Pony Island: A game about ponies and nothing else
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
Sometimes, as a gamer and person in general I just want to play something simple and innocent to get away from the uncertainties of the world. Sometimes I just want to a game about cute innocent ponies that are just happy to be alive and well while living in a candy coloured world of hills and butterflies. Pony Island appeared to suit all theses desires and more, I was all prepared for nice afternoon of cuteness.
Then Satan showed up....
Pony Island tells the story of you the player interacting with a strange arcade machine called Pony Island, a seemly harmless endless runner game about Ponies jumping over gates and blowing away cute butterflies. That is until the arcade cabinet asks you to sell your soul to continue playing the game, like any sane person you do just that and you discover that Pony Island was created by Satan to harvest souls and it is up to you to find a way out of the game with your soul intact while helping other souls along the way. The fact that nothing I have said is a spoiler speaks volumes about how far this game goes down the rabbit hole. The writing is astounding, dripping with black humour and satire about industry business practices (you sell your soul as a microtransaction, it is not the deepest piece of satire but it is still pretty hilarious and relevant), Satan himself is shown as a annoyed programmer that is not really good at his job considering the amount of glitches you find. Pony Island is a short game; you can play through it within three hours or less, depending on what you want this can be a good or a bad thing if you want to play this for hours on end. However it is very cheap and can/should be played through multiple times as each time you play you discover more back-story to some strange event in ancient history. The game knows that you have played the game before and points it out frequently and it has an effect on the plot as a whole. I cannot stress how smart the game’s writing is, Daniel Mullins is a very talented writer.
The gameplay is pretty simple, in the parts where it is an endless runner you just have to jump, fly and fire demonic lasers out of the pony’s cute mouth, doing all of these at the right times will get you through with no problem at all. The same goes for puzzles; they are just placing the right arrows in the correct places to form a line to simulate hacking. They are not too difficult or that special in terms of overall mechanics, however the uniqueness and intelligence comes in with the presentation, one of the first puzzles you have to do is fix the start menu because Satan is a really bad game developer. The boss fights while few in number (just three) are all different in terms of using the limited game mechanics and are all memorable as a result, the final boss in particular messes with forth wall and the mechanics that boss alone helps it stand asides bosses within Undertale, Arkham Asylum and to a lesser extent Doki-Doki Literature Club. The boss fights are fantastically designed using what could have been mundane game design.
If you are expecting top end graphics that would put high end games to shame then you will be disappointed. It is mostly pixel art and the few times you do see 3d graphics it is quite weak, however majority of the game is set within the pixel art game of Pony Island and it looks great, the game has a really great nice but faintly sinister undertone to it even before all the intentional glitches happen. The visuals themselves are not too disturbing but are very effectively unsettling, the game might not be the most beautiful game in the world but it works and it works well at delivering the story and adding to that Creepypasta like aesthetic and visual atmosphere.
Putting the intentional glitches aside the game runs flawlessly. There is nothing to complain about, it is a superbly optimized.
Pony Island is a Creepypasta done right, it a short but terribly well written game that will most likely not be forgotten easily. Not one of the funniest or scarcest games out there, but a great game while it lasts, Pony Island is not a game about ponies.
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