Poncho, a game that a week ago, honestly I knew nothing about. It however was highlighted on Nintendo’s eshop update this week along with a trailer and it instantly hooked me. We at PSVG reached out the to the development team and they were gracious enough to supply us with a review copy of the game. I played the game on the Wii U entirely on the gamepad (just felt right) but it is also available on PS4, Vita, PC and Mac.
Poncho is an old-school 8-bit syle platformer, but with a major twist. You have the ability to jump into the backgroup and into the foreground to add depth to what otherwise would be a 2-D sidescrolling adventure. The story is about a robot who awakens to discover a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has totally disappeared. What happened is a mystery at the start of the game but it is up to our Poncho wearing hero to find out what happened and attempt to restore humanity. The landscape is primarily of ruined buildings that have now become overgrown with vines and vegitation with no signs of life other than the occasional robots you run into that are constantly questioning their own existance on this planet (or what remains of it). The overall style of the game is phenominal and instantly brought me back to the good old days of NES gaming. Controls are very simple for anyone to use. B button to jump, right trigger to jump into the foreground and the left trigger to jump into the background. It’s that simple. Very easy to play but not easy to master. There are many skilled timed jumps needed to get to certain areas of the game and could easily cause some gamers to rage quit. However I pushed through and continued on my quest to get to the red tower. I will keep the rest of the story as spoiler free for those of you that want to play it after reading this.
The music along with the art style and innovative gameplay mechanics are what make this game shine. The soundtrack adds to the wonder of the levels and has an almost eerie feel to it but nostalgic to some great scores like a chrono trigger or early final fantasy games. The game is not terribly long but does have some replay for completionists to revisit to unlock every door and collect every gem (for the sake of getting this review out I have not, YET), on average I would say for gamers familiar with old school platformers you would be looking at about 4 hours of gameplay, for novices probably 5-6 hours and completionist about 7-8 hours to collect everything.
Now, not everything is perfect in this game, as nothing ever is, it does have a few flaws that caught my attention. Nothing that even deterred me from playing for even a minute. I did have a few times the game slow down when alot of animated objects were on screen at the same time. Also the game kind of just throws you into the mix without not alot (if any) explanation for what you are supposed to be doing. For any of you that will try this one out, i will help you out a bit. Collect as many red gems as you can so that you can buy keys from the creepy robot in a trenchcoat who flashes you, so that you can unlock doors as they get into your way in search of each levels “launch-pad” that will take you to the next level. The other concern I had at moments was the jumping from foreground to background at times it was unclear where to go, and sometimes you couldn’t see where you were going (or trying to) when you were in between the different layers. But overall it was not something that ruined the game for me at all and it shouldn’t keep you from it either.
The last thing I want to highlight is this games ending. I will not spoil it with details but I will tell you, I was not expecting anything like the ending I saw from a game that didn’t give you much guidance along the way. It was a great ending, and definitely a payoff for some of the rage you may get jumping around for 3 or 4 hours.
Over all I think this a great game for anyone who is a fan of the 8-bit retro inspired indy games, which typically I am not, but this one instead of parodying the genre felt like a homecoming for someone who grew up with these types of games. Roll in its very different gameplay mechanics with a great score and overall, you have yourself a winner. It was a great summer type game that I was able to jump in and out of when I had the time and loved every minute of it. I cannot wait to see what this dev team has up their sleeves next. I’ve seen alot of comparisons to this and Fez, I beg to differ, I actually enjoyed Poncho! Congratulations Danny Hayes(Designer/Coder/Writer), Jack ODell(Composer/Designer), and Matt Weekes (Artist/Character Designer), you’ve got yourself a new fan with me!
Poncho was reviewed using a Wii U code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s review policy on our disclaimer page here.