By Matt Cabral,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Fun platformer has cartoon violence, spooky style.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The game appears to tell a typical good-versus-evil fantasy tale, but the protagonist is technically an anti-hero doing the devil's bidding.
Positive Role Models
Jack is a snarky, sarcastic anti-hero who has made a deal with the devil.
Ease of Play
Communicated through a simple tutorial, gameplay is accessible and intuitive. Checkpoints are also frequent. No difficulty settings, so some boss battles might become frustrating for casual players.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of combat, with both projectile and melee weapons, fires and explosions. Some dead monsters can be seen hanging from trees. But all violence and violent imagery is of the cartoon variety, with no blood or gore.
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Characters often threaten, insult, and talk down to each other, but no offensive language to speak of. Some exchanges do contain threatening phrases, like "bashing heads" and "tearing limb from limb."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pumpkin Jack is a downloadable action platforming game available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC, and Nintendo Switch. It stars a pumpkin-headed protagonist who fights all sorts of ghouls, ghosts, and monsters in a Halloween-themed world. On the surface it appears to be another good-versus-evil fantasy tale, featuring a brave hero, but Jack is actually an anti-hero who's made a deal with the devil. There are frequent references to the devil and Jack doing his bidding, including bringing chaos to a peaceful kingdom. That said, it's all handled in a humorous, cartoon-like manner. The same goes for Jack's personality, which can be snarky, sarcastic, and insulting, but is played for laughs. There are also references to tearing characters "limb from limb" and "bashing heads," but there's no actual blood or gore. It does contain plenty of combat with melee and projectile weapons, as well as fire and explosions, but it's of the fantasy/cartoon violence variety.
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What’s It About?
PUMPKIN JACK is an action platformer that stars the titular anti-hero, a deceased conman and trickster who's been brought back to life -- complete with a pumpkin head -- by the devil to do his bidding. Jack fights various ghosts and monsters in a Halloween-inspired world reminiscent of the settings from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack is also accompanied by a crow, a reluctant, cowardly sidekick that can help fight enemies and clear obstacles. The game contains a mix of combat, light puzzling, and platforming. It's also notable for having been created and entirely developed by a single person.
Is It Any Good?
Despite the enormous popularity of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, its bony protagonist hasn't made a game appearance since Disney Infinity. Thankfully, the titular anti-hero of Pumpkin Jack should satisfy those who might be missing Jack Skellington and his spooky world. This new Jack is also a lanky, confident character who feels right at home in fog-blanketed swamps, haunted forests, and moonlit cornfields. In fact, his scary stomping grounds are the absolute highlight of the game, as every lush, atmospheric level is like a love letter to all things Halloween.
But even if you're not partial to jack-o'-lanterns, scarecrows, and things that go bump in the night, Pumpkin Jack's polished, well-paced gameplay fuels a fantastic platforming romp that fans of the genre should appreciate. A solid mix of combat, jumping challenges, light puzzling, and boss battles are supported by tight controls and clever level design. Toss in thrilling rides on mine carts and runaway horses, as well as special abilities -- such as removing Jack's head to solve puzzles, or sending his sidekick crow into battle -- and the adventure continually keeps things fresh. Combat encounters aren't especially deep or strategic, but progressively unlocking new weapons guarantees the button-mashing melees never grow tiresome. The game also contains a couple of frustrating stretches, made worse by the absence of selectable difficulty settings, but frequent checkpoints help soften the blow of these spikes. If you're craving a smile-inducing platformer with spooky style to spare, Jack's got your back.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the protagonist's actions and motives. Is he a hero or a villain? Can he be both? Is it OK to root for him even though he's an anti-hero?
What other games star anti-heroes? Do their motives or personalities change over the course of the games? Would you prefer to play as a hero or a villain?
What's Jack's relationship like with the other characters? Why does he make a deal with the devil? Why does he work with the crow?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Headup Games
- Release date: February 24, 2021
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Holidays, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: T for Fantasy Violence, Language
- Last updated: March 8, 2021
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