Review: Pumpkin Jack
Pumpkin Jack appeared on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Steam last year around Halloween. The game now also appears on Playstation 4. It's high time to welcome Jack as an undead platformer.
Pumpkin Jack is the "Hey mom, can I have MediEvil? No we have MediEvil at home. The MediEvil at home:" variant of the well-known Playstation platformer. At least that's what you would say. They are games that are very similar in style and gameplay. It should be clear that it has been a source of inspiration for the developer. The game was developed almost entirely by one person. Although this is also visible in the final product, it is also a huge achievement and quite impressive when you consider that the game has quite a bit to offer.
The best of the Playstation 2 era
Pumpkin Jack feels like a Halloween celebration of your favorite games from the Playstation 2 era. It feels very much like you're playing a platformer from this era at its core. The game has everything you would expect from a game from this time. A handful of different enemies, some unique weapons, thematically different levels, minigame challenges, collectibles and boss fights with a, yes, 3-hit-win design.
It is also a very short game. Similar to platform titles from the Playstation 2 era that were mainly aimed at children. This way you can play Pumpkin Jack within about 5 hours and you have also found the most collectibles during this time. Some are well hidden so that your playing time extends a little longer if you go for a completionist run. And you really should. It won't cost you much extra effort, you're already in the level anyway and it will eventually earn you a Platinum trophy. At least it should.
There are a total of 6 different levels in Pumpkin Jack. Each level is slightly different from the other and introduces small changes and new challenges. These challenges come in the form of enemies, platform sections, mini-games and boss battles. The minigames occur at fixed times in the level and you always play this minigame twice in one level. The second time is a little harder than the first time.
Colorful and airy
Pumpkin Jack doesn't take itself very seriously and that fits a bit with the image we gave earlier. It is an old school platformer where you notice that the game offers the same level of challenges as the 5 hour long platform titles on Playstation 2 and Gamecube. It's not very difficult, but challenging and playful enough to keep you busy for those hours. It shouldn't take much longer either, as the game largely stays the same throughout your playing time.
Besides the fact that you unlock a new weapon every level, nothing changes in terms of play style during the 5 hours. You don't get any extra powers, nor are there any experience points to spend on your character. It just gets a little more difficult. And by something, I really mean something. It's not a difficult game. The checkpoints are very generous and beating enemies or destroying breakable objects will give you life points back. Each checkpoint contains a cauldron of pea soup to replenish your health. I think I got killed about 5 times during my playthrough and that was during the bloody boat sections of the levels.
There are two levels where you sit on a boat for a while with a ghost captain taking you to the other side. While you're on the boat, ghosts come from all sides for you to smash and every now and then the ghost captain makes a joke and sinks the boat, or spins it on its axis. So you have to jump on the boat so you don't splash into the water, or you have to jump to the other boat that he calls. Missing out, especially when the boat is spinning on its axis, is very easy.
Every level in Pumpkin Jack ends with a boss fight. They are not Dark Souls bosses, but they are all challenging in their own way. All boss fights are designed in a way so that you use the environment to defeat the boss. So you don't fight 1-on-1 with the boss, dodging his attack and using the available time to take two tricks before you have to dodge again. There are clear rules to beating a boss. For example, you have to dodge attacks and lure the boss to a spot so that he smashes something so that he falls down for a while and you can attack him. Every boss has a well-known 3-hit-win design, or rather: 3-cycle-win. You have to repeat the tune three times each time before the boss falls. Every cycle it gets a little more difficult.The boss then becomes a little faster or gets new attacks. These battles were by far the most fun to do because they could offer quite a bit of challenge every now and then.
All in all, Pumpkin Jack is an entertaining, but rather short and simple adventure. If you're looking for a spiritual successor to MediEvil, you've come to the right place. However, are you looking for an entertaining adventure that will remind you of the glorious days of these lighthearted style platformers? Then Pumpkin Jack might be a pleasant relief in between all the major releases.
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