Secret Ponchos is a western themed versus game that was included as one of the free games of the month for PlayStation Plus members on the PlayStation 4. Secret Ponchos launched on December 2 and was published from Switchblade Monkeys. The game focuses primarily on player versus player (PVP) combat. Now that the game has been out for some time, is it getting better or fading into nonexistence?
Switchblade Monkeys is an indie developer team that is originally composed of five people although seven more contributed to the final project. The team showed off Secret Ponchos at PAX Prime and managed to impress Sony representatives enough that they asked the team to consider bringing the game to PlayStation 4. Secret Ponchos is a verses game, the main focus is AI-less combat. Other game modes exist, all of which build upon the verses concept. Besides 1-on-1 there is 2-on-2, 4-on-4 and eight person free-for-all. Unfortunately, the game has no story or arcade mode.
The roster has a total of five characters, although that number is rather small, each character has a second weapon and each weapon has an alternate attack. In combat it becomes very important to know what each different character has weapon wise. Each time a character moves up a rank they get two points to use towards upgrading their character. The stats of a high-ranking player should be pondered as each rank gives the player two stat boosts of their choice, they can greatly change the outcome of a match. Additionally, reload is not a stat to level up, which is very odd and a missed opportunity.
The art style of Secret Ponchos is very distinct. The animation and lighting show off the world in a way that feels very natural for the western theme. The theme is powerful and surrounds the game entirely, from the menu track to the level up screen.
Each level feels distinct in its own way. Level layout allows for multiple approaches depending on location. Boneyard for example has a house that can be used defensively, it also has a gate and fence that make the fortress even more difficult to penetrate. The level Ranch has a fence that surrounds the entire battlefield. Whenever a player takes cover their icon disappears from the map, this means that a character can approach the enemy from a defensive standpoint. Each level has multiple ways to approach the enemy, lure them, or trick them, it goes to show that the solid design helps guide the players into an intricate dance.
Rumors of another character may reveal a sixth combatant, Gordo. However, as the game stands now it is really solid and downright fun. The lack of a story mode or campaign is quite sad but the game is all about battling against real players and not computer AI. The art style, soundtrack and characters all fit the western theme exceptionally well. Online seems to be losing players but still does a proper job of finding matches. The eight person matches take a long time to come together but 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 matches usually manage to perform without much problem. The game can be a little glitchy, but these instances can usually be avoided and do not subtract from the final product more than a tiny bit.
At first glance Secret Ponchos looks like a shallow kiddie pool, it does not have a ton of content and seems simple enough, but once enough time is put into it, the intricacies and depth of the system show off how legitimate the combat truly is. Each character is very distinct, they all have their own specific strengths and weaknesses that change how combat plays out. Although the roster is only five characters at the moment, each one can approach each level in a different matter, the result is a seemingly simple system with deep results.
Photo by Colony of Gamers – Flickr Licence