A new title released by Switchblade Entertainment, Secret Ponchos was released this month as a free download for Playstation 4 PSN members, with Steam Early Access members required to purchase it but receiving an extra copy free so they do not play alone. Although a first work from this new and independent studio, it adds flavor to the genre of isometric multiplayer games with a fast-paced western theme.
The first decision one must ask when starting this title is regarding which outlaw they will become. These are: The Killer, Kid Red, Phantom Poncho, The Deserter and The Matador. My favorite of the starting characters is Kid Red, because he runs like the wind and dodge rolls like a tumbleweed, and all the while can toss up a not-so-friendly batch of TNT to wake up his foes with a bang. Like other shooters and action titles, Secret Ponchos also includes RPG elements that allow the customization and improvement of core statistics. While not truly an innovative leap over other leveling systems, it does the job well enough, but could include more weapon choices than one for each attack type.
Aside from the unique outlaws, players will find four starting battle arenas that range from small to large, set in a variety of western-style venues. Even with fast-paced run-and-gun gameplay, players will find altering strategies provided by the western-themed level designs in power-up placements and hiding areas. There is still much to be seen from Secret Ponchos given there are still levels being produced, and multiplayer connection issues will have to be addressed. Connecting to others for online play is a somewhat slow process and does not always work. With more time and word spread of Secret Ponchos this problem should be remedied.
Secret Ponchos looked to other games in this genre and asked what they could bring to the table – their answer was a new system of notoriety and outlaw status that allows players to level their characters based on accumulated bounty. It is well known that a more notorious bounty must equal a more dangerous outlaw, and this is true when players can deal out more damage and death tolls to other players with their preferred method of execution.
As a fan of isometric gaming and action shooters, I see this as a title holding a place for me in multiplayer gaming that I look forward to delving into as I take my outlaw to new heights of notoriety. Hopefully, with new skins and new weapon choices, strategies will evolve even further for those wishing to become the most sinister outlaw in the west.