Pumpkin Jack (Nintendo Switch) Review

By James Grech 14.11.2020

Review for Pumpkin Jack on Nintendo Switch

Fans of the classic MediEvil franchise may see protagonist Stingy Jack as the spiritual successor to Sir Daniel they've been waiting for. Although the game nails its spooky aesthetic and well-designed levels, this 3D action platformer fails to capture the wit or polish that is expected from this genre. Flaws aside, Pumpkin Jack is enjoyable. The story is straightforward and gets right into gameplay after some routine exposition. It runs exceptionally well on the Nintendo Switch and although it only lasts 4-6 hours, solo developer Nicolas Meyssonnier presents some great Halloween flavoured fun.

The Arc En Ciel Kingdom is at peace. The people are happy and live in quiet content. To some people, especially Satan himself, this happy little kingdom has become boring. Like any malevolent being hell-bent on causing chaos would, Satan decides to summon a demonic army to terrorise the kingdom. Alas, all is not lost for the mortals, as a great Wizard has come to save the day! How could Satan oppose such a magical being? With a walking, talking jack-o'-lantern of course.

Screenshot for Pumpkin Jack on Nintendo Switch

Jack's journey to defeat the Wizard sees him adventure through linear levels that each take place in a unique locale. From an abandoned mine to a burning castle, the levels illustrate a cartoonish take on classic scary settings. Complimented with orange, purple, and black Halloween colours, Meyssonnier absolutely brings this world to life. Each level plays out pretty much the same. Beat up some baddies, solve some puzzles, collect the crow skulls hiding in the bushes. Normal pumpkin stuff. There is nothing complex when fighting undead hordes or armed knights. Jack can double jump, dodge roll and has basic attack combos. Enemies drop health when defeated, but Jack can run around destroying most things in the environment to heal up. Checkpoints are also frequent and provide a healing cauldron for Jack to drink from, so it's really hard to die in combat. In the later levels, the game opts to just throw more baddies at Jack to increase difficulty, rather than craft trickery combatants. These battles didn't ever get stale however, as at the end of a level Jack is rewarded with a new weapon that is stronger and plays differently to the last.

The peak action in Pumpkin Jack revolves around each level's unique 'chase' sequence. At certain points, the gameplay changes to Jack rushing away from the camera, dodging obstacles in his path to get to the end. This ranges from escaping a burning down barnyard to riding a spectral stallion through a ghostly swamp. These moments oozed with charm, mixing its coolest ideas with its best music. Speaking of sound, this soundtrack is great. Each level has its own theme that sometimes felt like it came from classic Rare composer Grant Kirkhope. There are even some cheeky nods to classical compositions, mixed with an eerie flair.

Screenshot for Pumpkin Jack on Nintendo Switch

The characters also work well to bring a dark vibrance to the world. Jack is joined on his journey by a cowardly crow and an obnoxious owl, both of whom become instantly recognisable. Bosses fit the level they live in perfectly, each giving Jack a charming and memorable bout. Other side characters Jack will meet include a mummified merchant that trades the collectable crow skulls for literal skins to customise Jack with, and a greedy ferryman spirit that will help Jack cross rivers on his phantom vessel. All this is to say that the art direction is spot on. The action is arcade-esque in the best way - the environments are rad, and each level feels like it was pulled from a Goosebumps book. Meyssonnier's eye for character design has me excited to see how he can expand on this world in the future.

Screenshot for Pumpkin Jack on Nintendo Switch

Unfortunately, this is about as much that Pumpkin Jack does well. As nicely designed as the characters and levels are, the writing, platforming and puzzles just fall flat. Jack himself has no charm or consistency in his writing. Jack is described as an expert trickster, yet he never says anything that isn't a clichéd, snarky comment, which comes across more cringey than intimidating. Jokes feel outdated with out-of-place pop culture references and further, exposition is heavy handed. This may work for some people that just want to dive into an entertaining Halloween world, but with the slick humour of games that Pumpkin Jack is clearly influenced by, it's a shame that these characters couldn't land a joke.

The platforming portions of each level are repetitive and underdeveloped. Jack is jumping up the same towers, dodging the same traps and walking the same tightropes. Apart from one level where Jack must survive trampoline like mushroom platforms, these sequences felt more like an afterthought than core gameplay. When controlling Jack, he is noticeably floaty when he jumps. Although this unusual choice is easy to get used to, any death during a platforming challenge feels like it wouldn't have happened if Jack controlled a little tighter.

As far as puzzles are concerned, they are a hit or miss. Most revolve around Jack separating his head from his body and entering little challenge rooms. Jack's head controls like a spider crawling around and each of these minigames usually require him to hit things into specific spots or recall specific orders. Some of these puzzles are a welcomed distraction, while others are tedious chores. However, none of these things are enough not to recommend Pumpkin Jack. In fact, these are the concepts that would benefit from some attention in a sequel. Pumpkin Jack does have franchise potential. A stronger focus on clever platforming, a hilarious and creative script and puzzles that focus on fun and not padding, are all that holds Pumpkin Jack back from being a must-play for any platformer fan.

Screenshot for Pumpkin Jack on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Although dull platforming and a forgettable script hold it back, button-mashing action that feel fresh with each level, characters and bosses that would fit in any cartoon's Halloween special and a world that is filled with collectables to find and creepy things to see, proves that Pumpkin Jack has the foundation built for what could be an awesome Halloween franchise.

Developer

Nicolas Meyssonnier

Publisher

Headup Games

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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