For some, Halloween is the best time of the year. We carve up pumpkins, dress up like creatures of the night and celebrate everything eerie and supernatural. But for an evil spirit called Jack, all things Halloween are in his nature. This spooky season, he takes on a mission from the Devil to stop a meddling wizard from thwarting his master’s plans. Hordes of menacing enemies stand in his way, from the skeletons rising from the dead to witches and even Santa. He must keep his wits about him if he wants to succeed. The best part is, you will be with him every evil step of the way.
Story – Gourd on the Loose
The world was peaceful, and everybody lived in harmony. Everything was bright and pretty. There were no wars and no hunger, no devastation in sight. But that’s all rather boring, isn’t it? The Devil thought so. Growing irritated with the peace, he brought down the Eternal Night upon humanity. Chaos spread as terrifying creatures rose, and the Devil’s minions tormented the land. Humankind called upon a great wizard, and he got to work trying to break the curse. The Devil saw the wizard and called upon the soul of Jack to aid him. Stuffing his spirit into a pumpkin, he gave him an important task: find the wizard and kill him. Should he succeed, the Devil will allow his spirit to pass on into the afterlife, and so his mission begins.
His adventures take him across the land in search of the wizard, through a sickly swamp and a castle under siege. Enemies on both sides line his way ahead and various puzzles lie in wait for him to complete. All Jack needs to do is keep his wits about him.
The story itself is quite simple, but charming in its own comical way. While it is not an overly difficult narrative to follow, it allows for other aspects of the game to shine.
Gameplay – Someone Give That Pumpkin a Weapon
The controls for Pumpkin Jack are straightforward and easy to pick up. A tutorial runs you through each of the controls and allows you to practice them before getting into the game. Players can use a keyboard and mouse or a controller, but there are a few issues here. There are a few annoying parts, but all they require is patience and good timing. Unfortunately, there are also parts that came down to using a controller versus a keyboard and mouse. For me, this became more of an issue from level 4 onwards. During the level 4 knight races, I tried to complete them with a keyboard and mouse but to no avail. Playing with a controller, I completed them quickly. Some players will find it easy with a keyboard and mouse, but there are some who may struggle without a controller.
There are six levels to complete in order to find the wizard and stop his heroic plans. The path ahead is easy to follow, and along the way, there are puzzles for Jack to solve. In the forest he must navigate a complicated maze, and destroy the seven deadly statues in the cemetery. Along with the puzzles, every level ends with a boss battle. Each boss will perform several attacks in a pattern, and you usually have to attack three times before defeating them. The levels and bosses increase in difficulty, but Jack receives a new weapon at the end of each one. Pressing the tab button on a keyboard will open the inventory where you can select a weapon to use.
Cauldrons line the paths that Jack can drink from to regain his health. The cauldrons also act as checkpoints. There are plenty of autosaves in-between them, so you won’t ever lose an extensive amount of progress. Jack can also regain health between cauldrons by smashing the obstacles around him and killing enemies.
One mechanic I really enjoyed was the combat and the crow mechanic. Jack can attack with the various weapons he gains and dodge incoming blows. While it is easy to defeat most enemies with some button mashing and careful dodging, some require more tact and timing. Jack can also dispatch his feathery companion to deal extra damage and attack from range. The variety of weapons to choose from and the crow ensured the combat didn’t become too boring.
As Jack journeys across the hellish landscape created by his master, he can collect raven masks. Some are along the path, but others will require you to stray a little to find them. After collecting enough, players can buy skins for Jack. You can access the skins shop from the main menu and from the salesman in level 4 onwards.
Pumpkin Jack is a mischievous game at heart and contains Halloween-based puns to keep the atmosphere jovial and fun. There are also some pop culture references during the tombstone mini game in level 5. The tombstones reference characters from Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, along with other franchises.
As far as issues go, there were a couple. The camera angle became a little tricky at times. I mostly found this to be a minor issue. This tended to happen when I looked up at a platform and large parts of buildings blocked my view. After trying to move the camera, I still couldn’t find a way around them to see. As well as this, some aspects felt a little repetitive. There are a lot of jumping up towers and across platforms until you reach the next stage in the level. After the first level, there are different mini games to complete. Most of the time these were repeated in the levels. Despite the minor issues, they don’t take away from the overall fun of the game.
Graphics and Audio – A Comical Cartoon Adventure
Everything in this game has been designed with Halloween in mind. The graphics are 3D and cartoony, and fit the devilish atmosphere of the game perfectly. Floating orbs and spectres create a nice perspective on the environment, and the minor details like the tombstones and the rickety towers add to the playfully eerie feel. The locations are usually quite dark and mystical with green and purple lighting to create the perfect spooky atmosphere. I really appreciated the detail that the developer put into this game to make it look like a hellish landscape. Each graphical element compliments the other to bring this game to life and put on a spooky show.
Jack himself looks villainous and comically evil. From the raggedy scarecrow clothes to the mischievous glint in his eyes, Jack appears as the perfect anti-hero. The enemies he faces are also designed well. Each one fits in with the unique environment our gourd-headed villain explores. Ghosts that can turn invisible roam the cemetery, and spooky skeletons with their ominous glow rise from the ground. The bosses that Jack faces also have their own individual designs, depending on their environments. I love the overall look of the game, as the graphics really give it that Halloween feel.
A subdued soundtrack follows Jack’s adventures through each level. While exploring the music remains in the background but picks up when he’s under attack. This is a great addition that can help alert the player to danger if it is approaching. One part of the soundtrack I thoroughly enjoyed was the inclusion of some well-known classical musical pieces. These play in the level 3 mini game and while Jack is racing.
There is a voice-over for the cinematics that tells the story of Jack’s adventures. He does a wonderful job in telling the tale. While there are no voiced lines during the game, there are grunts from Jack and the cawing of the ravens. During combat and when Jack attacks or jumps, his hits and jumps can be heard.
Both the graphics and the audio couple beautifully to form a visually pleasing game and a positively evil soundtrack.
Pumpkin Jack was reviewed on PC via Steam.