Poncho is a 2D pixel art platformer with an interesting parallax mechanic that managed to impress me and annoy me for a variety of reasons. It begins with a nice cutscene involving the world in flames, and you play as Poncho, a robot who wakes up in a lab. The prologue section involves some basic platforming followed by a cutscene, and various aspects of Poncho remind of Fez in the best way possible.
Visuals in Poncho are amazing. There’s no two ways about it. In a time where many indie games are going for this aesthetic, Poncho manages to look gorgeous with its lush colours, subtle animations in the environment, and lively look overall. Poncho the character looks rather commonplace in comparison to his environment. Every area manages to look unique as well, which is something I did not expect. The attention to detail with even the smallest of birds is exceptional.
Levels wrap around each other and as you play through them, you learn to stomp and solve a few puzzles based on the parallax mechanic to acquire gems and keys. These keys let you progress ahead and can be bought in-game with gems. There are also robots that you can bring back to life for another character you meet in your journey that add a nice side objective to each level.
The parallax mechanic encourages you to switch between planes to progress, but you’re introduced to moving platforms early on that make Poncho more of an annoying experience, letting down the great audio and visual design. These moving platforms get even more irritating when you’re required to move up, and there are multiple platforms each with different timers for switching planes. There is often a very tiny window in which you will have to execute various jumps across platforms that have their own timers to switch, which is maddening.
Expect to die often and respawn from the last platform you were on. There’s a bug I experienced where Poncho was in a neverending loop of death and respawning. Speaking of issues, the frame rate starts to tank in some locations, and this completely breaks immersion in a game that otherwise performs great.
I absolutely adore the little things about Poncho. NPCs often talk to you as you pass them and small birds fly across planes while you are trying to solve a platforming puzzle. The world feels alive and it makes me sad that those moving platform-based sections soured me on my experience with Poncho. It’s still worth experiencing for the art, music, and attention to detail, but the actual gameplay gets old and tiresome relatively quickly.
Gorgeous pixel art.
Moving platforms are beyond annoying.
Bugs with respawning.