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PAX East 2013: Secret Ponchos Preview and Interview

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There seems to be unexpected resurgence in the spaghetti western genre. With Django still fresh in our minds and games like Boothill Heroes hitting the Indie scene, it’s almost as if the wild west is the new flavor of the month. But like with any trend, there is potential for over saturation and you need to be clever and original in execution if you intend to use a popular theme. It’s important for developers to keep that in mind and it looks like Secret Ponchos may be onto something.

The team over at Switchblade Monkeys has been working on the title for over three years and it’s come a long way from its initial concept. What started as a simple homage to the western genre quickly grew into a massive, arena combat fighter with more heart and intuition then usually seen in the style. What looks like chaos onscreen plays smoothly and strategically. The frantic play style and multiple weapon and move set for each character may be overwhelming at first, but the game allows you figure out how each type of attack functions and never leaves you in the dark as to how the mechanics perform. Simple little nuances like having a displayed range while aiming and notable animations for when you break your enemies line of sight allows you to pick up lessons even while in the heat of battle.

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There are currently five playable characters with another on the way and each feel fresh and inter resting without breaking the tone of the gameplay. Each one in the demo version has a firearm and a melee weapon all varying in reach, effectiveness and function. Killer has a six-shooter with decent range, an average stamina meter and a knife used for lunging and controllable throwing. Poncho is more elusive. He has a shotgun that deals great damage with selective range, a giant stamina bar and a whip that can be used to stun, strangle or cause an opponent to drop their weapon. Each character is well-rounded and fits a specific play style so once you find your favorite, you’ll feel right at home.

The combat itself is intense to say the least. While trying to manage reloading and waiting for your stamina meter to recharge, you’ll be inundated with bullets, knives, swords, explosions, flames and the like from all angles. It’s not just about shooting but resource management and pure strategy. Not only that, the line of sight feature allows you to trick your enemy into falling into a traps and the destructible cover keeps everyone changing up their plan of action. If you aren’t aware of your rapidly adjusting surroundings, you’ll be gunned down for sure.

We hope to see if Secret Ponchos can be the run and gun western that gets the credit is deserves. It’s ability tiers and fast-shooting action feels like and FPS, but it’s heavy lean towards melees and focus on stamina feels more like a one on one fighter. The fusion of genres plays well and both compliment each other. It all whittles down to a game that has to be played to be understood. Although there is not set release date, the creators have every intention to continue to polish the title until it’s at its best. We have no doubt it will be when it finally hits the marketplace.

[Written by contributor Alex Cabral]

Make sure to listen to Alex’s excellent interview below

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