Rating : 4/10
When me and my wife first saw Pumpkin Jack, we were smitten by the way the game looked. The tags for the Steam page sounded like they were setting up the atmosphere for an absolutely amazing Spooktober experience.
My wife was absolutely in love with the graphics, and the fact that you get to play the antagonist and be a pumpkin were just further selling points to the game.
Here is our review for Pumpkin Jack.
When you first boot up Pumpkin Jack, the story gets told to you very clearly. The Devil is trying to rule the world and take power over the human land, but there is a powerful wizard preventing him from doing so. So Lucifer grabs the trickiest, smartest person to ever fool him: Jack.
Jack is a character that apparently fooled the devil not once, not twice, but thrice. And the game does justice to Jack’s tale of being a scoundrel. As a character, Jack is rude, doesn’t understand the general hierarchy and believes himself better than the rest of the characters around him. Oftentimes rushing them, or belittling them.
Soon after beginning your stories with Jack, you will meet one of your two recurring characters: An owl.
The owl’s writing is the same that applies to most owls in gaming. He’s one of the smarter characters in the game, and is written as the Devil’s henchman of sorts, guiding Jack through his adventures and telling him what to do and where to be.
Within the same level, you will also meet your trusty- and very chatty- companion: The crow. The crow is actually surprisingly different from most crows you see in games. Whilst crows in gaming are clever, portrayed as brave and vindictive, Pumpkin Jack’s crow is a coward. So much so that going into very high places will have him commenting on how he has vertigo.
The story of Pumpkin Jack is nothing to write home about. Apart from a typical setting of playing a villainous character in an attempt to foil the hero’s plan, the characters in the game feel very bland and the writing plain out boring. Although I did not have any expectation for the story of Pumpkin Jack it still managed to be underwhelming and disappointing.
The jokes in the story felt forced most of the time, and sometimes the characters would acknowledge plot holes and mention it as if it were a quirky and funny thing to say. This happens more than once throughout the game. And although I thought the comment had been funny the first time, the third time I just saw that they were acknowledging this and trying to make it a joke instead of fixing the glaring issue.
Characters often repeated jokes, the same dialogue text would appear at times, and although I do want to give the developers props for the way the character Jack was written, not that he was an enjoyable character, but I did appreciate the fact that he was a villain and just an overall unlikable person. It fits very well for a person that was doomed to Hell. That, however, is not talking about the fact that Jack was overall an unenjoyable character, and it made it difficult for me to care about him or his story.
Pumpkin Jack’s main gameplay comes from exploration and combat. However, neither of these two felt like they were implemented properly.
Combat in Pumpkin Jack feels very much clunky and incomplete. Without being able to target your foes, nor being able to stagger them, groups of enemies soon overwhelmed us in a fight and made the game difficult to play. Although there is a designated dodge button, the dodge did not feel properly implemented to flow well with the combat. It was clunky and it felt like an attempt to mimic Dark Souls’ fighting system, clipping through attacks and getting your own in. Although playing it like this worked, it wasn’t a particularly fun mechanic. This was magnified whenever there were ranged enemies in the horde.
The fighting just did not feel rewarding or fun, and more of a constant annoyance. The more levels we played, newer enemy types were added but none felt like they had any depth to them. At the end of the day Pumpkin Jack depended on overwhelming you with enemies as a band-aid for difficulty and forcing the player to button mash attacks in order to fight through the hordes. The added weapons felt more like an attempt to make the game seem deeper than it was, and although the combo changes were certainly accepted, it felt like a new hollow mechanic added to try to add depth.
As for the exploration, every level has 20 crow skulls to acquire and one gramophone to get a dancing sequence with Jack. The first two levels all but gift you the collectibles, and then later on they begin hiding them better.
However, the way the crow skulls were spread throughout the level did not feel fun or like an invitation to explore, especially in the third world, where it’s just linear and to find them you just have to have a keen eye. It didn’t feel like exploration, as much as it began turning into logic. “There should be a crow skull around here, I haven’t had any in a while.”
It’s something the later levels on Pumpkin Jack do wrong. They begin to feel more linear and thin, meaning that the exploration stopped being so much exploration, and instead some crow skulls were “hidden” by putting them at the other side of a platforming puzzle which feels wrongly implemented, with Jack falling at uncomfortable speeds, and not being able to negate your initial jump by double jumping back to your original spot.
The instant death mechanic really deterred any desire to explore from the game. And although I had my laughs with the death counter quotes, they soon ran out and became boring and repetitive. The implementation of the death counter also felt forced, like an attempt to mock the player for their performance. And although I do love a jab at my gaming skills, it just didn’t feel that funny when we ran out of quotes around our third death.
One thing I greatly appreciate from Pumpkin Jack is that it did try to add some variety to its game. There is a unique mini-game per world that you have to complete twice or thrice before you finish. And although I did appreciate the attempt at stopping the game from feeling monotonous, all it did was make me play a badly implemented mini-game that mostly just involved clicking spacebar to jump over an area and not fall to my death only to repeat. There was practically no difficulty to these segments, meaning that they were more of an obstacle in the way to my next story progression.
The boss design in Pumpkin Jack isn’t getting any rewards for creativity either. With most bosses feeling like they were adding very little to innovate, copy-pasting several mechanics. They follow the typical three-hit rules that games have set, but fail to innovate anywhere in the way the fights are implemented, and mechanics like objects falling from the sky were repeated time and time again throughout numerous boss fights.
The one thing Pumpkin Jack did excel on was the ambience. However, I could not get the game to stop looking pale and ugly everytime I disabled HDR, and I don’t know if that was a problem from my end but it lost a lot of color depth, and it made the game look plain.
The truest success that comes from Pumpkin Jack is with the implementation of the music. Some beautiful soundtracks to keep you bobbing your head in the middle of a boss fight. They truly were the highlight of the game. I found myself absolutely adoring the way the music was created and the direction they took with it.
However, the small audio design that was given to the game felt wrong. With some sound effects being loud and needing to be tweaked for it to sound appropriate, and Jack’s attack sound just repeating endlessly until the end of time.
The aesthetic- although not very Halloweeny as I hoped it to be- were normal overall. Nothing extremely gorgeous to truly gawk over, but certainly nothing to scoff at either. With some nicer places that I truly did enjoy, while some others felt lacking.
Pumpkin Jack is overall an alright game. Every aspect added to it wasn’t deepening the depths of the ocean, but rather lengthening the size of the kiddie pool. Many things were added, but it felt like an attempt to hide its lack of depth because of the terrible implementation.