We don’t normally begin reviews by describing defunct residential districts, but in the case of Mr. Pumpkin 2: Walls of Kowloon we have to make an exception.
Kowloon Walled City was a crowded, ancient Asian settlement that was torn down and replaced with a park in the ‘90s. Known locally as the City of Darkness, Kowloon Walled City was once the most densely populated place on Earth.
It was a massive dystopian Arcology, straight out of the cyberpunk genre – it was grimy, cramped, lawless, and probably quite smelly.
In other words, Kowloon Walled City is the perfect backdrop for a video game, so Mr. Pumpkin 2 is off to a good start. Even better, it’s the follow-up to Mr. Pumpkin Adventure, which received solid reviews when it came out back in 2017.
So does Mr. Pumpkin 2 live up to all this promise?
For the most part, yes, thanks to some well-crafted puzzles and a rich atmosphere that takes full advantage of its iconic source material – looking at the everyday life of the citizens in a truly engaging setting.
The graphics are hand-drawn, with slightly surreal character models and backdrops, and flowing animations. Mr. Pumpkin 2’s palette is mostly dull, brown, and grimy, but the game’s claustrophobic little rabbit warren world is also littered with neon signs and colored lights. Cotton Games is clearly an indie game studio with its own distinctive style.
But it’s the characters that really bring color to the world. You’ll encounter hoodlums, misers, degenerate gamblers, and hopeless paupers, but also jovial criminals, hard-working stiffs, quarreling lovers, and more. Kowloon Walled City is a rich tapestry of personalities and predicaments.
Unsurprisingly, your overarching goal in Mr. Pumpkin 2 is to help Mr Pumpkin to escape. You’ll do this by solving problems, exploring, and traversing across the slum by foot and public transport. Double-tapping on the screen lets you run, so moving around the world never feels like a slog.
Puzzles are fairly standard point-and-click adventure fare. In most cases you meet a character, talk to them (by tapping on the speech bubble that appears when you get close enough), learn that they need something, and go off to procure it.
Sometimes this just involves finding an object lying around, and sometimes it involves persuading another character to do something. More often it involves a cascading chain of actions (e.g., the noodle-seller needs a bucket which you can only get by persuading a washerwoman to leave hers unattended which you can only do by… you get the idea.)
Alongside these LucasArts-esque puzzles are some more Professor Layton-like self contained puzzles, which break the action up nicely. And while we’re on the subject of influences, Mr. Pumpkin 2 looks, feels, and plays quite a lot like a Machinarium. They could be cousins.
Solutions in Mr. Pumpkin 2 are rarely over-taxing, and an experienced point-and-click adventurer will breeze through the whole story in a few hours.
On the few occasions that we became seriously stuck, it was because we needed an object that we simply couldn’t find. The reduced screen real estate of a smartphone can make discovery a challenge, so you’ll have to become hyper-observant.
If you do find the puzzles difficult, Mr. Pumpkin 2 features a hint system that lets you pay for picture solutions. Given that this is a premium game, the presence of these IAPs would raise an eyebrow if these clues weren’t so completely unnecessary.
All in all, Mr. Pumpkin 2 is a worthy successor to Mr. Pumpkin Adventure, and a distinctive, well-made point-and-click adventure game in its own right, with vibrant characters and a good variety of puzzles.
It feels a bit cramped on the small screen, and veteran adventure game players will chomp through it in a couple of hours, but if you’re looking for a point-and-click fix Kowloon Walled City is a worthwhile destination.
Check it out for yourself right now via the App Store or Google Play.