Are you a fan of Fez? How about Super Meat Boy or Shovel Knight? In fact, do you absolutely love 16-bit retro games? Well, Poncho will break your heart.

Game Review by Tom Hillman | 24 Nov 2015
Game title: Poncho
Publisher: Delve Interactive
Release date: 3 November 2015
Price: £10.99

The allure is there, with its cutesy character and great chiptune soundtrack but once you get past the opening sequence it becomes apparent that not only does the game need more work on its presentation, the gameplay also needs more work in general.

Your protagonist, a robot named Poncho has just witnessed the end of the world and in the attempt to make things right, sets out on an adventure in search of a looming tower that appears unscathed. Visually, the game looks vibrant, appealing in fact, and entices you in with the promise of exploration and the ability to find out more about the world and its inhabitants. Unfortunately whilst the game world looks like it's full of things to see and explore it's actually rather linear and whilst it's populated with many machines to converse with, they’re pretty tight lipped. It’s a missed trick and makes the experience feel like a second rate Fez.

Gameplay wise, Poncho is a side scrolling 2D platformer; the main hook is the ability to switch between different planes within the game a la LittleBigPlanet. For example, there are blocks that move towards and away from you and you'll need to anticipate which plane they are going to move into so you can time your shift correctly and jump onto them without plummeting to your doom. This is the singular mechanic that underpins the whole game and unfortunately it's utterly frustrating. Whilst there's no death penalty to speak of, as you re-spawn instantly, the problems stem from the fact that the jumping feels too loose and the controls are not tight enough.

Furthermore, the game is really tough which wouldn't be a problem if, when you died, it felt fair, In Super Meat Boy, rapid death is a given but never felt too punitive, your failure was just that, yours and by improving you could overcome the challenge. It doesn’t feel like that in Poncho - it just feels like a massive grind which is exacerbated by a lack of checkpoints. There's a section of the game where you're climbing a tower of constantly shifting blocks, and in the last ten years I don't think I’ve ever been closer to ripping my controller in half.

It's all a massive shame as it looks and sounds the business but in reality Poncho is an excessively frustrating one trick pony.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyyBLaFcnQ8 http://poncho-game.com