Pony Island is a game that you’ll want to play or watch for yourself before you see too much about it. Even if you’re not typically spoiler averse, this really is a thing you’ll want to see unfold for yourself. It’s a game about faking you out at every turn, and tricking you into seeing limitations where they don’t exist. Did you like Frog Fractions? Alright, I’ve already said too much.
Daniel Mullins’ Pony Island is the most clever and surprising game since, well, Undertale. But before that…I’m not sure. I’m super into this trend of creating games about subverting design expectations. Frog Fractions, Undertale, and uhh…others? They’re some of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in gaming. As much fun as it is and will always be to shoot a dude in an FPS, playing a game where I have no idea what it is even capable of is always infinitely more enjoyable. I’d like to put them into a genre, but maybe that would defy what makes them so special? Subversive Games? I don’t know. But Pony Island is another one of them, and you should totally give it a shot.
It starts off simply enough. You’re trapped in a computer made by the devil (who makes video games apparently) to capture people’s souls and you have to delete parts of the computer and fight demons to escape, and maybe you’re also a medieval knight or something. Simple, right?
The game unfolds over time, expanding wildly even after a surprising first few minutes. Those first few minutes, though, are more interesting and clever than the entirety of some other games I’ve played in the last few years. First off, the start screen falls apart, and you have to piece the game back together before you’re allowed to “play” it. You’ll shoot some lasers from a pony mouth. You’ll be trapped in a hellish arcade. You’ll fight some of the best bosses in video games, who’ll use your own skills and expectations against you. It’s weird. It gets weirder.
It’s part puzzle game, part platformer, and the rest is just…whatever it feels like being at that moment. I’ll be very impressed with 2016 if this ends up not making my top 10 at the end of the year. That’s crazy, right? Like, a week into 2016 and we get a game as good as this. That’s pretty cool.
If you’re up for being surprised and outsmarted, give Pony Island a shot. Tell Lucifer I said hello.