory shows where the bomb will go, but you have to dash around in time with switches. This results in knocking the bomb out of bounds and restarting the area. Not fun.
Pumpkin Jack also introduces some old school elements where you have to traverse the width of a pube while targetting enemies and being chased by others, resulting in far too many deaths where you fall.
That would perhaps be the hardest part to digest. On the one hand, you have combat and bosses that are so easy that you could stroll through at a leisurely pace without losing a life, but in another segment, rage quit (as I did), because of overly complex sections in an otherwise easy (ish) level.
Like health, there’s an abundance of checkpoints too, so always time to have a breather if required. Unfortunately, those bits where you need it most are the most frustrating, but on a positive spin, it makes Pumpkin Jack that much more rewarding when you do get past a troublesome area.
While the presentation was touched on at the start of this review, it has to be said that the overall feel of the game is excellent. The soundtrack throughout is spot-on, appropriately scored to the action’s beats, and with a spooky tongue-in-cheek ambience.
Pumpkin Jack neither breaks new ground for the genre nor emulates one title that got it right the first time. It’s definitely a triumph – a 3D platformer with nods to the past, but just as relevant today. Despite its erratic approach to the difficulty, it’s one worth adding to your library.
Pumpkin Jack PS4 Review Summary
A beautiful 3D platformer with gratifying platforming sections (disregarding the few sadistic zones thrown in) and boasts a general vibe of fun. Jack is a mischievous character that fulfils his role, and the humour is consistent throughout. Celebrate early 2021 with this Halloween throwback experience.
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