As a brief respite from free-to-play games, I treated myself to a few games over the holiday break. THEN Pony Island came out?!
Anyone who knows me well, knows I like ponies… I would go so far as to say I love ponies! ❤
When I saw a short “let’s play” of Pony Island, I knew I had to get it and experience it for myself… And what a treat that was.
Pony Island starts you at an arcade-style cabinet, ready to play the aforementioned game, Pony Island. You click “Start Game” and nothing happens…
Your first task, get the game to run!
Moving into the options menu, you are greeted with a number of choices and eventually work out that you need to access the coding of the game to run the desired task.
This introduces you to one of the main mechanics in the game: hacking.
The hacking is well designed as it is easy to learn and devilish to master. Things start simple with your goal being to get the key to the lock and complete the operation. You do this by dragging the appropriate symbols into the correct slots.
As you continue into the game, more symbols will be added with their own effects on the puzzle, but you will also be tasked with negotiating long operations with only a handful of symbols and you will need to keep swapping them around to get the key to travel where you want. You get the loading bar to operate through one of these puzzles and then while the game loads, a voice tells you a bit about the past of the game and how it wasn’t intended to run… Weird…
Pony Island certainly doesn’t make it easy for you to enjoy the pony-frollicking experience.
When you eventually get the game to function, you get to play the other part of the game: Pony Island itself!
Pony Island is a side-scroller, featuring simple controls just like it’s hacking counterpart. Left Mouse Button jumps and the goal is to get your happy pony to the end of the stage, avoiding the gates which appear.
[A few more controls are added as you progress, but I shan’t spoil them for you.]
Now, after you complete a few levels, some strange things start to occur in the game; beyond the surreal voice.
You drop out of the game to a desktop and begin to look around it. There are corrupted files, strangely named files, a messenger app and a game called Pony Galaxy. You can dabble with whatever you want but eventually see the messenger flare up.
Someone under the handle “h0peles$0uL” contacts you and requests your help. They tell you they have been trapped in Pony Island for years and you may be joining them soon. They only way to save yourself is to save everyone else and destroy Pony Island’s core files.
And so begins you dark journey into Pony Island and it’s past…
You learn that you are being drawn into a battle between a being seeming to be linked to the devil and the souls he has captured through Pony Island. By working through the files of Pony Island, you plan to find the core files of the game and delete them to liberate all of the souls.
And that is all I am going to say on the story; it really should be enjoyed without any previous knowledge and I have given you more than enough.
The game really quite an experience to behold; it offers intrigue and hidden depth to an already deceptive story. Apparently it offers meta-content in a similar fashion to Undertale, a game I am yet to experience for myself but fully intend to.
There is some interesting things Pony Island throws at you which really had me questioning how deep into the game I was; I mean, it is already a game about playing a game but… Is it?
The game features a collectible, in the form of Pony Island Tickets. These are primarily the game’s way of letting you know when you have found a secret and there are 24 to find. I know I missed one, right at the start, but didn’t expect to finish my first play through with only 9 of them. Due to the game’s relatively short timeframe, multiple playthroughs are achieveable and I know I will be delving back into Pony Island once I have finished this review!
Like I said, Pony Island isn’t a particularly long game and I completed it in a single sitting of ___. Saying that, I was fully invested in the experience, got stuck at a couple of points and had a short break for dinner. That being said, I enjoyed every moment of the game. When I thought it couldn’t make me smile anymore, it did.
Now, I already have a fondness for ponies. I also like dark undertones to sweet things and Pony Island is the perfect blend of both elements. Oh, and the soundtrack is fantastic; it’s £0.79 on it’s own, or less with the game. You really have no excuse if you like Chiptune music!
I cannot recommend this game highly enough, though I know the title alone will put some people off; a sad truth I discovered at University, just this day. It offers a beautifully sinister experience in a highly accessible form while still managing to bring delight to the user. What more could you want?
What? An ending that is totally worth the effort?
Yeah, Pony Island has you covered on that front too!
Ellen has always wanted to be a pony and this game let her experience that in an all too ideal environment. She managed to keep herself above the immersion to catch these screenshots, but then she forgot to continue taking them; but you wouldn’t want the experience spoiled for you anyway, right? Daniel Mullins’ work needs to be fully appreciated by the user themselves, so go and lavish £3.99 and enjoy it; you will!
Last played and completed on 10/01/16, for Steam.