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Reflection: A Swiss Cheese Halloween Pt. 2

Published on the 31st of October 2023, Edited on the 2nd of November 2023

Mod: Pumpkin Night
Author: Swiss_Cheese9797 and friends
Date: October, 2005
Homepages:
http://www.r-ben.com/~halloween
https://www.moddb.com/mods/halloween-2005
Download:
https://archive.org/details/pumpkin-night
Pumpkin Night Menu

Preamble:

Be sure to read part 1 if you haven’t already!

Sorry to interject this before we get to the mod and I’m also sorry for the delay. I’ve come to believe that the curse in Swiss Cheese Halloween/Pumpkin Night is real and I’ve been suffering through it the last few years trying to play this mod. For starters, I use Linux/BSD, so I have to use Wine to even play this mod, and the last couple years the mod has been really crash prone with recent versions of Wine. Using an old version of Wine did make SCH run more or less stable, but I could not get Pumpkin Night to run. I tried an older copy of HL2, I tried Steam with proton, nothing. I also tried putting it on my Steam Deck and I regret that because Anachronox (which runs through Proton) then broke and the mod still didn’t load. Argh!

So in order to do this right, and to avoid this in future, and to aid our archiving efforts, my friends, partner, and I setup an older 2000s PC we found near our apartment’s dumpster. With a mostly updated copy of Windows 7 and stable older drivers installed (I hope), we have frozen this machine in time to archive and play these gems from the past. Behold in awe of what I dub, The Hot Rod PC.

The “HotRod” PC

My current setup for older mods. I swear on my life tower this did not belong to any of us.

So keep in mind, I decided to play this on an older copy of Half-Life 2, one from 2006 since there are apparent issues with the version of Source SDK on Steam thanks to Steampipe. There was also something else completely unrelated that happened, something sad and urgent, but we will talk about that on this site in the very near future. For now, I apologize again for the delay of my stupid little article on this silly little mod. Enjoy!

Intro

After creating the charming cult classic, Swiss Cheese unleashed upon the world a sequel (or perhaps reboot?) called, “Pumpkin Night”. Serving as a demo for a much larger project that sadly never seems to have come to fruition. The mod came out October 2005, a fairly impressive feat considering the Source SDK had (officially) only just released back in December 2004, a mere 9 months to learn a new engine, make higher quality content, and release. This includes new models, textures, levels, voice acting, etc. Considering how simple Swiss Cheese Halloween was, this is really a step-up from the previous effort, especially given the era it was created. It seems a year afterwords, he made a “Redux” version, and I hate to spoil the article for you, but that version is leagues better than the 2005 version, which is why I’m talking about both.

What was my personal back story with the mod? Well as you may have read in the Swiss Cheese Halloween reflection, my father installed Swiss Cheese Halloween and we both loved it. Since this was 2003? (it’s been a long time and memory is fuzzy), Half-Life 2 had still not yet been released, yet Swiss Cheese had already been teasing he was going to make some kind of HL2 sequel. He even released a really well done wallpaper hyping up the project with an eager release dated of “2004”. For those that don’t know, HL2 never released in 2003 as planned, but if it had, Pumpkin Night probably would have came out that year as promised. My father and I even made an edit, where we crossed off the year to “2005”. We sadly never played or saw Pumpkin Night somehow, but my silly edit was actually correct as it did release that year. I finally found and played PN just a couple years later, perhaps it was 2007, and I was blown away but admittedly disappointed to learn that we could have, but that more never came. I also never played the Redux 2006 version, only the 2005 version due to the very confusing ModDB page. So I played Redux for the first time this Halloween, and I thought, why not play and talk about both!

An edit I did as a child of an official for Pumpkin Night

Yes, I did this silly little edit in PaintShop Pro as a child. You can click here to see Swiss_Cheese’s awesome original wallpaper.

Suiting Up

First we’ll talk about the original 2005 release of Pumpkin Night.

Where do we start? The story is mostly beat for beat from the first mod, though this time it’s vastly improved in terms of actually conveying it. We again start off with our now more believable teenaged cast, who are actually voice acted this time. You play as Sean and are with your friend Toby (from the first game, but didn’t have a name), who are going trick or treating. Well, Toby had already gone, much to the dismay of Sean. After going Trick or Treating together, which we actually can do this time around, Toby suggests we grab his bat at his house, and upon finding it leads to amusing exchange where Sean expresses his desire to own Toby’s skateboard (a possible call back to Swiss Cheese Halloween 1.0 which had a Skateboard). Toby’s only response to this is “When pumpkins fly out of my ass!”. Shortly after, Sean shares that he’s getting bored and mentions that you two should check out an old creepy abandoned house nearby called the, “Murder House”. Seem familar?

Toby dressed up as Frankenstein

Frankenstein’s monster, or in this case, Frakenstein’s friend.

Toby is apprehensive but chugs along until a mysterious figure briefly appears on your way, causing Toby to run away. Undeterred while making a fat joke about your friend, you press forward eventually finding the abandoned farm house. Inside we can see someone was killed here, making it clear why the house earned its reputation. It’s also very clear something strange was going on here, with the attic left locked but holding clues. Being curious, and perhaps wanting to prove your bravery while having nothing better to do, you break-in, and your life changes forever...

Trick or Treat!

How does it play? We start off locked into a small playable area where we have a conversation between the player (Sean) and his friend (Toby) who is dressed as Frankenstein, just like the Trick or Treaters in the original. After your conversation, you are supposed to head up to your treehouse and grab your costume, a pumpkin mask which actually functions. With two buttons you can take it off or put it on and it even obstructs your view, although it has no real affect on the game. Still pretty neat though. With your armor low, it’s appropiated as your hunger or strength, with Sean remarking that he’s “crashing from not having eaten all day” and he need some candy.

Now, we can finally explore the level, and this time, we actually Trick or Treat. In the original HL mod, there were a mixture of houses in the neighborhood that had their lights on or off, same here but they serve as a visual indicator for which house to go to! Unforunately, probably as a result of getting it out in time for the holiday, one of the very first houses you might visit is seemingly unfinished and will actually have a door that should’ve been locked. Opps! Be warned if you play this version, this won’t be the only house left as such, but it was an uncommon expierence overall.

Ok, bad start, but visit one of the lit houses next door and behold, one of the mod’s shining moments happens: You go up to the doorbell, ring it, you both also exclaim, “Trick or treat!”, but you usually come up with some addendum, like “asshole”, or my favorite one being “Trick or treat bitch”. Then an NPC comes out and hands you a bag of candy with it actually affecting your armor!

Going Trick or Treating with Toby

Trick or Treat!

This is admittedly really awesome, and gave me a laugh. However, this is where some of the problems come in. For starters, the doorbell is a bit tough to actually use correctly, with the game telling you to be directly infornt. And then we have the problem of direction, which is handled better than the original mod in some ways but still a problem here. You have to go explore the whole level which is fairly linear, but it’s an unnecessary long travel with a lot of it looking similar. It doesn’t help that while the neighborhood itself looks pretty good for the era, the surrounding hills do not and only add to the confusing layout. There also might be some lighting oversight (or maybe a driver issue?) where the models are just super dark unless hit by a direct light source, also not helping the visuals. But really the big problem in this level is that it’s so long to get to the end of the Trick or Treating I can see why some people were confused or thought there wasn’t anything more, but there very much is. I should also mention that sadly, you can’t enter any homes like the original, but it’s not a huge deal breaker.

So if you make it to the second block that’s when the bat sequence I mentioned earlier happens, and sadly as I also mentioned earlier it’s a bit difficult to figure out where to go, Toby’s house (which is where it is) looks virtually identical to every other house. Thankfully, the bat is on the driveway so that will be a dead giveway. Now this finally gets the ball rolling, and we trek to the Muder House. The path to the house is where the mapping takes a massive nose dive, it seems Swiss_Cheese really struggled here with getting the terrain to look good and instead we see a pretty bland path that takes us to what turns out to be a farmhouse. From this point on it’s more bog-standard with solo exploration, physics puzzle solving, all Half-Life 2 style but with that Swiss_Cheese feel.

The mapping here thankfully is more on par with before, being fairly large with a few buildings that don’t feel out of place on a farm. The house will have a couple items that stick out against any props. It’s here we will see some graffiti next to a spraycan giving a vague message. Looking around you can go inside the house which includes, and the other buildings finding a tractor and some gas for said vehicle. You’ll discover we can turn on the power to the farmhouse, but doing so breaks the houses dumwaiter, which you’ll realize is the only way up to the attic. The game more or less makes most of this fairly clear, with the attic being locked and having a window showing some strange lighting come from the top floor when looking outside. The main solution though might be a bit more cryptic. This where we get the real nightmare of Pumpkin Night.

So to give credit where it’s due, the puzzle here is rather clever, and the content for it like the tractor is a really nice model. To my amazement, the tractor functions different from vehicles in standard HL2. The vehicle has two levers that are controlled with the Mouse 1 & 2 buttons. Moving one or the other will release the tractor from its brakes and move it forward or backwards with acceleration. Again, this mod has some great presentation with very clever use of Source’s I/O system. Sadly though, this vehicle is crash prone. I can’t say whether it happened on the version of Source at the time, but on my 2006 copy it did crash at least once. On newer versions, it seems to crash almost every single time. Which is bad, since you need this vehicle to get up to the attic. I believe it was part of a highlight when the mod was streamed by the popular Vinesauce crew.

Pumpkin Night’s legendary tractor scene

I recommend setting up the tractor and pulley like so.

What do we need to do here? The dumwaiter is controlled by a rope with a hook, and we need to attach that hook to the tractor. Perhaps it was because of realism and the physics being a marvel at the time, but we have to manually place the hook and sometimes this can be a pain to get on or it will just fall off which is frustrating. After getting the hook in place, you are supposed to position the tractor to drive forward and pull the dumwaiter with you make a mad dash before it gets pulled without you. And god help you if you knock over the tractor, I hope you saved or you’re using the autosave at the start of the level (which credit for doing that at least). This puzzle sounds annoying, and it is a bit, but it’s actually not that bad. And I was able to do it in 10 minutes tops despite having not played this in years.

Are we there yet?

Alright, while I feel above gives away a bit, it’s necessary to know what you’re getting into, and if you do actually still want to play, then I would advise going down to my recommendation near the bottom of the page, don’t worry, I’ll also talk about the Redux there.

The evil book returns

Evil awaits… again!

Finally up here, and we can open the door now. Inside you find a room setup with a strange locked book and some kind of ritual involving candles and a painted pentagram. Here we must: light one of the candles, spray some kind of symbol (just a generic graffiti decal sadly) on the pentagram, and then find the key to book (hint, check the stairs). Although fetch quests can be annoying, this one felt ok to me, and the reward for it is quite pleasing, with the book this time around being animated with some dazzling effects. However after this spectacle, the script is flipped, nothing happens! You begin to leave the house making your way to the stairs and BAM! A familiar pumpkin monstrosity breaks out of the floor, along with a hundred more and a custom rocking track starts playing. The chaos has officially begun.

Trying to escape is fruitless as the blinds close upon you doing so trapping you in until you kill them all. If you didn’t find it earlier, a 357 with ammo is next to the body outline in the crime scene room. When you get out of the house, you have to trek all the way back to where you came from.

Pumpkin Zombies roam the neighborhood

There goes the neighborhood… again.

Entering back into the blocks reveal that monsters have taken over, keeping with the script from the original. Though it’s mostly unchanged, we see a giant animated laughing pumpkin on the hill (it looks great by the way), an what seems to be pumpkin vines running through all the houses, though in this version, they look very blocky. I advise not wasting too much ammo and time on the monsters, and just run past them when possible

If you follow the mostly obvious path, you’ll be reunited with Toby. True to the Swiss Cheese formula, what your friend said earlier came true thanks to your ritual. Toby, who is verbally upset, is now shooting pumpkins out of his ass. Honestly, it’s quite incredible. He advises you grab his Dad’s shotgun and pistol, which this scenario is thankfully a lot more logical and less unintentionally concerning as it was in SCH. Toby then bails to find safety and to avoid any crossfire from the player. From here on out we do much of the same until we end up at where we started.

Spoiler? Alert!

How does it end? You’ll find back at your house is Toby with the same mysterious figure you saw earlier, a slender humanoid with a distorted face. He explains that he is the “Clockworker”, and he is really difficult to understand. Essentially, he explains that there was a prophecy surrounding the book, and by you completing the ritual, have gone against said prophecy thus angering an unknown force who has cursed this land. He has however given you a small act of kindness, by drawing you a pentagram that shields you and Toby from the monsters. Did you get all that? “Don’t worry” he says, “they’ll be gone by sunrise” as he chuckles and explodes away.

It’s here the game overlays a cute graphic wishing the player Happy Halloween and proclaiming “The End”. Sean can’t help but have one more expense at his poor friend, and mentions that it’s only fair he get Toby’s skateboard since, “pumpkins are flying out his ass” afterall. Toby begin cursing us out with the game stopping his f-bomb by returning you to the menu. I admit, it made me smile.

Well, now what

Well, now what?

Redo, Part too

Now that was the original 2005 release of Pumpkin Night, and it would be criminal to not talk about the Redux version and the differences it has, because the improvements range from subtle to drastic.

Pumpkin Night Redux Openning

A great opener.

Where do we start? This time around we get a nice flyby with custom music, showing the neighborhood which now has a few Trick or Treaters (which were previously lacking). The camera eventually ends on what is our house and we start off inside our house this time, bringing it even closer to the original mod. We even get to finally see the TV’s properly which have a screenshot of SCH, a cute meta reference.

We are supposed to go to our backyard where we (aka Sean) meet up with Toby, who is waiting for us in the backyard, similar to before only we have low health and no armor now (remember we haven’t eaten all day). The script is pretty much identically with you having to go the treehouse to grab your gear, you embark on Trick or Treating, go to the Murder House, and all that stuff. Same dialogue and story with a minor exception.

So what’s different? Well as you can probably tell from the start there is a lot of polish here the original release was lacking. For starters, the mask is now a single button instead of two, the Trick or Treating is mostly jank free now and since you have low health, it’s a bit more meaningful and kind of required. Of course, the biggest improvement straight away is the visuals, oh man this looks sooo much better. The improvements are in regards to the awful hills are replaced with forest, the path to the Murder House now is a forest instead of just dull terrain. Even our trek is changed up and isn’t as tedious (though it is a bit long). One of my favorite improvements is when you first get spooked by the Clockworker and Toby runs away, now his candybag actually falls on the ground spilling out candy to help you fill up your health and armor in case you missed any houses, pretty smart.

Trick or Treating in Redux

Trick or Treating is vastly improved while still being funny.

The farm also got a facelift, even moving around some of the buildings and ditching that awful tractor breaking ditch. The major addition here is details like cattle fences we have to navigate around in the right order, hay piles, and just other fidelity improvements. In true Swiss Cheese fashion, each fence has a door with a padlock and you break and open every single one. However, the puzzle and item fetching is the same, with some slight tweaks such as the jumpscare happening earlier, which I gotta say I think the original’s placement was a bit more fitting.

After reading the book, the cattle fences, the forest path there, and the streets you traveled all become mini-arenas being blocked off by dynamic moving giant pumpkin vine models. You have to once again kill all the “pumpkin beasts” to pass each area, which can be a little tiresome but doesn’t get too old or grindy. Though I do wish the trek was just a tad shorter. When you get the neighborhood, you are treated with what was lacking from the 2005 release: Absolute chaos.

In addition to all the pumpkin monsters roaming about, the details here are fantastic. We have crashed burning cars, animated giant pumpkin vines covering that even entering houses and pulling away the screaming residents, and to top it off, it’s raining. We also get some great visual hints, such as a crashed police car lighting up near by ammo. Again though we are fighting in mini-arenas until we finally meet up with Toby, and this is where we are given the ability to go through houses again, hooray! We even see Toby’s legendary Skateboard in Source engine. This time though, we have to enter homes in order to make it to the end, and same as Swiss Cheese Halloween, some are lit with the TV glowing, and some are completely dark, but they all contain enemies.

Redux version of the cursed neighborhood

Now it really feels like the pumpkin has hit the fan.

While it can get a little confusing to traverse, it’s laid out a bit better in Redux. For example, you eventually see the giant pumpkin again, but he’s placed at your house, helping you visually know where to go, before he was just randomly on the hills. And most importantly, when we get to see Toby and the Clockworker, they gave him subtitles so you can finally understand him. It’s the same ending from here out otherwise.

Let’s wrap it all up

And that’s it! Pumpkin Night is pretty short, about 45 minutes to an hour and a half max, but the craftsmanship displayed here, while perhaps still amateurish in some spots, is amazing when you consider this was the same people behind Swiss Cheese Halloween. It also showed the potential for those that wanted to remake their mods on the then new Source engine.

I know I keep bringing up how this is an early mod and what it does here is impressive, but to truly understand why I stress this remember that a lot of modders who had started on GoldSrc (Half-Life 1) were trying to make the jump to Source and many failed, including some big names like Nightwatch or They Hunger. Pumpkin Night is one of the few that actually did it, and you get to see the evolution this silly little confusing HL1 Halloween mod grow up into a polished fun semi-professional game. And I think that’s pretty darn cool.

To further avoid sounding like a broken record, I always try to view mods from the perspective of when they came out, and obviously I was alive at this era and knew what was passable and “good” back then. I do also have to keep in mind the contrast to today’s expected quality, but I hope you understand where I’m coming from here. So with that out of the way:

The voicework? It’s fair, perhaps with the exception of the “Clockworker”. Voice acting was kind of rare at the time for mods, and when it was there, well... (Night at the Office) I can buy idea of the two main characters being older teenagers this time around thanks to the voice acting, with the main issue being the recording quality, not the acting. Their banter has snarky immature comments and ruthless jokes, which I think we all have done (and might still do). To me they behaved and sounded like 17 year olds out on Halloween, not just reskined Half-Life models (though they still are).

Swiss Cheese Halloween Pumpkin Night

Quite the graphical leap that many struggled achieving.

The visuals? Well in Redux’s case, it looks great. Fixing almost all of the visual issues in the 2005 release while improving on the storytelling and sense of direction. And all the props and character models look wonderful. To top it off they even have custom face/mouth movements (faceposer). Expected for sure if you have voice acting but we’re talking about a 2005 mod here, Half-Life 2 was not even a year old when this came out! The only major compliant would be perhaps some more variety would’ve been nice, whether it be style of homes (it is suburbia I suppose), trick or treaters, enemies, etc . I think that’s one thing Swiss Cheese Halloween has the upper hand on. However, considering this mod’s length and scope, I can’t complain too much.

The gameplay? Oh it’s tedious at times, but the zombie killing is always satisfying, if not a bit monotonous. Though the real fun to me lies in the virtual Trick or Treat, and the preparation of the ritual. Those parts I longed more for as they feel like the author’s roots the most. In Redux, the Trick or Treat mode is pretty flawless, but the staged fights and long walks are tricky and can be off-putting.

Does it still hold up? Yes and no. Besides getting it to not crash and run on modern systems, some people tend to get bored (usually because they miss the sequence leading to the house) or become frustrated with the tractor puzzle and tedious walks. As with the first, don’t take it too seriously, and just give it a chance. Oh and definitely play the Redux version as it’s far superior, the 2005 release I would not recommend other than to see what early modding was like.

Aftermath

So what happened afterwards? Why did the full mod never come out? We wish we knew, we tried contacting SwissCheese himself, but sadly never heard back. What we do know though is he seems to be preoccupied with Kerbal Space Program these days, perhaps making the next great mod.

In the mean time, be sure to check out the links posted at the top of each article so you can play the mods for yourself! One last thing, have a safe and Happy Halloween!

And remember, Swiss Cheese showed us no one’s too old to go trick or treating!

Actually maybe you can be…

- Xylemon



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