This is part 3 of my video game 52 for 52 – a full list of games played so far can be found here
Game: Pony Island
N.B. For full enjoyment, I recommend playing the game before reading much about it. If you’ve played it or don’t really care either way, carry on!
“Ponies ponies ponies ponies ponies ponies ponies ponies ponies ponies ponies ponies ponies” – this is what my wife shouts out loud any time I try to use voice functions on my phone. As such, the term fills me with mild irritation mixed with a smatter of amusement as I remember the ridiculousness of each interruption. This mental definition of the word, while seemingly irreplaceable, now has a malevolent and clever competitor; enter Pony Island.
I think it’s important to point out from the outset to whose not already acquainted with the game, Pony Island is not really about ponies. Sure, you do play a good amount of the game as a pony jumping over fences and dealing with obstacles in the style of an endless runner but a fair share also deals with altering the game’s code and dealing with multiple requests for your soul in order to continue any further. The atmosphere of the game quickly changes from happy-go-lucky to one of foreboding and unease as the reality of the situation inside the computer becomes clear, all aided by a fittingly heavy and disquieting chiptune soundtrack and very crisp sound design.
The simple run-and-gun gameplay of the platform sections can be very unforgiving to a fault – while brushing a gate or an enemy with a pixel will send you back the start of a ‘level;, sometimes so will getting slightly too close. More interesting are the puzzle ‘hacking’ sections where you change the game’s code (and which eventually evolves into a lovely little butterfly game), but this outstays its welcome ever so slightly in the second half of the game. The best part of Pony Island comes with the interactions with the AI and your attempts to outmaneuver and trick it into making a mistake, while the game constantly breaks the fourth wall in clever ways while attempting to stop you.
At 2 hours, Pony Island isn’t the longest game you’ll play this year but at £3.99 (at time of writing), it’s well worth a punt. The premise is executed to a very high standard and there’s even a few interesting meta-commentary moments on game development in there too. The most important thing for me though is that I enjoyed my time with it, especially when it came to the some of the ‘boss’ battles.
I’m about to talk to my wife about this game. I’m sure you can guess what her first words about it will be…