Developer: Nicolas Meyssonnier.
Release Date: 23rd October 2020
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Size : 1.78 GB
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Screenshots: Captured on Xbox Series X
The world’s a happy place, everybody gets on, there’s no wars, no famine and the balance of good vs evil has tipped against the dark powers, our good friend the devil wasn’t having any of this, so he set about bringing hell back to Earth, but the powers of good had a trick of their own, a Wizard who could not only restore peace and tranquillity to the world but could fend of the devil’s fiendish ways.
During Pumpkin Jack, You’ll take control of a trickster called Jack, who’s enlisted by the devil to seek out and destroy the wizard to once again bring the chaos to the world we’re all pretty used to by now.
As Jack’s his spirit is put into a Pumpkin and sent to earth to track down the Wizard, even at this early stage there’s a refreshing feel to the game where good doesn’t always triumph, the constant tussle back and forth has left monsters scattered across the land and as those guys aren’t the brightest, they’re more than happy to attack Jack, but on your travels, you’ll meet a handful of people who will point you in the right direction.
Gameplay follows a pretty familiar 3D platformer action-adventure style that where far more common back on the original Xbox or the N64/PSOne, you’ll use A to hop between platforms, tapping twice to execute a double jump, X to swing your weapon, with multiple presses performing combos or a ground pound of sorts while airborne, there’s also an effective dodge using the B button.
There are 6 chapters in total, Moving from the fields, through the haunted mine and onto the cursed swamp before working through Skele-town and the Spooky Cemetery before the final destination known as the North.
Each location has it’s own feel, theme, NPC character(s) to help or hinder Jack, and a selection of collectables.
You’ll unlock new weapons as you progress, as well as receive the help of a companion crow who you can send out ahead with a tap of the LB button.
As for those collectables, there’s 20 skulls and 1 grammar phone in each area. The skulls unlock new skins, which you can move your spirit filled pumpkin head to, and the gramophones, well they don’t do much, but Jack will bust a few moves whenever you find one.
These collectables range from obvious to need a small miracle, so you’ll need to spend some serious time exploring if you hope to find them all.
There’s plenty of combat, which flows smoothly enough, especially with certain weapons, but the first shovel you start with is understandably a little limited, but when you are wielding a magical scythe or talking sword, you’ll be able to dispatch the increasing number of enemies far easier.
The only downside to the weapons is, there was no reason to swap and change, as I unlocked a new weapon it felt more of a punishment to return to earlier tools, and I would have liked to have seen a handful of enemies that maybe could have required a certain weapon to kill them, rather than relying on the dodge and attack combo which seemed to work a little too often.
I did find the actual progression still feeling very rewarding, characters you meet are interesting and while each chapter has 3D platform sections, a mini-game and an on-rails “run from camera” sequence, these are all done incredibly well and feel different enough from each other to stop it ever feeling repetitive.
The total play-time for one playthrough comes in at about the 4-hour mark, which isn’t great, but you’ll find each chapter broken down in the level-select menu, giving your time and unlockables, which encourages you to dive back in, there’s also the option to turn on a stopwatch for anyone interested in speed runs.
Pumpkin Jack definitely has some charm, it’s light-hearted, funny at times and isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself, graphically it’s more than capable and it runs smoothly throughout, with no noticeable graphical issues, except a small glitch effect between the very short loading screens, it may be fixed by release, it may just be that my Series X was loading the game quicker than the developer was expecting, but it’s certainly nothing to complain about and doesn’t in any way affect the overall performance of the game.
Audio is equally strong, with the story cinematics fully narrated, great sound effects and pretty good music throughout, the only negative would be that in-game characters aren’t voiced which does leave a few quiet conversations, but beyond that, there’s very little to complain about.
The overall value of Pumpkin Jack has to be my only real complaint, at 4 hours, £24.99 feels pretty expensive, at half the price it would be great value, but personally, I’d expect a £15-£20 price tag, considering not many will seek out every single collectable (due to some being incredibly well hidden) most will be happy to call it a day after a single completion and that makes the £25 asking price feel a little steep.
If you’re looking for a fresh, fun and charming 3D platform adventure, and don’t mind the £24.99 asking price, then Pumpkin Jack is definitely worth looking at. If you do wait and see it on sale next Halloween closer to the £15 mark, then it will be well worth the wait.