Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Oct 292021
 

Pony Island is not really a game about playing the endless runner called Pony Island. It’s a game about being trapped in limbo, forced to play the Devil’s badly-made games.

(This is not a spoiler. Pony Island makes no pretense of actually being a cheerful pony game and reveals Lucifer pretty quickly.)

In theory, you’ll be stuck playing Pony Island forever, possibly with the option of giving the Devil your soul. However, it’s a simple matter to exploit the game’s flaws and hack into it in search of a way to escape.

Pony Island is… bizarre. I’d call it a puzzle game first and foremost, since you’ll frequently search for clues of how to proceed and play “hacking” mini-games that involve rearranging tiles to redirect a key down the path you want. There are also some endless runner sections, though, and a few other parts that switch up the gameplay even further.

It’s an entertaining experience. The game is both creepy and funny, and it also has one of the best fourth wall breaking tricks I’ve seen in any game.

Click for Pony Island spoilers
One of the bosses requires you to keep your eyes on him, so you lose if you pause, minimize, open the Steam overlay, etc. At one point in this section, the game mimics you receiving Steam messages from one of your actual Steam friends.

I don’t know how the game chooses which friend to mimic, but for me it picked someone who had actually sent me a real message right ahead of the fight, which made the trick even more effective.

Now, the narrative falls a little short for me. I expected it to do more with its premise, and there are also some inconsistencies due to its different aspects – you’ve got an in-game desktop with multiple programs and games, but it’s also an arcade machine? Okay, maybe nitpicking the logistics of the Devil’s gaming machine isn’t important, but then there’s the fact that much of it is designed so that you, the player, are the main character, yet you can learn more about the main character’s identity and past.

Those are just a couple of minor things that made the game less effective than it could have been, but enough of the things it did were clever enough that I don’t mind.

So if you want a puzzle game that’s creepy, funny, and overall a bizarre experience, check out Pony Island.

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  3 Responses to “Celebrating All Things Spooky: Pony Island”

  1. Ah yes, Pony Island. What an interesting experience. I’ve forgotten a lot of it by now but I remember that spoilered out trick they played, very clever of them.

  2. […] a really big surprise was Pony Island 2: Panda Circus. We talked about the first Pony Island a couple years ago, as part of 2021’s spooky games celebration. It was a puzzle game that was […]

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