By Marisa Alexander / January 1st, 2019
|Publisher||Imaginary Monsters (Steam), Poppy Works (PS4)|
|Release Date||October 22nd, 2018|
|Age Rating||E 10+|
It may be winter, but that doesn’t mean spooks and thrills merely end. Like Home Sweet Home, this is another title ported to the PS4 when it was originally released on PC. Halloween Forever was developed by Peter Lazarski, creator of Imaginary Monsters, with the soundtrack composed by Robert Mostyn. In the game itself, the star is Pumpkin Man, an animated pumpkin given a humanoid body with the ability to vomit candy corn. Given life, he sets out across five different worlds to confront the source of occult forces.
The game doesn’t waste time with setting events up, as you are immediately thrust into the actual gameplay. You run, jump, shoot out candy to attack and that is it. Your goal is merely to get from the beginning part of the level to the end where a boss is waiting. In between however, there are two main collectibles to look out for. The first one is runes, six in total. Collecting them all unlocks a unique ending. The second are golden lined coffins that contain another playable character. This is actually the main replay value the game has to offer. Besides Pumpkin Man, there are six other playable characters, with a seventh that is basically Pumpkin Man in a Santa costume.
The difference between the characters is more or less what projectile they fire out. For example, the skeleton shoots out two bones in two different arcs. In my experience, they work under the same physics as Pumpkin Man himself. They do have unique endings but all the levels are the exact same. This would’ve been an issue if it weren’t for the fact that the game can be beaten in one hour. However, that brings a new issue that the game is just so short and bereft of actual ideas to keep it going. Despite there being five worlds, there isn’t really any variety on how to approach platforming.
Overall, the game is rather bare-bones. The gameplay is overly simplistic in this day and age, the levels themselves don’t offer any creative design, the game is exceptionally easy, and it’s too short to possibly expand on anything. This could not have been more apparent with how the game handles different routes. Strangely enough, despite there being rooms with multiple doors, from my observation they all seem to lead to the same part of the level. There might be a time that a door skips a chunk of the level to begin with but it feels awfully rare when it happens.
The simplicity also bleeds into the control and feel of the game. Characters only have one walk speed and one jump height. You can’t control the height of your jumps nor do you have any kind of momentum. Such things are all set. The screen is also too zoomed in on the character itself despite being on a HD TV. There are times when you are expected to merely walk off a platform to go lower in a level, but there are spikes below where you can’t see them. So despite the low difficultly, the game still feels unfair at points.
Presentation-wise, the game also feels flat. In terms of the color scheme, the game is actually pretty good and for a solo developer the pixel work is forgivable. However, there is no depth in the art direction. While there are background elements, the far background is merely a black void most of the time. Helps to see things, not so much in giving a vivid picture. The soundtrack is not very memorable, being far too simplistic chiptune for my tastes.
In the end, Halloween Forever is merely okay. For $4.99, it’s a perfectly reasonable purchase despite the short length and simple replay value. For what was a solo project, it is a fine enough experience, especially since the artwork and animations were done in Photoshop of all things. As such, many of the issues explained above are far more forgivable than normal. So props to you Peter Lazarski. I hope the game was an excellent learning experience all the same.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
HalloweenPeter LazarskiplatformerPoppy WorksPS4Steam