Secret Ponchos

Despite some neat visuals, this online cowboy shooter is a frustrating experience

Game Title: Secret Ponchos

Publisher: Switchblade Monkeys

Reviewed On: Playstation 4

Available on: Playstation 4,PC

Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 17:28


Online multiplayer gaming. Those three innocuous words signify many things – the demise of the traditional arcade, the glorious disintegration of borders across the world for the gaming community, or a host of little bugs and irritations.

Secret Ponchos is a beautifully presented, but ultimately infuriating western-set game. The set-up is simple: It’s a third-person, twin-stick, multiplayer shooter. You play a quintessential genre character (such as a civil war deserter, a cocky kid or a Latina in matador clothes) and play duels to the death against online opponents. Sometimes you’re part of a team, other times it’s just one on one.

The presentation is fabulous, with cool comic-style character rendering and a menacing, Morricone-like score. When you find the right opponent, it plays well too. It’s a simple, fast-paced third-person shooter with clear rules and limitations.

So why the low rating? Well, the always-online format is problematic here. You’re often waiting a long time to find another player (up to half an hour for a two-minute game), and thanks to occasional bugs, the game sometimes crashes when the players are finally assembled and ready to start.

Offline, split-screen multiplayer exists in Secret Ponchos, but with strings attached, as both players must have a Playstation Network account. “You mean I have to create an account and surrender my email address to a network that was hacked in the past month?” my wife reasonably asks.

There’s no single-player campaign, only five playable characters to choose from, a handful of maps and no options of creating characters or drafting your own maps.

Secret Ponchos, despite having a name that sounds like a fancy-dress shop, was a game of great potential – an atmospheric, lovingly rendered and zippy little shooter plagued by baffling design decisions and limitations.