Review: Pumpkin Jack
Thanks to my parents, specifically my mother, I've always loved third-person platformer games such as Crash Bandicoot and Ty The Tasmanian Tiger, as I grew up with them a lot. So it's almost a given that I get a bit extra excited whenever a new one in the genre is released, especially when it's Halloween themed, haha! That is the case with Headup Games' latest platformer, Pumpkin Jack - a third-person action adventure title that is all about the Pumpkin lord himself and his quest on restoring the "fun" in Boredom Kingdom. It's the evil VS the good in this game, but is the game GOOD enough, though? Let's see!
Platform: Xbox One (S)
Before I'm allowed to take Pumpkin Jack for a spin, a cut-scene plays that introduces us to the main story and Jack himself. It's around 1-2 minutes long and it features some really nice artwork to look at.
A great way to start the game in order to get up to speed in terms of what's going on. After watching it, I begin the tutorial part and get to learn how things work. What comes next is the beginning of a greatly spooky journey through Boredom Kingdom!
Visuals & performance
Pumpkin Jack is one of the better looking platform games I've played, with its stellar lighting, HD textures, rich & beautiful colors that truly pop (that also really fit the spooky nature of the game), a lovely art style that pays homage to older platform games, unique as well as well designed character models, and some really nice level design work that always offers something new to look at. While the graphics are even better than what I was expecting, the resolution could've been higher on the Xbox One (S), cause it doesn't seem to be of 1080p, but it's not the end of the world.
It's probably just a matter of the studio developing the game being a small one. What could be called a far more important matter, however, is the framerate, and I really haven't noticed anything peculiar with it at all to be honest - even during hectic action instances where there's several enemies & effects present at once.
The game is just generally smooth, but it's not free from bugs; one sent me on an endless spiral where each time I loaded up my save, I died in water, forcing me to reload the entire LAST level. Not game breaking, but close to it! I can only imagine how utterly great it will look on the Xbox Series X later, though!
Audio is top notch, too, and gives off a really creepy vibe during gameplay with the soundtrack, but not only that, just something as simple as the characters making noises during dialogue texts, or the effects sounds during combat, is high quality.
Pumpkin Jack is played in a third-person perspective, and plays just as all other classic platformer games, which is great. The main objective is for Jack to defeat good by going through all kinds of spooky adventures in Boredom Kingdom, with the help of a crow that sits on his shoulder that is able to attack foes, and occasionally, talk to Jack.
Once I'm out of the game's tutorial, I mess around for a bit and start getting used to the controls. Right away, I'm met with the same feeling I had as a kid while playing some of the classic platforming games from back then, and it just fills my gamer heart with pure joy. Not long after completing the tutorial, I get to fight my first few foes - deadheads, one of the many different types of enemies, all with their own unique look & combat style.
Some other enemies are skeletons, ghosts, and even bosses. They're well balanced, but the game is definitely challenging at times, especially during boss fights. A typical mission sees Jack having to wander through different levels, levels that differ in both size, objectives as well as look, and levels that are linear but aren't afraid to offer some exploration. It's all made out to be a perfect combination of fun, awe and fright; cause if there's one thing Pumpkin Jack does right, it's the amount of fun it gives.
A level contains several different moments: fun and somewhat tough combat moments, classic platforming, occasional dialogue scenes with several different and unique characters, general hunting for collectibles that unlock new suits for Jack, instances such as controlling Jack's head during puzzle-like mini games, and unforgiving mine cart riding. The game is just extremely fun in every possible way and I'm not afraid to admit that I'm a bit in love with it. After each chapter/level, Jack receives a brand new weapon that he can use during combat, each being different to one another.
The combat itself isn't really all that simple, as dodging, timing and movement is vital to successfully survive a battle. The gameplay is of course accompanied by a story, one that isn't all too deep, but it's of a fun, spooky as well as creative origin - the Pumpkin Lord, Jack, is on a mission from the Devil himself, to destroy good and make evil triumphant on taking over Boredom Kingdom, a place that is just a tad too boring, hence its name.
The Lord's adventures sees him meeting all kinds of characters - both evil and...well, evil but good to Jack? They're varied and well designed, that's at least for sure. I don't want to go into details too much as to not spoil anything but there is a story, it's actually very original AND good.
All in all
Pumpkin Jack is the perfect definition of the ultimate platformer - it's extremely fun, colorful & beautiful, and it offers some very nostalgic yet original gameplay. It's one of the best looking titles I've seen in a while with its marvelous visuals, but the risk of having to reload an entire level before the one you're at due to a bug, isn't favorable. Resolution-wise, it could've been better, but it still looks amazing, and at a framerate that is very playable. The gameplay can be challenging at times but at the end of the day, who wants a too easy game? Pumpkin Jack is just wonderful in all possible ways, and I've only had a really pleasant ride through it all - I FULLY recommend it.
Pumpkin Jack is available digitally on the Microsoft Store for the Xbox One, while only asking for $30 - are you interested in buying it? That can be done here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/pumpkin-jack/9n7tb1sb2m0k
A review code was provided by Headup Games for review purposes.
This review is written by Jesper and is based on his honest opinion about the game.