PAX East 2014: Secret Ponchos Impressions
Secret Ponchos is an upcoming release by indie studio Switchblade Monkey's. It's an online combat game with a Western aesthetic, inspired by 2D fighting games. At PAX, users participated in a demo of one of the games western-style gang fights, battling a variety of characters across a saloon and a Western street.
There are five playable characters with a wide variety of weapons styles, all falling into a variety of Western tropes (the kid gunslinger, for example.) For the demo, I played Kid Red, a dynamite throwing, duel pistol wielding class that I was assured was an easy class.
The art style is slick and distinctive, old school Western with a twist, with bold colors and interesting characters created from a combination of a traditional cowboy aesthetic mixed with Cowboy Bebop-esque sensibilities.
Battle in Secret Ponchos is fun and fast paced, filled with great moments -- the duel wielding pistol charge towards certain death, for example -- that define the Western genre. Evidently, the inspiration for the game came while two of the games designers played Soul Calibur while listening to Spaghetti Western music, and felt like the two seemingly disparate styles belonged together.
The fighting game aesthetic comes out in duel-like moments, with ranged attacks and limited melee that strike out across dusty Western towns. The developers feel that the characters attacks are "easy to play and hard to master," with competitiveness and strategy there to add depth to play.
Play happens both online, and with local 2 person splitscreen. Splitscreen seems like a dying feature, so I'm glad to see it here. There's something to be said for playing with a friend on the couch rather than talking through head sets.
Secret Ponchos has a staggered release schedule, with planned Steam Early Access in Summer, a Fall release on the PS4, and then a full PC release sometime after that point. The developers plan to continue adding content as long as the community exists, so there are already several more plans for proposed characters and locations. If you're interested, check out the Secret Ponchos website for more information.