#15 Impious Pumpkins

#15 Impious Pumpkins

December 14, 2021 0 By Owly

Today’s promotion is the debut release from solo Brazilian Indie Developer/Publisher Note Missing Games.

I was contacted by Allan Tomazini, the sole driving force behind Note Missing Games, with the opportunity to experience his first title – Impious Pumpkins – before it’s release. It’s almost December as I write this, and I’m feeling Christmassy. Having recently bought myself an early crimbo present – a TV so big you could land a plane on it – I wasn’t sure about pausing the preliminary rounds of festivities to look back at Halloween. To be honest, I don’t really care for Halloween. Much like Easter, I see Halloween as nothing more than a Sugar Olympics, and although I have a sweet tooth, I retired from the sport when I was old enough to pay for my own dental treatments.

But I’m glad I said yes! Impious Pumpkins is devilishly addictive. So, let’s play!

Impious Pumpkins is a cute/spooky real time tactics game where you take control of your own ghostly army to defend their resting places from hordes of evil pumpkins!

As always, when I first fire up a game, I pay close attention to the music. Sound is a universal language and it can help convey a tone instantly. As I let the main menu breathe for the first time, the game set it’s audible stall out, and subsequently my expectations. The score is playful, with melodies fluttering in sharp bursts, almost fleeing from one instrument to another in an energetic game of tag. Notes are tight and ephemeral, bouncing out mild, mischievous themes. The music is excellent, setting a mood of fun, excitement, and challenge, and it perfectly suits the cute and cartoonish style and presentation.

The premise of Impious Pumpkins has been kept simple. You play as a ghost summoner, working through fifteen levels that are spread over five different stages. Therefore, each map has three levels. You’ll visit a Graveyard, a Haunted Mansion, an Alley, an Egyptian Tomb, and finally a Corn Field. You command your legions from an isometric perspective and each level has its own wonderful detailings and charm, with specific music to suit each surrounding. Battle animations look great and the sound effects are hugely satisfying – the splat and orange smear of an enemy as you carpet the ground with them never got old. All levels are completed by fending off randomized waves of evil pumpkins for five minutes straight.

The opening battle plays out as a succinct tutorial. You start each level with 50 energy points, which you’ll spend on deploying four different unit types anywhere on the contained, almost claustrophobic maps. 50 points won’t stretch far, but every ten seconds or so, a blue orb briefly appears somewhere on the map. You have to keep an eye out for these as it is the only way to increase your energy supply. By clicking on these orbs, you’ll be rewarded with 10 energy points so that you may replace your fallen comrades. Even missing one is risky, but miss two or three consecutively and you’re pretty much screwed.

The units you can purchase are Ghost Warriors, Ghost Rangers, Ghost Mages, and Ghost Healers.

Warriors can take a lot of damage and are the cheapest of the four.

Rangers are good for obvious reasons but they need a little space and are only really effective in groups.

Mages pack a big ranged punch but if an enemy gets close then they’re done for.

Healers can be a god send, but they are very expensive and you can only have one on the map at any given time. Plus, although they heal all units within range, they can’t be healed themselves, so keep them protected.

Something the game does well is balancing the strengths and weaknesses of your units. There is fun to be had in the trial and error of various combinations and loose battle formations. After you’ve completed each level, you’ll earn Skill Tree points.

The upgrades in Impious Pumpkins were a pleasant surprise. Given the game centers around a relatively straight forward mechanic, I wasn’t expecting the skill tree to have been implemented with as much depth as it has. You can improve the health of units and the speed of their attacks, as well as reducing their energy costs. Rangers can unleash poison clouds and summon chilling auras that slow enemies down. Mages can spawn protective shields and scatter black holes around the map that suck enemies in and cause damage. Warriors can add lightning to their strikes and deal constant damage with multiple orbs that orbit individual ghosts.

You’ll need to spend wisely as you can’t reset the tree without losing your save file, and although there are fifty-six possible upgrades, you can only select twenty during your playthrough.

A tactic I used with varying degrees of success was to place a Healer behind an obstacle on the map. This would afford them a certain amount of protection. I would surround the Healer with Mages and an outer ring of Rangers. Then, wherever the enemy would spawn, I would deploy sacrificial Warriors right on top of them, acting as a distraction for said Mages and Rangers. Sometimes it worked so efficiently that I think Churchill would have been proud. Other times, initiating any real sense of strategy felt almost silly due to enemy locations being random. Just one elite evil pumpkin, birthing into my inner circle of trust, had devastating consequences for my ghosts – the resulting carnage was like watching a dog eating hot chips.

Success can require a significant amount of luck – maybe a little too much at times. You have no idea where the enemy will pop up and you have no idea if you’ll get a low level pumpkin on their lonesome, a group of four with their own healer, or one of the many elite pumpkins that can withstand an onslaught of attacks, all the while unleashing a barrage of their own. Levels are randomized each time, so it’s a roll of the dice. On top of this, the game is an ‘auto-batter’ meaning once you’ve placed your troops on the map, you no longer have any control over them.

Mark my words, the game is in favour of the pumpkins. You are the underdog and the game leans on that.

You have a ghost/pumpkin counter in the bottom right corner of the screen. As long as there are more ghosts than there are pumpkins by the end of the five minutes, victory is yours.

I restarted the campaign several times to experiment with the skill tree and the path that lead me to beating the game involved focusing all my upgrades on just one unit. For the final batch of levels, I just poured Warriors onto the battlefield and left them to it. I had thirty-nine fully upgraded ghost warriors roaming a small corn field on the hunt. It was very much a ‘mob mentality’ but my word did it work.

This is a challenging game, but adding difficulty options, or just a general tweak in favour of a wider audience might be beneficial to its longevity.

Once you have completed all fifteen levels, you unlock Endurance Mode for each of the five stages. I tried it out and it is a different beast entirely. I thought the main campaign was challenging but Endurance Mode really raised the bar. Combine this with the games’ Steam achievements, and there is a good amount of replay value.

I lasted almost four minutes in Endurance Mode. It felt like every other spawn was an elite pumpkin. Brutal.

I really enjoyed my time with this game. It’s casual in nature and you can dip into it for a quick ten minute blast, or happily lose an afternoon with a more focused session.

I played Impious Pumpkins on my MSI GF65 gaming laptop, with an i7 and an RTX 3060, and I had no issues whatsoever, and this includes bugs and crashes. The game ran wonderfully and if you enjoy tower-defence type games, then I’d happily recommend it.

For a debut release, from a solo developer/publisher, made in under a year…then wow, I’m hugely impressed. I hope this gets the support it deserves and I can’t wait to see more from Note Missing Games.

Impious Pumpkins is out December 14th on Steam
Twitter – @missing_games

Q and A

Just as a little bonus, I got to ask a few questions to Allan Tomazini. Enjoy!

Are you a fan of Halloween?

I’m from Brazil, so Halloween is almost non-existent here, just recently I started to notice something here and there, but I absolutely love the aesthetic and music.

What games inspired Impious Pumpkins?

When I first played Plants vs Zombies I always wondered what it would be like to have the freedom to place my units anywhere in the map and again I felt something similar when playing Kingdom Rush so, definitely those two games sparked the idea.

Are there long-term plans for Impious Pumpkins?

As for long-term plans, it honestly depends on how well the sales would be, I would love to add more environments, units and expand the skill tree though!

Your favourite gaming experience this year?

Favorite gaming experience could be Diablo 2 Resurrected, but the game is broken. I played Baba is You for the first time a couple of months ago and it was so awesome. Currently I’m replaying Commandos Behind Enemy Lines, I love that game, I would probably play the expansion and the second game too!