I first got a glimpse of Poncho at EGX last year, where the team were building up support for a Kickstarter campaign. Unfortunately, the campaign wasn’t successful, however thanks to the support and publicity that EGX gave, the team were approached by publishers Rising Star Games, who are giving Poncho that boost it needed.
Poncho is a bright, colourful, and gorgeous puzzle platformer. You play Poncho, an adorable little robot wearing, you guessed it, a poncho. A long time after humanity has been wiped out from the planet, the wildlife has become overgrown and the world has fallen into disrepair. Poncho then explores this world, helping out friends (such as the Junkyard King) while seeking his father, who left behind the poncho.
The gameplay of Poncho seems simple for the most part, there are very few enemies to get in your way and the platforming is clear enough. Quickly, however, the game adds in its unique feature: Poncho can jump between three different parallel layers. Jumping forwards and backwards, Poncho can get past otherwise impossible obstacles. Using the three layers, there are some interesting puzzle segments where it’s not instantly clear what the path might be, as there might be a hidden pathway on a layer back. Both the jumping and layer swapping are responsive, which make timed jumps feel fair. There’s no stutter when swapping layers, allowing for players to essentially flow between each layer.
You’ll meet other robots on the journey, such as this more existential-thinking little guy
Since the version I saw at EGX last year, the game has been updated to make this layer system much clearer. Lighting up the layer you’re on means you won’t get confused as to which layer is relevant to you, although a jumping segment had my mind boggled slightly as to the correct path. It’s not quite as confusing as the popular indie mind-bending platformer Fez, although just as satisfying.
The soundtrack is fantastic, you can get a good glimpse of it in the trailers released for the game, the most recent one being found here. As you’d expect by the art style, it’s an upbeat chiptune soundtrack.
Poncho is a happy game. Friendly wildlife jumps around the areas, small bits of each level move around to really bring it alive, and falling down a whole just results in Poncho resetting back up to where he was. The art style and gameplay are just a ray of sunshine. Where many games like to be beige and gritty, Poncho embraces its cheerful nature. Everything from the gameplay, to the art style, to the soundtrack is fantastic for this theme.
This is part of introduction to the Junkyard, where you can meet the lovely Junkyard King
The game alluded to a ground pound-style ability that could be acquired later on, the game will feature some progression in terms of abilities, although the developers made it clear that the focus was in the core mechanic of layer swapping, the added abilities would be minimal and focused on for very specific purposes, rather than having a complex system of abilities later on.
Poncho just exudes positivity. It is happy, bright, and could appeal to anyone. Assuming the layer swapping is used well by the developers to create interesting level designs, Poncho could be a truly phenomenal happy puzzle platformer.
Poncho currently has no release date, and will be available on Steam, PS4, PS Vita and Wii U. A release date will be announced in coming months, according to their website.
The game is still unfinished, and therefore subject to change in the future.