If you miss the mascot-led 3D platformers that were prevalent in the 90s, Pumpkin Jack might just be the game for you. It launched on last-gen platforms and PC late last year, and now, just in time for Halloween, it has a revamped new release on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Talk about perfect timing, right?
Is this 3D platforming adventure worth your time or does it belong in the 90s with the games that inspired it? I’m happy to report that Pumpkin Jack is a whole lot of fun and packed to the brim with charming moments that feel like they belong in 2021, even if there are a few missteps along the way.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
The story of Pumpkin Jack takes place in the Kingdom of Arc En Ceil, a land that has lived in peace for many years. This lack of chaos and warring bored the Devil though, so he unleashed the Curse of the Eternal Night, bringing with it countless monsters and an unending darkness to the land. Naturally, this saw the inhabitants of Arc En Ceil call upon their hero, a wizard that would be able to end the curse and bring down the Devil.
This is where you would expect to step in, right? You know, play as the Wizard and save the Kingdom? Well, that’s where you’d be wrong, because players actually take on the role of the Devil’s minion Stingy Jack and look to bring down the Wizard instead. Jack’s soul has been put into that of a pumpkin, with the reward for defeating the Wizard being a way into the afterlife.
The narrative is very fairy tale-like and offers exactly what you’d expect from a charming horror-themed adventure like this… you know, something that’s spooky but never scary. It’s all good fun though, with plenty of comical characters to meet across your adventure that help flesh out the narrative, whilst there are jokes aplenty in the interactions you share with them. It can be genuinely funny at times, and whilst a lack of voice acting does hurt the cinematic vibe, the story will certainly keep players entertained.
“The narrative is very fairy tale-like and offers exactly what you’d expect from a charming horror-themed adventure like this… you know, something that’s spooky but never scary.”
Gameplay-wise, Pumpkin Jack offers everything you’d expect of a 3D platforming adventure. There’s an array of platforming challenges that’ll see you leaping around, plenty of different baddies to beat up, and collectibles hidden across levels that reward players with unlockable costumes. Jack will unlock different weapons as you progress too, whilst each of the six levels offer a different vibe whilst still sticking to the Halloween theme. It feels good to control and Jack is pretty nimble, so it gives players everything they need.
The levels are all fun to play through, with their varied design bringing with them plenty of different challenges for players to overcome. Best of all, there are puzzles and mini-games found across each level too, with Pumpkin Jack offering a fair bit more than just platforming and bashing enemies. A lot of these are simple in design, but they offer zany little moments (one involves throwing presents at Santa for example) that add to the fun of the experience.
Oh, and there are also on-rail sections to play through, which I LOVE in platformers. You’re always going to earn brownie points with me for those, with Pumpkin Jack offering some quirky little set pieces in mine carts that fit the genre perfectly.
It should be noted that the game shouldn’t take players too long to beat, with my playthrough lasting around four hours (and that was after grabbing all of the collectibles too). Whilst it isn’t a big game though, Pumpkin Jack packs enough entertainment and variety into its short running time to ensure that it never runs out of ideas and that players will have a big smile on their face when playing. Just know that you might be done with it after an afternoon of playing.
“There are puzzles and mini-games found across each level too, with Pumpkin Jack offering a fair bit more than just platforming and bashing enemies.”
The only real downside came with the combat, which lacked the creativity found elsewhere in the game and got old fast. Whilst Jack does have access to some decent weaponry such as a scythe, a shotgun, and a literal murder of crows, it’s never too exciting to use them with players simply mashing buttons whilst hoping to avoid incoming attacks from enemies. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by foes too, with even a small group of them proving to be troublesome with their ranged attacks. You do have a dodge-roll at least, but using that in-between attacks just never felt natural. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing outright bad about combat… it just doesn’t offer anything special, either.
At least the boss battles are a lot more enjoyable, even if they are a little formulaic in design. They’re always bigger in scale and offer more varied move sets, whilst their creative appearances ensure they’re always neat to encounter. Whilst it’s true they embrace the age old ‘learn their attack patterns and attack’ method of approach, there wasn’t a single boss encounter in the game that ever fell flat or boring to face off against.
“Whilst Jack does have access to some decent weaponry such as a scythe, a shotgun, and a literal murder of crows, it’s never too exciting to use them with players simply mashing buttons whilst hoping to avoid incoming attacks from enemies.”
I didn’t play Pumpkin Jack when it originally launched, so some of the improvements made to the game for the new-gen consoles have probably gone over my head. However, there’s no doubting that it looks fantastic, with the vibrant Halloween-themed world packed to the brim with eye-catching details and colour. It all runs at 60fps with no drops to the frame rate too, so everything looks sublime in motion. There is a ‘Quality Mode’ you can play that offers more visual pizzazz at the expense of a 30fps frame rate, but honestly, it looks great in ‘Performance Mode’ where you can appreciate the fluidity of the action more.
Add to that some miniscule load times and it’s easy to see that the game has taken advantage of the next-gen offerings brought with the PlayStation 5. There’s a free upgrade offered for owners of the last-gen version of the game too, so it’s the perfect time to re-visit it if this isn’t your first rodeo with Pumpkin Jack.
Pumpkin Jack Review
Pumpkin Jack is a very enjoyable old-school 3D platforming adventure that nails its varied level design and Halloween vibe – it’s just a shame that the combat didn’t bring with it the same amount of creativity. It didn’t stop me from having a really good time with the game though, whilst the platforming, mini-games, and boss encounters all strengthened the spooky experience.
It looks and plays great on the PlayStation 5, whilst the free upgrade means existing owners can enjoy the new improvements at no cost. What better time is there than now to jump into Pumpkin Jack’s charming and fun Halloween adventure?
Developer: Nicolas Meyssonnier
Publisher: Headup Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC