Original The Duel

PAX East 2014: Secret Ponchos – Behind the Poncho!

I’ve been keeping my eye on Secret Ponchos since I first saw it at last year’s PAX East and since that time the spaghetti-western-shooter has grown up and matured quite a bit… like a delicious cheese, if you will. Initially designed for the PS3, Secret Ponchos has been rebuilt to run at 60FPS on the PS4 and looks prettier than ever with enhanced character models, lighting, and a ton of polish. Secret Ponchos was seriously one of the best looking games I played in the Indie MEGABOOTH, and folks, there were a TON of games.

Playable for the first time at PAX East 2014 was the almost-all-melee Matador character class. Unlike her gun-slinging brethren, the Matador used a wickedly brutal sword, as well as barbed banderillas, to keep her opponents off balance and constantly on the defensive. The Matador also had the ability to blind her opponent, which temporarily removed her from sight and allowed her to quickly move into killing range. I was impressed with how different the character felt in comparison to the others that I had previously played;  it’ll be interesting to see if future characters put their guns away in favor of different, less shooty, weapons.

After catching up with designer Yousuf Mapra at PAX East 2014, I learned that the initial cast of six playable outlaws would likely expand after the game launches later this year. While not a lot has changed in the past year in terms of gameplay, the character animations and abilities seem more complete and refined.

The good news is that Secret Ponchos will be heading your way soon on the PS4 and recently announced Steam early-access this summer. Here is what I had to say about Secret Ponchos Last year, all of which still holds up.

[spoiler] The oddly titled Secret Ponchos allows players to control one of six outlaw fighters in an arena style class based top down shooter. If that sounds at all confusing to you, it should be, because the “secret” of Secret Ponchos is that it’s unique.

The combat system in Secret ponchos is simple. Each character has a number of abilities, similar to an arcade brawler, that he or she can utilize after meters recharge and weapons reload. Gordo for example can hurl a Molotov cocktail, light the ground on fire creating a wall of flame, or simply unload with his comically large Gatling gun. The action is quick and brutal, and can get downright nasty with six gunslingers running around a single map. Controlling your character is similar to modern FPS controls with aim, reload, and fire right where they should be. It only took me a single match to figure out how to play, denoting that much time was spent getting things to “feel” right.

I briefly talked to Switchblade Monkeys creative director Yousuf Mapra who mentioned that the team was comprised entirely of friends who were hoping to build something that hadn’t been built before. Seeing as how I couldn’t recall any top-down class-based spaghetti western style shooters, I think they may have pulled it off. Stylistically, the game’s characters reminded me of something that a young Rob Schrab (creator of SCUD) would have conceptualized. Each of the six playable characters were drenched in style; from the lightning fast Kid Red, to the gargantuan Gatling gun wielding Gordo. After spending a good thirty minutes with Secret Ponchos, I managed to play all of the characters currently available and was eager to try out even more. I even managed to get pretty good with my boy Gordo.

Yousuf mentioned that the build available on the show floor was actually in pre-Alpha, which hopefully means that some of the minor bugs and animation issues I encountered while playing would be gone by the time the game launches. It never pays to gripe about an alpha build, so I won’t bother going into detail.

Secret Ponchos was a huge surprise with a ton of potential. Should Switchblade Monkeys work out some minor balance issues, expand their character roster, and expand upon their leveling and/or skill progression, they will have a spaghetti infused hit on their hands.} [/spoiler]