"A robot, a poncho and a journey of discovery! Make your way through this wonderful world of pixelated parallax platforming to solve the ultimate puzzle: who is Poncho?" - Poncho, Steam Store
The particular hook Poncho uses to partition itself from other games is its parallax playground, a positively pleasant take on the 2D platformer. In Poncho, you are able to bounce back and forth between foreground, center and background at will, a system that bestows upon the player unique puzzles and well balanced platforming challenges. This style doesn’t always land - the vertically designed districts (one entire level, and the second half of the last) decidedly increase the difficulty exponentially due to the danger of dropping back down - but for the most part, it’s a dandy game.
A huge positive is that there is (predominantly) no palpable punishment for failure. When you do not land an attempted leap, you’re location is reset lickety-split to the last ledge you were occupying - no loading screens, no loss of legal tender. While some enjoy the extraneous challenge of risking it all on a single jump, the non-existent execution of life enhances the enjoyment, encouraging extra exploration and experimentation. This functions to fortify Poncho, allowing it to flourish where it could have floundered in frustration. The only caveat being the since-mentioned straight up-and-down sections - something that could have been sidestepped with a better solution.
Initially when booting up Poncho, my primary plan was to perhaps spend the afternoon playing it while paying more attention to podcasts. Instead, the evocative soundtrack enraptured my ears, enhancing the experience and keeping me eager to continue. Each stage sports its own seperate sound, shifting through various synth soundbites as you stride through each section of the game.
Simply staring at a single screenshot shows the similarities Poncho is drawing from Fez. I fear it doesn’t fathom the background depth Fez is famous for, but I feel an alternate form of this game that pilfered those ideas and re-fashioned them further, rather than just a fixing a foundation, could be truly fascinating. Ultimately, Poncho definitely feels like a decent test game for the small development studio behind it - making it more disappointing it didn’t sell well, based on a very direct post-mortem divulged by Delve Interactive (note: Poncho website now defunct; Post-mortem described on Destructoid). I’m willing to bet a sequel or even one independent of Poncho's world while expanding on it's ideas could be incredible. Secret areas proliferating the world to peddle out lore, practical uses for in-game ability upgrades and the such could proceed this from a groundwork project to the perfect obsession for hardcore secret pilagers.
Personally, Poncho was the perfect rainy afternoon game that perforated my brain through its proficient & novel mechanics, pretty art style and pleasantly enchanting music, and is a pixelated adventure patently worth purchasing should you prefer playing something pleasurably different, principally fun and pointedly satisfying.