PAX East 2013 preview: Secret Ponchos is a beautifully designed competitive multiplayer game, primed to be a sleeper hit
One of the beautiful things about PAX East is that you really get to connect with smaller game developers. Every once in a while, you find a gem -- a game that you can tell has a ton of heart and soul poured into it. The development team at Switchblade Monkeys have a sleeper hit on their hands with Secret Ponchos.
Secret Ponchos is an all-online competitive multiplayer game with a western setting. The first thing that will capture your attention is the unique artistic style that the characters possess. Outside of the wonderful art style, each character possesses over 100 animations. There were currently five character being shown, with a sixth yet to be revealed. From Kid Red with his dual revolvers to Gordo with his gatling gun, they each have a unique gameplay style. Little touches to the animations, like the way The Killer aims his revolver before firing off a shot really add a sense of life to the game.
When you start out in Secret Ponchos, you will customize and customize your own outlaws -- changing things like their colors and such. As you compete in matches, you'll earn reputation points that will further customize your character. You'll be able to assign perks into things like speed and stamina. Want to make Kid Red the fastest outlaw in the game? Just pump all of your perks into his speed.
Adding a real 'Old West' feel to the game, Secret Ponchos will have bounties. With online leaderboards, you'll be able to see who the best of the best are. If you perform really well, a bounty will be placed on your head for other players to kill you. As you continue to perform well, the bounty keeps raising. So if you have a really high bounty on your head, other players might try to team up to kill you, because doing so will yield them more reputation. How terrifying would it be to enter a free-for-all with a bounty on your head, only to have every outlaw gunning for you.
The match type being shown at PAX East was Free-For-All, but there will also be a team deathmatch mode. The developers also mentioned a team combat mode that uses rounds. Two teams of three players will go against each other in a few rounds. The catch here is that when you die in a round, you're out. If your two teammates don't work together with you and die at the beginning of a round, that'll leave you against the entire team. It'll be really interesting to see these modes in action later and learn some of the strategies that players will be using.
The game itself plays like a twin-stick shooter. You can't fire a shot unless you aim, which you do my moving the right analog stick. This will bring up a line showing your range and reticle. Each character and weapon has a different range and you can earn different reticles later on. Each outlaw also comes equipped with two different weapons, and each weapon has two different firing modes. Don't think that you can just keep spraying out bullets, though. Just like in the Old West, you will have to reload. Here's a little tip: if you get behind cover, reloading will be super fast. The game uses line of sight, so cover will be extremely important.
There is no price or release date yet for Secret Ponchos, but the team hopes to release it this Summer, with platforms to be announced. They're aiming for XBLA and PSN, but that'll be announced later. If any third-party publishers are reading this, you should pick up this game. Secret Ponchos is a special game with a dedicated team behind it. With its amazing art style, great combat and western mentality, it's bound to be a hit among the online competitive multiplayer games when it releases.