LifeisXbox’s Pumpkin Jack review | The Medievil remake on Ps4 left me with a sour taste, I still consider myself a Medievil fan though. I couldn’t count how many times I had to think about that classic platform game while playing developer Headup’s Pumpkin Jack. Or, thanks Twitter for recalling the name, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. It is highly inspired by both games and I even consider it a spiritual successor. We’re a bit late with our review, Pumpkin Jack was released in October but we only got our review code a week ago. I’m glad we did though, as I had a blast playing with Jack!
We played Pumpkin Jack for 9 hours on Xbox Series X. This game is also available on Nintendo Switch, Playstation, and pc.
What we liked!
- Incredible fun old-school platform gameplay with original twists | In my ten-hour journey with Jack I never had a single moment of frustration or repetition. It has a heavy focus on double jumping gameplay but I was amazed by all the original gameplay. Jack can detach his head for example and each level had a specific use for it, my favorite was a memory mini-game where you had to destroy gravestones with names like Eric Cartman or Wayne. some other original gameplay elements are avoiding obstacles while being kidnapped by a Gargoyle, a button-mashing race, a Pumpkin Jack version of Whack-a-Mole, and what I adore about the game, a simple but effective collectibles system. Each level has 20 crow skulls and one gramophone, it encouraged me to explore the levels. The variety is enormous but what makes the gameplay truly shine is the perfectly balanced challenge. Nowadays platformers are either near impossible or super dobey easy. Pumpkin Jack really nails it here, with generous checkpoint placement when things get a bit more difficult.
- Beautiful visuals | Spooky Halloween-themed levels are beautifully crafted, somewhat linear but with a few larger areas. I was an immediate fan of the art style and Jack’s look, bringing back memories of some typical PS2 platformers that I really miss in today’s gaming scene. Fire for example is really well done and seeing it realistically spread isn’t something you would expect. You can even see the fires when you progress far into the level. The game takes a few moments to let the good-looking world truly shine, on high towers or platforming on high platforms. The draw distance is impressive and the environment is decently detailed too.
- Impressive boss battles | Each level has an on-rails section and a mini-game but that’s not all. Every level has a boss fight and it was a blast defeating them. It all comes down to avoiding attacks and waiting for an opening but they do that with some fresh ideas. Almost all boss fights try to change the gameplay a little without losing sight of the fun gameplay core from Pumpkin Jack. These are the toughest moments too, especially Gluttony and the final boss. Things never get too punishing though, we’re not playing Cuphead here. For me, they found the perfect balance in having a tough fight without feeling overpowered or at a disadvantage.
- Catchy audio | This is a huge compliment but the soundtrack would perfectly fit A Nightmare Before Christmas movie. Some really catchy sound encourages you to move on, the horror-themed music is nothing short but incredibly well done. Voice work is on the same high bar, with impressive performances for Jack and the crow.
- An area of improvement is combat | You get a new weapon after every finished level, ranging from a wooden shovel to a talking sword. You can always go back to a previous weapon with your inventory but combat doesn’t require this. I wish it did because there is simply no point in using another weapon as the new one is almost easier to use or more powerful. The fact that you get a new move-set every time is great but I wish it had a bit more depth. They could have made specific enemy types that can only be defeated with a magic wand or shotgun. Your crow sidekick can be used in battle too but I felt this was really underpowered against most enemies. He could take out some weak ranged totem poles but that’s about the only reason I used him. If a sequel might see the light I really hope they give combat more attention and meaningful impact. Now it is pretty basic, still fun but I wish it had more flesh than skeleton Jack.
What we disliked
- Glitched Achievements | (no score reduction) I was honestly really surprised that some Achievements are not unlocking, as Pumpkin Jack is one of the more polished games I played. But alas, I have three bugged Achievements that keep me from having the full Gamerscore. The developer confirmed on Discord that a fix is coming (an improved Xbox Series X version too!) but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
- Nothing else | Besides the Achievements of that bug nothing else went wrong while playing. Which is quite an accomplishment considering you have so many different gameplay elements. This is a very polished experience and I can’t wait for a sequel. (Hopefully!)
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