Pony Island – What We Think:
Pony Island! Run free, jump over hurdles and be the most amazingliest adorable pony evah! Right? …Technically, maybe yeah, but what we have here is a short and sweet puzzle game with an interesting set of puzzles and a computer hacking theme between the more puzzle-y puzzles.
It’s mainly a puzzle game with a few hand-eye coordination tests in between (which start off incredibly easy, but get quite a bit more challenging near the end). Pony Island takes you on a quest to save your soul and those of others trapped by Satan himself from a horribly made and buggy game about ponies. You’re not just at the mercy of the game Pony Island, though, but also the rest of the computer system that the “game” resides on.
The Devil U Nix
Before you can even begin the “game” of Pony Island, you must solve a couple of code path puzzles – generally, a set of three columns with spaces to place blocks that represent commands for a key that passes through the code. The object to get the key to the exit while avoiding getting it reset one way or another on its path through the page of code.
While the game is only about two hours long, the difficulty for these puzzles ramps very smoothly and becomes the most interesting when you are fighting to complete it while an AI keeps messing with your command placements. To make any progress requires the player to poke around broken menus, find hidden passwords, and force their way into an otherwise unplayable – for story reasons – mess of a game.
To the Victor Go the Spoilers
While it looks like a C64 or Atari 2600 game, it fits well with both its presentation and theme. Even later, when it dramatically changes, it still feels like the same game. Even more, I can see bits of the actual developer saying to himself, “I like this puzzle idea I have, but it needs something more to make it zing.”
This package it’s in now – and I already feel that what little I’ve said is too much – is perfect. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and has a few unexpected twists and surprises, which again I feel is saying too much, but it must be called attention to just to give proper notice and praise to it.
The only thing I’ll say is that when a friend of mine was playing it, at some point he randomly messaged me over Steam apologizing to me. You can come back later after playing the game to thank me for not spoiling some of these moments.
Most of Pony Island’s charm comes from its computer-breaking, rule-smashing, and fourth wall-shattering tricks and surprises. Once I got deeper into it, some of the puzzles were legitimately satisfying, too. All in all, it was fun in more than the ways a game is normally fun, but also for how it actually “got” me a couple times. It’s definitely worth two hours of your time.
Pony Island is available on Steam.
Watch the trailer for Pony Island below: