When the game became harder... LASER!
Pony Island was a recurring thought for me (even if hidden) from the very moment it was released through Steam Greenlight. I had already heard about its quirks on the underground networks, but I failed to get my hands on it until recently. Created for a 48h Jam, the Ludum Dare Game Jam, its fame forced Daniel Mullis to continue the development until the actual release on the Gabe platform. Then Humble Bundle put this title in its packages and I could not let this opportunity to play it go to waste.
When you approach video games with adult themes, you can always find a typical atmosphere of heaviness and distress, an air of cryptic existentialist philosophy which complicates things up, turning the story into a tangled and intricate mess, in which the player manages to take the first steps in the plot after 20- 30 hours of gaming.
Of course, in the latest generation of indie games we can find a change of trend, but in general the heaviness is palpable. Pony Island is totally different: it is a storytelling video game experiment of the kind that has not been seen since the days of Edmund McMillen’s flash games (now collected in the Basement Collection on Steam), who made of their simplicity the mean for a story rich of contents and distressing backgrounds.
It looks simple, almost childish: a man in an arcade goes near a cabin and starts a round at Pony Island, a game where you have to do nothing but running and jumping over the obstacles. From the very first steps in the game, we begin to uncover the disturbing truth: the designer of the game is the devil, and he demands the soul of the players to prove how good his creation is.
Recensione Pony Island
Run! Like ther's no tomorrow little pony!!!
We embody a little pony jumping, flying and shooting binary code lasers from the mouth for most of the game; the rest is spaced out by various puzzle games and mini-games that change the system and the style of gameplay. We even have the ability to message with Lucifer and with the Prophet of salvation to discover secrets and visions. Everything is functional, simple and immediate with an almost complete lack of HUD and an almost nonexistent use of the keyboard.
The device used is in fact for the 90% mouse, as it is suggested by the Disclaimer at the beginning, and with the mouse we explore every corner of the game and find the key to the story. Interesting are the scenes that take advantage of the techniques that can be considered as MetaGameplay, which tries to take advantage of the visual innovations and computer tricks to make the player fall into snares and traps.
ReCode in Progress
A good part of the game is in WireFrame, a graphical technique that outlines silhouettes with lines and rudimentary geometric shapes. This Retro style goes very well with the more evolved sections and even better with the structure of the story, being able to relate significantly well with the wickedness of the game and his satanic look.
But this is not a limitation of the developers, as the game tends to evolve also the graphic look and to integrate colored sections and even 3D sections. The graphics engine used is one of the most popular in recent years and has made possible the creation of a dynamic title, but at the same time homogeneous in its different styles.
Space Pony alla riscossa!
Music & Audio: 7
Jonah Senzel is the composer and musician. Pony Island tones are variable and changing just like the game itself, but Jonah was able to create many musical themes, each suited to the section, amalgamating them with the gameplay to such a degree as to create rhythm tracks in some scenes. The sound effects are mostly taken from Freesounds, but this does not make the composer's effort any lesser! The sound library of a game in retro style is very small, after all, and it surely saved them a lot of time.
Pony Island is a game that goes down like a cocktail passed off as non-alcoholic. It goes down like cool water, but leave the burning for long moments. It makes you think about the programming work behind video games and about the emotional and physical strain that comes with it; this game tries to talk to the player, demonizing the role of the programmer, but at the same time it conveys all the suffering of creating innovative contents, different but contextual together. Everything can be summed up with the main mode and basically metaphor of the videogame programming: Run like a pony trying to jump over the obstacles and get rid of the bugs just to get to the final goal: appreciation from the poor souls of the gamers.
"If the players would tell me that they like it, I wouldn’t steal their souls" cit. Satan