Pumpkin Jack (PS5) Review

Just over a year ago, on October 23rd 2020, Pumpkin Jack was released on the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC, just in time for Halloween. However, the PlayStation 4 version was delayed at the last minute and skipped the entire spooky season, coming to that platform on the 24th of February 2021! Thankfully, the next-gen upgrade for the game on both the PlayStation and Xbox platforms is launching on the 27th of October, meaning gamers with either console get to enjoy the Halloween-themed game at the appropriate time of year.

Pumpkin Jack was developed by Nicolas Meyssonnier, a solo developer, with help from Adrien Lucas with the console porting and Yohan Jager for the soundtrack. However, after playing through the game a few times, in order to grab the platinum, you’d never guess it was the work of such a small team. Headup Games are the publishers on all platforms, although it appears the game is digital only, with no physical release planned (from what I can see).

I actually received the PS4 game back in February but I wanted to postpone the review until ‘Spooktober’, so the next-gen upgrade came at a perfect time. As such, this was the first time playing the game, yet I have installed and tried out the PS4 version for comparison reasons. I’ve tried out both visual modes, completed the game and obtained the platinum, so here’s my review…

Pumpkin Jack 1

Don’t be scared, crows! I’m not a scarecrow!

Our story begins in the Arc En Ciel Kingdom, a mythical realm that suffered from no war, famine, or catastrophes, it was a world where humans, birds, and fluffy animals all lived at peace with one another – in other words, it was very boring! So boring, in fact, that it caught the attention of the Devil himself, an evil being in need of entertainment brought about by suffering and bloodshed. As such, he devised a wicked plan to fill this once peaceful land with the curse of Eternal Night.

Advertisements

This curse brought with it hordes of creatures and monsters which now inhabit the fields and towns. These terrible beasts may have brought excitement to the land, in the eyes of the Devil, but the humans weren’t a fan of such destruction and pain. Those who remained summoned a mighty champion to save them from this neverending darkness, a magical wizard who set out to break the curse and restore the kingdom to its original (and boring) condition.

However, to counter this, the Devil summoned his own champion to seek out this goodie-two-shoes and stop him in his tracks – his name, Stingy Jack. This devious soul had tricked the Devil many times, resulting in being banished from the Afterlife and forced to wander the world as a wayward spirit. However, if he manages to put an end to the wizard’s plans, he’ll receive a full pardon for his past wrong-doings and be welcomed to return once more. Unfortunately, he has to fight not only the wizard but all the creatures summoned by the Devil himself, as they’ll attack anyone despite technically being on the same side!

Physically, his spirit is placed within a pumpkin, creating (possibly) the first-ever Jack-o-lantern, and placed upon a headless body that’s combat-ready and very agile. You also gain help from both a crow and an owl in your journey, but can you stop the evil/heroic wizard in time?

Pumpkin Jack 2

Careful not to fall!

Gameplay
Pumpkin Jack has taken a lot of inspiration from old 3D action-platforming games, such as Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, and even the combat and atmosphere we saw in MediEvil. Each level is a well-designed themed stage, complete with collectables to find, new enemy types to destroy, weapons to try out, and bosses to face. Although making your way through the stage is quite easy to navigate, you’ll often find yourself having to backtrack and/or deviate from the path if you’re looking to find everything for the trophies and 100% completion.

Advertisements

The controls are also nice and simple, yet effective and responsive. You can perform double-jumps in order to gain more height or distance, attack with one of the number of weapons you unlock each time you progress to the next stage, and even command your new crow friend to fly forward and attack whichever enemy is in your sights. I personally found some of the combat sections quite tricky, dying many times throughout the course of the game – in order to succeed you really need to dodge and attack the enemies one-by-one, not run head-first into a group and wave your weapon around like a lunatic!

Each stage also contains various mini-games and/or new gameplay segments. For example, you’ll find pipes which you can send your disembodied head down, allowing you to spin-attack various switches or knock various shapes into their relevant holes (and no, not every shape can go into the square hole). You’ll also find yourself riding a ghostly horse as it gallops through the air, or holding on tight as you sit within a minecart travelling fast over broken tracks. There’s a decent amount of variety within Pumpkin Jack, delivering a perfect balance between exploration, combat, platforming, and riding.

Pumpkin Jack 3

Rocking out in my new Santa outfit!

Collectables
in Pumpkin Jack there are two sets of items to be on the lookout for – crow skulls and gramophones. The skulls can be used to purchase new skins for our evil protagonist, swapping what he looks like at any point within the main menu or at one of the skin sellers you’ll find within the stage. Aside from one of these, they don’t serve any purpose other than changing the way you look – but, it’s nice that everything is unlockable in-game and not provided via MicroTransactions or DLC (another nod to games of yesteryear).

The gramophones are simply there to give you something to look out for. I would have liked it if finding these unlocked a new music track to listen to, but it doesn’t appear to do this. However, you do get to see Jack dance away in whatever skin you’ve suited him up within, so that’s a nice bonus, I guess. However, I think the main reason for finding these is to push you to explore the stage more than you normally would as they’re often quite well-hidden. 

Advertisements

The Nightmare Before Christmas
As mentioned above, there is one costume that does alter the game when you don it – the ‘Kind Jack’ costume (AKA, Santa Claus). Last year, in December, Pumpkin Jack got an update on PC, Switch and Xbox, which added a new Santa Claus costume – this was also added to the PS4 version, but it was date-specific in terms of if you could select it. This is still present in the upgraded version – if you set your console’s date to any within December, you’ll be able to pick this free suit within the skin selection menu.

What does this skin do, other than make you look all jolly with Saint Nick’s classic red and white suit, wrapped in fairy lights? First of all, it snows as you play, making the game more festive. Wearing this costume also adds decorative snowmen to the game and a bunch of hidden presents to find, each one unlocking a funny letter as a bonus reward – there’s no trophy for finding all of these but they are fun to read.

Quality/Performance

Quality
Performance

PS5 Upgrade
As stated previously, I hadn’t played Pumpkin Jack on the PS4 prior to playing the PS5 version, but I still installed it and played the PS4 version on my PS5 via BC to see how it differs – the results were quite surprising. First of all, I didn’t realise that the PS4 version of the game ran at 60fps, at least on the PS4 Pro (which is what the PS5 emulates as). As such, the 60fps mode which is present within this new upgrade looked and played a lot like the previous-gen version, with very few differences between the two. 

I imagine the resolution may be different, as the PS5 version aims for a full 4k at 60fps, with a dynamic resolution, but visually and performance-wise, it’s very similar to the PS4 Pro build.

Advertisements

However, on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, you also have a ‘Quality Mode’ which drops the framerate to 30fps whilst dramatically changing the visuals. This mode also targets a 4K resolution, yet it has increased texture quality, improved shadows, the entire colour pallet is changed in some levels (see above), and the press info we got states it also has Raytracing (this could be just shadows or also reflections, I’m not sure). I found myself constantly swapping the modes as I played – the Quality Mode looked a lot better in every instance, but the Performance Mode was much smoother and fun to play. 

Personally, I would have loved it if there was a 60fps lower resolution mode with the ‘Quality Mode’ enhancements – maybe 1440p with the higher-quality assets, new colours, and Raytracing – rather than aiming for the highest resolution and halving the framerate.

Pumpkin Jack 5

I love the atmosphere.

Technical
I had zero issues with Pumpkin Jack on the PS5, no crashes, no framerate issues, and no bugs or glitches. I know it seems silly pointing this out, but you’d be surprised at how many games I’ve played pre-launch that are either unplayable or require a patch to fix the stability.

In terms of the visuals, I love the aesthetic that Pumpkin Jack displays. You can tell instantly that it’s inspired by older 3D platforming games as it has a very simplistic look to it yet oozes with character and atmosphere – especially if you’re playing in the new Quality Mode. Considering the game was technically created by a single developer, I fail to find any negatives with the presentation and/or gameplay – it’s a really fun game to play and look at, regardless of if you’re playing on the PS5 or a base PS4.

Advertisements

The only thing missing from the game is voice acting, the game has brilliantly themed music but lacks any form of vocals (aside from the chapter cutscenes). Not every game needs them, but I feel the dialogue could have been enhanced if this new upgrade also came with the addition of some spooky voice acting.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Pumpkin Jack is a brilliant throwback to old-school 3D platforming action games, providing a colourful adventure with a twist on the good vs. evil concept. Although you’ll most likely complete the game within six hours, if you’re very observant within each stage and find all the collectables, it’s a very enjoyable experience which anyone of all ages will find amusing and entertaining. The free next-gen upgrade greatly enhances the visuals over last-gen, as long as you’re willing to sacrifice half of the framerate – personally, I feel there should have been a third visual option as framerate and quality trump resolution every time.

If you’re looking for a themed game to play this Halloween, and you’re not too keen on games filled with jump scares, gore, or intense spooks, then Pumpkin Jack is perfect. It even has the hidden Christmas mode which adds new content automatically during the month of December.


Pumpkin Jack (Next-Gen) is a FREE upgrade to owners of the game on either the PS4 or Xbox One. There doesn’t appear to be a save transfer process on the PS4/5, so if you want the new platinum trophy, you’ll have to play through the game again on the new console (which isn’t a bad thing). I’m unaware if there’s any Activity Card or Hint support as the trophies aren’t yet live, so that feature isn’t active on my copy of the game.

Advertisements

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Pumpkin Jack

£24.99
8.5

Final Score

8.5/10

The Good:

  • - Fun gameplay with varied mini-games and riding segments
  • - Very colourful and atmospheric
  • - The music fits the game perfectly
  • - Every character, boss, and skin are well-designed
  • - Sercet 'Santa Skin' if you play the game during December

The Bad:

  • - The Quality Mode visuals are greatly enhanced, but it does sacrifice half the framerate. I would have loved a 60fps Quality Mode but with a lower resolution
  • - Some combat segments can be quite tricky, especially for younger gamers
Share this article!

You may also like...

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments