I’m wary of writing too much about this game.
It’s tough. I do not want to simply tell you this game is good; I want to tell you why. However, that presents a problem. The problem is this: Pony Island, developed by Daniel Mullins Games, is superb due to the surprises it holds. If one takes away the surprises Pony Island offers, it’s simply a “good” title instead of an “excellent” one. That being said, I’m going to be as vague as possible so that you will be able to experience the game with fresh eyes. However, it would probably be best for you to just know this: the game is awesome, and you should play it immediately. If you keep reading, beware a few spoilers. You’ve been warned!
The story: you are playing a simple platformer starring a colorful Pony, guiding him/her through various levels, and avoiding obstacles, such as fences, to reach the goal at the end. Beyond that, things get pretty interesting, and it’s this “pretty interesting” that makes the game so memorable.
Seriously: don’t read too much about this game. Like Undertale, this is a game that needs to be experienced knowing as little as possible, discovering what the game has to offer, and adapting to whatever it throws at you.
Visually, the game is varied and charming. It plays fast and loose with different visual styles, and this works quite well. I cocked a giant grin on more than one occasion. When I booted the game up for the first time, I noticed that it used a similar aesthetic to “Her Story” in the way it shows a “screen-inside-a-screen”, implying you are actually playing as someone who is playing Pony Island. It’s this level of immersion that truly makes the game memorable, as Pony Island is showing rather than telling the story hidden beneath the facade.
Gameplay-wise, it’s very hard to classify Pony Island. On the developer’s homepage, they describe Pony Island as “… a suspense puzzle game in disguise”. This is a very apt description: this entire game feels like it is in disguise. Features conceal features, that surprise you with more features, etc. It would be fair to accuse the game of not knowing what it wants to be, but I feel that is precisely the point. It is a very theatrical experience. An experience that is benefitted by fully immersing yourself in the experience. By the time the credits rolled, I was stunned. “How did I get from there, to here?”, I laughed while making my way towards the end of the game. In some ways, this felt less like a game than it did a complete deconstruction of one. Throughout your time with Pony Island you will be jumping fences, shooting lasers, working around complex code, and flying over obstacles. As well as other things, again, best left unsaid.
Pony Island has some replay value in the form of tickets that you will acquire throughout the game. These tickets are hidden in clever ways, and it will take time to get them all, giving you plenty of reasons to explore. A nice touch in a game that could easily have done without extra features.
Pony Island reminds me why I love indie games so much. There is so much pressure on AAA titles to please the masses, that nothing bold is ever done. This game is trying to please absolutely no one. There are no boxes being checked as you play through this game. It is a completely unique entity that simply invites you to have an experience, then it is up to you to decide if you enjoyed it or not. For such a cheap price on Steam, it would be criminal not to recommend Pony Island without hesitation.