Pumpkin Jack is clearly inspired by platforming classics of the late 90s and is all the better for it being released in 2021 (the original non-New Gen Edition was released in 2020). If Pumpkin Jack was released during the 360 era, it probably would have been written off as basic and boring. However, in an age or roguelikes and 100 hour RPGs, I view Pumpkin Jack’s linear and simple approach refreshing in the current age.
Playing as a badass pumpkin scarecrow man, you are thrown in a middle of a fight between heaven and hell and the fate of the world will be decided with your hands… and your crow friend. If you ever played PS1’s Medieval, you will have a decent understanding of the gameplay here right down to losing your head, literally. Armed with melee attacks with some unlockable weapons, the player ultimately needs to reach the end of each linear stage. Along the way are plenty of common enemies to defeat, crates to smash to refill lost health, and bosses to best. The presentation encourages the player to search around every corner for skulls, which are used to unlock new skins, and a music player so completionists have something to strive for, so there is plenty here to keep the player entertained throughout the 6 hour campaign.
Again, I find this straightforward, simple approach to be refreshing and that extends into the difficulty factor as well. Since health pickups are placed everywhere, the player will rarely struggle in combat. Some bosses might require a couple attempts to learn their patterns but the game is never frustratingly difficult which I really appreciate. The only downside is the occasional pit or one hit death. It wouldn’t be so bad if the player didn’t have to restart and wait through another loading screen. There is usually a gimmick within each stage too, like the second level’s mine cart segments. It controls well, it is not over used, and well, can you really have a 90s style platformer without a mine cart race? No. The answer is probably no.
Pumpkin Jack was made by a very small team of developers which makes this digitally downloadable game even more impressive. It knows what it is, doesn’t try to be something it is not, and gets right to the point. Some might find the plain approach to be boring for a new gen game but I think this retro throwback is definitely one worth taking.
Also Try: the Spyro Reignited Trilogy
Better Than: playing Medieval on PS1
Wait For It: an HD port of the Maximo games