Review: Evil Pumpkin: The Lost Halloween (PC)

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Evil Pumpkin: The Lost Halloween
Publisher: Two Desperados
Developer: Two Desperados
Genre: Hidden Object/Adventure
Release Date: 07/11/2014

First things first. I’ve heard of Christmas in July, but Halloween? This game just seems poorly timed. Of course, I would love it if Halloween happened more often, so I’m not going to complain one bit.

Evil Pumpkin is the kind of game you’d usually find on Big Fish, not Steam. While Steam does have its share of hidden object games, the more casual nature of those games doesn’t necessarily appeal to its fan base. It’s interesting to me that this game made it through Greenlight.

The game starts off with a little kid having just stolen his father’s Halloween book. It turns out that in this kid’s town, Halloween doesn’t exist. The kid discovers the holiday be reading the book and takes it upon himself to investigate. What follows is an adventure through a creepy town that ultimately leads to a Halloween-themed world. Of course, not everything is as it seems.

evilpumpkin1It sounds like a kid’s movie or something, and it really is. That would be fine, except the story doesn’t do a good job of actually telling you what’s going on. It’s more focuses on having creepy characters say and do creepy things before scribbling a new objective in your journal. The plot itself is kind of vague and doesn’t make much sense. It often leads you wondering what to do.

Visually, the game looks nice, but is definitely typical of its genre. It’s mostly static images and sparkles, with very few animations to speak of. The animations that do exist are basic and choppy looking. They don’t even bother trying to animate the humans. Still, the art style is amusing to say the least. It’s funny how a town that doesn’t celebrate Halloween seems tailor made for it.

I can’t decide if I loathe the audio for this game, or hate it outright. The voices are pretty bad, but most of them seem to do a decent job of matching the tone of the script. That’s not something you can usually say. The music can be downright catchy at times, even if it sounds cheap and repetitive. The audio comes and goes at odd times. Hidden object scenes were often completely silent, but would still suddenly pick up a tune here and there. The effects are pretty much the stock effects that all of these games use. The sound for the door opening will be familiar to anyone who’s ever used an instant messenger, for example. It’s not good, but it’s also just not bad enough to bother turning off.

If you’ve played one of these games before, you’ve pretty much played them all. Everything is done with the mouse. You simply click what you want to interact with, drag items to where they need to go, and so on and so forth.

evilpumpkin2One thing this game does differently is that it lets you choose whether or not you’re going to play the hidden object sequences. When you start up a new game, you have to choose a difficulty. Anything above “casual” will turn off the HOS. Instead, those areas will simply let you grab the item you need. For some, this might be a godsend. However, playing on these difficulties will slow down the hint meter. It’s an interesting trade. If you do the HOS, then you’re in for the usual stuff. You have a list of objects to find, and you gotta find them. Sometimes you’ll have to find things based off of silhouette instead of word description, but that’s about it.

You’ve also got a variety of mini-games to deal with. Your basics show up; slide puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, etc. There are a couple of more interesting ones as well. One of them involves trying to keep a candle lit as you walk around the house. You have to move your hand around to block out the breeze. Another one has you pushing a tire with a couple of sticks, but that’s not nearly as fun as it sounds. These mini-games can be skipped unless you’re playing on the hardest difficulty.

The adventure stuff is pretty much what you’d expect. If you see an item of interest, click on it. If you can pick it up, it’ll go into your inventory. If it’s an interactive spot, the cursor will turn into a gear and your character will make a comment about it. Items in your inventory can be dragged onto the screen to do what they need to do. Keys open locks, screwdrivers remove screws, and magical liquids turn a thimble into a giant cup. OK. I’ll admit that last one wasn’t all that intuitive.

That’s one of the game’s problems. In order to help manifest its zany nature, it often throws logic out of the window. One puzzle had me picking bait to catch fish. The bait included pickled mustaches and a musical. There was no way to figure that one out. Problems like this persist throughout the game, and often leave you smashing the hint button in frustration. If the hint works that is.

One of the gimmicks in this game is so called “RPG elements”. There are a few items you get that are permanent. These include a slingshot, a pair of scissors, and an ax. These items “level up” with use and gain abilities. That is to say you sometimes won’t be able to use them in area B until you use them in area A. The idea had merit, but it almost never comes up. Only once did I try to use one of these items before I was allowed. This mechanic really just boils down to a talking point to lure customers in.

evilpumpkin3I can’t wrap things up without talking about one of the mini-games. It seemed simple enough. You had a mess of objects and had to sort them into two piles. Each pile was meant to belong to a specific person. Your only clue is that one of the people was a priest, and the other was a woman. Several items were obvious. The priest gets the bible, the woman gets the lipstick, the priest gets the briefcase, etc. However, most of the items were completely ambiguous. For example, one of the items was a picture of the family dog. Either of these people could easily have a dog. And it’s not like the game lets you know when an item is in the right spot either. So if you don’t get it right, it could mean you’re off by one item, or ten. There’s no way to know. Solving this thing basically involves trying out every possibility, which is ludicrous.

I’ve also heard about and encountered some game breaking bugs. Users have reported keys not appearing, which made them have to restart. On a test run, the game didn’t load an icon during the tutorial. This led to being unable to continue the tutorial and thus unable to even start the game. I had to delete the file and start anew. I also found a glitch where I had selected one difficulty, but the game started up in another. It just seems buggy at this point. I really hope it gets patched.

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1-150x150Evil Pumpkin is a game that just doesn’t do all it can with its premise and gameplay. It wants to be more than a typical HOG, but it isn’t. The touted RPG elements are pretty much a lie, the story is confusing at best, the game is buggy to a fault, and there are puzzles that just don’t make any sense. It’s not all bad though. If you manage to get a good run going, the game is an amusing romp that lasts a good while and provides a few laughs. I did enjoy some of what it did. I just wish it had done more.

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