A Sweet Treat

HIGH A well-themed 8-bit platformer that’s heavy on the charm.

LOW Not much guidance on the purpose of in-game collectibles.

WTF Was that boss’s chainsaw supposed to keep going after his death…?

An evil sorcerer has conquered the world. Lurching skeletons, floating phantom heads and chainsaw-wielding, hockey-mask-wearing fiends roam the land. Halloween is lasting… forever!

This is Halloween Forever, a retro-inspired side-scroller from 2016 that’s just been recently released on the Nintendo Switch. The game would look right at home on the NES thanks to simple, yet well-crafted 8-bit graphics. Clean textures and color choices help create an eerie world to explore, with basic (but responsive) controls consisting of jump and attack.

Players take control of Pumpkin Man, who upchucks candy corn to defeat roaming ghouls and ghosts as he makes his way through five Halloween-themed stages — woods, castles, dungeons, and so on. Each stage consists of multiple exciting boss battles like a large frog king, or a floating skull with homing missile eyeballs. All provide a challenge, but thankfully, the difficulty is of the tough-but-fair variety.

Like many old school titles, Halloween Forever offers replay with plenty of secrets to uncover. In addition to Pumpkin Man and Pumpkin Santa (he barfs presents!) players can unlock ten additional characters by finding their coffins scattered throughout the five worlds. These unlockable characters offer unique attacks and moves that might come in handy to find the other secrets like stone tablets that earn a secret ending for each character. I enjoyed uncovering the secrets, but only the most ardent fans will keep going until they reach a full 100% completion.

While retro in design, a few modern conveniences have thankfully been included in Halloween Forever. Players can increase their lives from the standard 2 to a whopping 99, as well as toggle the use of improved respawn spots to avoid replaying an entire level after death. For some reason the 99 lives option doesn’t save and needs to be turned on before each playthrough, but it’s a welcome addition regardless.

Unfortunately, no save game option is included apart from the unlocked characters. Halloween Forever can be beaten in roughly an hour, but there were days I didn’t have that much time to play. While it’s a minor inconvenience, it would have been nice to chapter select at one of the later stages instead of replaying through the first worlds again.

While it may be on the short side, Halloween Forever oozes charm that’s backed up by solid gameplay – this one’s a real treat for old-school platforming fans.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Imaginary Monsters and Poppyworks and published by Chuhai Labs. It is currently available on PS4, Switch, PC, and Vita. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch.  Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E 10+ and contains Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood. While the game is 8-Bit, there are splatters of what appears to be blood, but it’s not overly gory. Many bosses float off screen with stunned faces when defeated, though their designs may be slightly scary for younger gamers.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized.  There are no noticeable audio cues that impact gameplay. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. This game does not offer a controller map diagram, but movement is on the left stick or directional buttons. Jump is the A or B button and attack is the X or Y button.

Brian Theisen
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