What’s the skinny? An isometric multiplayer shooter with a spaghetti western flavour, Secret Ponchos is one of the most interesting games coming this year and you’ve probably never heard of it. Shame on you.
Just the facts, please: Developed by Switchblade Monkeys and heading to consoles sometime in the Summer, this online multiplayer shooter combines elements of first-person blasters, brawlers and RPGs to produce something that is, on the surface at least, quite unique.
You’ll take control of one of six customisable Outlaws to engage in duels with other players to earn reputation points, with which you can upgrade your skills and weapons. Each Outlaw has their own play style and weapon loadout, and they’re rocking everything from revolvers and shotguns to bull-whips and dynamite. While the finer details of the customisation system are yet to be divulged, it’s likely to be a combination of tweaking your character’s appearance and abilities so that you can tailor your avatar to suit your preferred style and stand out in the crowd of psychotic cowboys.
Duels can be one-one-one or free-for-all affairs, and the aim of the game is to survive. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the isometric viewpoint would make it too easy to spot your opponent, but developers Switchblade Monkeys have thought of this, too. In a similar vein to last year’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, line-of-sight is a crucial factor. If your enemy is not in your character’s cone of vision, whether out of periphery or hidden behind cover, you can’t see them. How scary is that? There will likely be unlockable abilities to help certain characters see round walls or conceal themselves better, but it’s a factor that will keep you on your toes, necessitating the kind of twitch-gameplay usually reserved for the FPS. That said, we’re not entirely sure yet how it controls, but from the trailer we’d guess it’s a twin-stick variant of some kind, which is aces.
The Outlaws themselves are a mixed bunch, including former ranch-hand turned gunslinger Kid Red, masked desperado The Phantom Poncho and frontier assassin The Killer. Each one is unique and carefully designed to not only stand apart from the others, but to also gel as part of Secret Ponchos’ skewed take on the Old West.
Should we be excited? All evidence suggests that yes, you should be a little bit excited. The setting is actually quite original for this type of game, and there aren’t many isometric shooters of this vein available nowadays. It’s almost reminiscent of old school classics like Smash TV and Extreme Violence (remember those? You do? Really? God, how old are you?) in that it’s a frantic, excessive blaster aiming to deliver a dose of good, clean, unpretentious fun.
Switchblade Monkeys is comprised of industry professionals who have worked with Blizzard and Radical and have come together in the hope of making something that manages to be great fun and original at the same time – their design ethos is based entirely around what they find fun and enjoyable, so the trite old marketing cliché of “By gamers, for gamers” is actually apt in this instance.
Unveiled at PAX East earlier this year, Secret Ponchos turned heads with its bright, cartoonish art style and individuality. There are echoes of Gearbox’s exceptional Borderlands, but Secret Ponchos eschews teamwork and crazy lootz in favour of maniacal blasting and fast-paced duels.
Your progress will be stored in your character’s Legacy, so you’ll always know which areas you need to improve in and you’ll have a handy record of your kills, deaths and notoriety. Given the pedigree of talent behind the game, and judging from nothing other than the screens and trailer, we’re predicting a cult following for Secret Ponchos when it hits consoles in the next few months. As always, we will keep you updated as more info becomes available.