I recently got my hands on Poncho, a 2D platformer, with a fascinating gameplay mechanic. The main idea within the game is the ability to switch between layers of the level, using the triggers. I can remember when parallax scrolling backgrounds where becoming more popular within games and Poncho manages to use this style and create an interesting new twist.
You play as a little robot-like character known as Poncho. You set out into the world that has lost human life but consists of animals, robots and vibrant environments. The overall aim of the game is to find out who the maker is and why the human race has disappeared. Poncho sets out on his journey in search of the Red Tower. During his quest you meet various characters, face many obstacles and figure out many puzzles.
At first the game takes some time getting used to as you figure out how to use the unique gameplay mechanics. You make your way through the various environments in search of keys to unlock various gateways. The keys come in different colours, meaning the game has various paths and gives good room for exploration. The level design is interesting and its your job to figure out how to navigate Poncho through the layers of each zone. You don’t have to find everything to exit the level, if you miss a key you could always just buy one instead and often the locked doors can be jumped around if you’re smart enough.
I liked the sense of freedom and exploration in the various zones and at times reminded me of the secrets hidden in original Mario games. The ability to jump between layers means that you are faced with some really interesting puzzles and situations. This adds a whole new dimension to the puzzles and forces our Poncho to make perfectly timed jumps and maneuvers to progress forward. The game does become quite challenging and requires thought to make your way through each area as they become more complex. The levels reminded me of other games like Wario Land and Paper Mario.
I found the gameplay to be a little bit too slow in terms of pacing. Some of the keys you need to progress are hard to find and I found myself getting quite frustrated at times. There are a number of vertical puzzles that require you to be extremely precise. You have to time jumps and moves perfectly. Some of the puzzles and level designs are quite tedious and frustrating. One other small gripe I had with the game was Poncho himself. Although he is cute looking, he is slow and hard to control. Luckily death isn’t really a problem in Poncho, which is a good thing considering how often you’ll be doing it. You respawn quickly where you died in seconds, giving the chance to jump straight back in and try again. This helps you want to give that challenge just one more try.
I really loved the vibrant colours and environments you travel through during the game. The world has a beautiful pixel art style, interesting characters and uses text in a nice way. The game has a similar look to games like Fez and Mutant Muds. When I played Fez I remembered loving the world design and puzzle system, whereas here I found myself getting frustrated too often. The soundtrack in the game is fantastic and suits the retro style really well.
In conclusion Poncho is a quirky little 2D platformer and an interesting twist. It’s a game that will appeal to lovers of puzzles, hidden secrets and nailing that perfectly timed jump. Aesthetically the game is beautiful and has the soundtrack to match. It a shame that gameplay can feel frustrating at times, there’s not much of a plot and little character development. Overall its worth playing if you like games like Fez and want something that you can play in short bursts or longer play sessions.
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