Everyone loves platformers, I mean come on we have the long-running Super Mario games, the Ori series, Sonic the Hedgehog, and even Crash Bandicoot! However, what everyone needs to turn their heads to is Pumpkin Jack. No, this is not a spiritual successor to MediEvil, but a standalone game developed by one person who is Nicolas Meyssonnier. This game is an adorably spooky 3D platformer that allows you to play as nonother than Jack, a soul that was summoned into the skin of a pumpkin. You get to fight creepy monsters and ghouls alike, all the while unleashing chaos upon the humans of the world. The game brings some strategy, puzzles, fantastic music, and a unique art style taken from the PS2 era. This game was surprisingly a fantastic experience with an adorable story that I quite honestly could not get enough of.
Pumpkin Jack had some pretty decent gameplay. I would have liked to see a little more to the platforming, for aside from obviously having to climb and jump across various platforms with some monsters placed in various locations and some barricades, there was not much to it. It was fairly easy to get where you needed to go, aside from the fact that the controls were insanely sensitive. The slight tap of the thumbstick could very well send you over the edge and leave you feeling very frustrated. However, that being said what really spiced the adventure up would be the puzzles and the joy rides. The puzzles were simple but extremely fun to take part in. They were good for testing your reflexes with physics or putting your memory on the spot, and they provided rooms with fun riddles. Failing to complete these puzzles prevented you from progressing further. The joy rides just added intense experiences such as riding the ferry in an all-around stressful experience or using the mining cart on a crazy roller coaster ride through town. So while the platforming could be better, the puzzles and transportation definitely found a way to spice things up.
Slaying some monsters with Pumpkin Jack left you feeling like a true mythical terror, providing you with a fun selection of weapons after slaying each boss. You start off with a shovel, giving you a true Halloween horror movie feeling. However, with each level, you end up getting weapons like a pump-action shotgun to blast holes into your enemies and a cool orb that is known as the Murder of Crows allowing you to cast cool sorceries. My only complaint is I would have liked to see a little more to the combat. Obviously, with a game like this, I don’t expect anything intricate, for platformers don’t call for cool combos. But I think this game could have provided more than just a single button attack that you could create an AOE out of. Maybe one more ability assigned to an unused button would have provided a more satisfying experience.
The last thing I want to bring up is the insanely cute and enjoyable story that made this game. This adventure takes place in the Boredom Kingdom, where the humans and animals lived at peace with no wars or fear. Because of the lack of drama in the world, the Devil found himself so bored that he unleashed a powerful curse known as the Curse of the Eternal Night which awakened the scariest monsters to torment all of humanity. However, the humans counter reacted by summoning a powerful master wizard to end this curse, which resulted in the Devil summoning Pumpkin Jack to destroy the wizard. Along the way you find great allies to aid your journey, such as a crow that assists you in battle, an architect that you assist in releasing the deadly sins, and of course the Owl that leads you on your journey to the end. You also find yourself not knowing who to trust along the way, for what might seem like an ally sometimes ends up turning against you for their own gain. For a solo developer, I have to say the amount of personality in each character despite how brief the game was, was extremely impressive and well designed. I loved the story premise, and the adventure felt so wholesome yet chaotic at the same time.
Pumpkin Jack is a hidden gem that I cannot push enough to players looking for a fun, short platforming adventure to experience. I honestly was not expecting much from this game going into it, but it ended up surprising me in more ways than one. This game brought on so many feelings with the art style, the music, and the incredibly Nightmare Before Christmas-like feeling. It is in my opinion that this developer has a bright future ahead of him from the incredible amount of work put into this game.