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Pumpkin Jack review for Xbox One, PS4, Switch


Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PC, PS4, Switch
Publisher: Headup Games
Developer: Nicolas Meyssonnier
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: T

I had a couple of reasons to be leery going into Pumpkin Jack. First, it’s a seasonally-themed game that was released just a little before Halloween, and even if I get why they’d time it close to the holiday, tie-ins like that don’t always have the best of track records. On top of that, it’s a 3D platformer that hearkens back to the genre’s glory days of about 15-20 years ago. As much as I like those games, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that modern games that try to capture that same vibe don’t always have the best of luck.

Impressively, neither of those things are issues here. As far as the Halloween theme, it’s not just a case of slapping a couple of pumpkins on a quickly-made platformer and calling it a day. This is the story of the titular Pumpkin Jack, an evil being trying to extinguish the good in the Boredom Kingdom. It’s clear that a lot of love and attention went into creating the world, and you never get the sense this was made just to grab some money from people looking for something vaguely Halloween-y. It’s not a horror game, but it’s clearly horror-adjacent, to the extent a 3D platformer can be.

And as for the 3D platforming, it’s actually really well done. Unlike some some recent attempts to revitalize the genre, this one mostly succeeds at recalling the likes of early Ratchet and Clank or Jak and Daxter — though admittedly, in this case the eponymous anti-hero doesn’t have a sidekick as much as he has a talking crow that occasionally chimes in. But nonetheless, Pumpkin Jack does a fantastic job of making levels feel diverse by throwing in all kinds of different sections, whether it’s rushing through waves of ghosts and other monsters on the ground, teetering on platforms that tower high in the air, or taking rides on ghost horses and runaway mine carts. Couple this with boss fights that vary up what they ask of you, and levels that actually feel distinct from one another, and you can see why I’m so high on this game.

Just about the only issues I have are niggling little things here and there that detract ever-so-slightly from an otherwise great game. For example, the game will occasionally send you into a cutscene regardless of what’s happening around you, but you can still be hurt by your surroundings as it’s happening. Case in point: one time I knocked over a candle and set a table on fire a moment before a cutscene was triggered, and as the fire ranged around me, knocking little bits off my health bar, I was stuck in the cutscene.

There’s also the fact that it takes a long while for your weapons to have any kind of impact whatsoever. Pumpkin Jack may be evil royalty, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t spend the first half of this game hacking and slashing away at ghostly enemies that just won’t seem to die. Once he levels up a little this problem becomes less annoying, but it definitely detracted a little from the first few levels.

Not enough to make me not love the game, however. Pumpkin Jack is an excellent 3D platformer that’s well worth your time, whether you’re playing it at Halloween or any other time of the year.

Headup Games provided us with Pumpkin Jack 7 Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: A-