“I don’t necessarily love rotting bodies, but there’s a texture to a rotting body that is unbelievable … You get in close and the textures are wonderful.” – David Lynch
Pumpkin Eater was created for the Spooktober 3rd Annual Visual Novel Jam by DevTalk and is a disturbing visual novel about a family with a dark secret.
Released: 17th November 2021
Note: This story contains child endangerment and graphic depictions of violence and human decomposition. Visuals can be censored in settings.
Gameplay and Narrative
Pumpkin Eater is very much a visual novel with little interactivity beyond progressing the narration and dialogue and no in-game choices. It is an engaging nightmare of a story about two parents who accidentally run over their son. The mother fails to accept what has happened and replaces his crushed head with a pumpkin and forces the rest of the family to go along with it. The tale is delivered through a mix of narration and dialogue and is well written throughout, giving the players a good sense of who each of the characters are despite the game’s short length.
The Psycho-esque narrative focuses on the strains placed on the family and their relationships by the bizarre situation giving it an unsettling human touch. The story progresses in days, though some are skipped, and with each passing day, there is a new, visceral and medically accurate description of human decomposition. At the end of the game, there is both a timeline to summarise events and the body’s decay as well as a glossary to explain medical terms such as adipocere and autolysis.
Pumpkin Eater has a sketchy hand-drawn art style finished with watercolour paints that bleed into open another to create unusual effects. The overall aesthetic is somewhat crude and jarring which fits the nature of the game perfectly. The sinister soundtrack features long drawn out strings and low rumbling drums that is both atmospheric and ominous. Similarly, the minimal sound effects are used well to emphasise the overall state of decay and help immerse the player in the gruesome tale.
Pumpkin Eater will take around 40 minutes to play but is a disturbing visual novel that will linger with players long after they have finished it. The combination of grungy, hand-drawn visuals, ominous sound design and visceral writing make for a memorable experience that is not for the faint-hearted. I highly recommend this to fans of narrative-focused horror games and interactive fiction.
If you enjoy unsavoury visual novels and are looking for another disturbing experience why not try:
Stilstand: An Insightful Portrayal of Loneliness – Curtain – A Garish Glance at a Destructive Relationship