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Review: PONCHO (Wii U eShop)

Message reputation : 86% (7 votes)
Wii U eShop Review

PONCHO

Published by Rising Star Games
Created by Delve Interactive
Wii U version by J.A.W. - Just Add Water

Genre: Puzzle-platformer, adventure
Players: 1

EU Release Date: 2016-08-18 / Price: 8,99€
NA Release Date: 2016-08-18 / Price: $9,99

Website: http://poncho-game.com/

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-uBKKFXikU

Tested: EU (PAL Version)

In the new 2D puzzle-platformer Poncho from Delve Interactive, you wake up in a robot body and see the world in ruins. Surviving beings have swapped their spirits into an android shell. What happened to the world? What's the huge looming tower in the distance got to do with it? It's your destiny to find out.


Poncho's most unique feature is his ability to switch to the background and foreground layers with the shoulder buttons at any time to solve puzzles and find new paths to beat stages or finding secrets. There is a sense of adventure that's broken up in 10 chapters.  After the introduction stage that serves as a tutorial as well as a narration for the story, the first two stages get you right into the meat of the game. Similar to games like Mutant Mudds - but without the shooting: in Poncho there is no combat - the three layers to switch to and walk on create 3D depth to the game and strolling robot NPCs with human spirits talk to you in speech bubbles, giving away bits of story and feelings about life in their new robot shells, as you pass by.

However, some areas, especially the first two (set in a detailed forest claiming back city ruins) are kinda overcrowded: Apart from the three layers you can walk on there are even more layers in the background that look similar to the ones you can travel on and therefore it's a little confusing and sometimes difficult to see where you can switch to, until you get used to the level by trying. And thankfully there is no penalty for trying things out. You have unlimited lives, and if you fail (by falling down a pit or being crushed) you respawn instantly nearby. When I first played Poncho, I thought this would be perfect to play on a Nintendo 3DS to see the different layers better.

Puzzles seem kinda frustrating at first but that's because the game is pretty different and you need brains as well as a bit of practice for the switching mechanic. Once you unlock other stages (by finding an exit) the game gets better. Stage 3 is the first level in where you get some air to breath because it isn't crammed with tons of stuff to do or foreground graphics obscuring most of the screen. At first it's a relief to get out of the forest, but later on you might want to revisit them to get items you likely have missed.


Inside the stages you can collect red chips. They are used to buy keys from a robot merchant who is somewhere in every chapter that has locked doors. Keys come in 3 different colors and open up locked doors. Make sure you always have enough of those around. You don't have to neccessarily buy keys though, as some can be found hidden in the stages. Also, there are a couple of upgrades: one to break certain blocks, and one to repair damaged robots, but these are just optional sidequests.

Collectibles are saved right off the bat, so you never have to get the same item twice, even if you fall to death while collecting something. At the level select screen you can see how much you have collected and how much is still missing in a stage, but you have to turn every pixel to find everything and there's no radar or help indicating where to look exactly. Some of the red chips are extremely well-hidden, so there's quite some amount of replayability for the veteran platform fan and explorer. I couldn't find all of them, and I replayed every stage at least 3 times, sometimes searching for hours. So, even if you master the games' mechanics, controls, and puzzles, there's still stuff to come back to, and that's where I started really liking the game. With more practice you see the stages aren't that bad at all. And even after 10+ hours I'm still wondering where some of those chips could be.


Most stages are made of several areas in a circular pattern, say, if you walk several screens to the right you eventually find yourself ending up on the left side of the starting point again, having literally walked in circles. I haven't seen this kind of level design in quite some time, and combined with the three-layer-gameplay it's creating a  good cohesive atmosphere that only crumbles when you accidentally find a way out of bounds and see the borders of the game world. The devs could have locked off those areas a little better, because as mentioned earlier, the collectibles are hidden so well that you want to explore everything, and so you eventually reach places that even the devs have never thought of being reachable.

All in all there are 10 stages: the intro stage, 8 regular stages with adventuring and exploring, and a final stage with no secrets, but tons of puzzle platforming and two endings. From the early forest stages, to a village, a cave, an ocean, and the tower, there's plenty of variety. The average player beats the main quest in 4-5 hours, but finding everything easily doubles the amount of time you can spend with Poncho.

The music in this game ranges from epic futurisitic melodies, to upbeat and funky but melancholic electronic beats that fit the story and theme of the game perfectly. The songs are enjoyable and don't seem to get old anytime soon. Every stage has its own tune or two, and not a single bad one. All areas have accompanying background noises. Even though you'll never see a bird in the Wii U version you can still hear them sing in the forest. And they sing relentlessly: you can turn down the music volume and you can turn down the sound effects volume, but you can never turn down the bird noises.


Unfortunately, Poncho on Wii U has some issues. For a start, there are no multiple save slots, if you want to start a new game, you either have to delete your old file or play on a different account. There are also bugs, some of which require you to quit and restart a stage. You can easily go back to the level select screen from the pause menu (if the level has been cleared normally once) and then load the level up again without losing the stuff you've already found. There are a few places where you get trapped, where platforms never activate and move for some reason, and where you simply get stuck in an infinite death loop. Also the framerate is very wonky which you can use to your advantage at all times: If you mash the jump button quickly you can do a rocketjump of sorts. With it you can cheese your way up to unreachable platforms, or shortcut and collect stuff skipping puzzles, whole sections, or an entire stage.

Furthermore, there is a hidden section in stage 1 that is so buggy that you will not be able to collect all the red chips. For that the game really needs an update. Also, the Wii U version lacks some graphical details: other versions of the game have birds flying through the forest, giant robots in the backgrounds, and other non-interactive characters that are not present in the Wii U version, I double-checked. It's odd because the Wii U could handle it. It's probably a glitch that could be fixed. Smaller issues drag down the presentation somewhat: Talking to the merchant and opening up the menu to buy keys is somewhat slow; also you can never acquire all the keys the merchant has to offer, because there are not enough red chips in the game. Even if all red chips were reachable, a good chunk of the keys will never be accessible (it's ok though, they aren't needed, there aren't that many doors to unlock in the game anyway). And finally, the level select screen has minor visual glitches that are hard to spot, but the title of the first stage "The Journey Begins" appears every time you quit a level which is dumb.

Poncho is a pretty colorful and fresh platformer recommended for puzzle fans and explorers but the Wii U received an unpolished port. However, it's only 8,99 instead of the 14,99 it costs on other systems. I would have liked to rate it higher, because once you get into the controls and mechanics there is a certain flow to the game where exploration gets exciting and parts that were frustrating at first turn into appreciated challenges, but the technical issues in this version drag down at the presentation and the overall experience.

SKTTRSKORE: 7.5/10

Written by SKTTR for wiiwarewave.com, 3rd September 2016
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Comments

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on September 9th 2016, 1:17 pmSKTTR
Message reputation : 100% (2 votes)
@RoboYoshi & @Aqua Cherry Blossom & @Trinity33 Thank you very much.

My next review for Tetraminos is up today. Smile
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on September 12th 2016, 11:32 amTinglemaster
@SKTTR Incredible review as expected! Very Happy
So what's up next? I vote Super Mario Maker! Very Happy
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on September 12th 2016, 4:53 pmSKTTR
@Tinglemaster: Bit Dungeon+ and Futuridium - Extended Play Deluxe are next on my list. Bit Dungeon+ is long overdue so think I'll get that out next. The developer promised an update but it's been 6 weeks and nothing's happened... I'll see if I can squeeze Mario Maker in. I really should for it's first anniversary. It deserves a good review.  I had a year and 500 hours of playtime with it. I also got a review code from Brian for Sanuk Games' Brick Breaker and got RCMADIAX Touch Selections and Shooty Space in the mail today.
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