Secret Ponchos

Secret Ponchos is a rather unique game with intense fights and a high skill ceiling but in need of more players.

By Woozie, Posted 30 Oct 2015

Nowadays the acronym MOBA will automatically make one think of either DOTA or League of Legends. While, perhaps, warranted, given the popularity of the aforementioned titles, it can describe something other than the two titans. Such an example is Secret Ponchos, a game that has been in Early Access for a large chunk of time. We’ve previewed it last year and, a couple of weeks ago, the developers released its full version on Steam.

Secret Ponchos, Review,Screenshot

What is Secret Ponchos, you ask? It’s an online isometric arena shooter that comes bearing a Wild West setting. As there don’t seem to be all that many titles similar to it, and taking into account its setting, one could say we’ve stumbled across a double-sized breath of fresh air. One wouldn’t be wrong on that assumption. Visually, the game has a consistent aesthetic with easily-identifiable characters that fall under various archetypes present in Wild West movies. From gunslingers to matadors, from drunken minigun-wielding, molotov-throwing brawlers to an imposing Native American brandishing a large blade, Secret Ponchos has it all and it’s not just visually that these characters differ.

Every outlaw has his or her own set of particular skills which can be employed to murder their opponents and gain bounty for themselves. The time it takes to get accustomed to using any one outlaw varies, but don’t expect jumping in and mastering any character right away. Secret Ponchos has a high skill ceiling. Every attack is a skillshot. It is vital to understand how to manage your character’s stamina, the resource used for dodging or using certain abilities. You need to know when to close distance or when to use your remaining stamina to run away from your opponent. You also have to keep in mind the fact that friendly fire is an omnipresent factor.

Secret Ponchos, Review,Screenshot

Getting to understand not only your character, but the other ones is key to success. With a set of skills that’s as varied as  Secret Ponchos’s it’s easy to get lost in the fights and accidentally end up stepping on a trap, thus rendering yourself immobilized for long enough to get mowed down by your enemies, or, with a stick of dynamite exploding in your pocket. Matches are quick and intense, having few slow moments. Cover can be employed to block enemy bullets and line of sight, giving you a few seconds to re-position yourself. Just remember that wooden boxes tend to break upon heavy impact. I learned that the hard way, when my skull quickly followed suit.

There are a number of different modes available. Unranked play features 2v2 matches that support three available sub-modes: Domination, where the aim is to get a 5 kill advantage over your opponents, Free for All, and Deathmatch which is, practically, a best of 3 Last Team Standing mode. Ranked play offers 1v1 and 3v3 matches having the previously mentioned modes with the addition of another. This mode, exclusive for 3v3 matches, marks one player from each team as leader. The goal is to defend your leader while assassinating the opponent’s. The winning team’s leader end gains passive bonuses for the next round.

Secret Ponchos, Review, Screenshot

It is a slightly odd design choice to separate match types like that. Unranked was meant as a practice mode that got players ready for ranked. Why, then, does it not feature the ranked game modes as well? Another flawed design choice is that of being able to see your characters’s skills only after the match has started. A tutorial is available; however, it would be extremely useful to be able to review the skills prior to the match starting. That way, players wouldn’t risk taking damage as they review their outlaw’s moves. The last issue to be had with the gameplay is related to the hitboxes. At times, seemingly perfectly-lined shots tend to miss the target. This was something that crept around in the Early Access version as well and, yet, there is a slight chance that it may just be something that requires getting used to.

Initially, as players gained bounty, increasing their rank, they received passive points which could improve some of their characters statistics. These passive points would only affect ranked play. On top of that, losing a ranked match meant you actually lost some of your bounty. As of a few days ago, that is no longer the case. Players start with 12 passive points that can be distributed however they wish, whenever they wish and losing matches yields 0 bounty. At first, I enjoyed the idea of actually losing bounty when things didn’t go your way, but it is perhaps for the best. The community is not very large at the moment, and, people playing since Early Access would have had an extra advantage over the newbies in being the ones who have access to more character points.

Secret Ponchos, Review, Screenshot,Female Character

There’s E-Sports potential in Secret Ponchos and that comes from its gameplay that’s based around quick matches and lots of skill. Every mistake you make is your fault. There’s no way around it. Add to that a presentation that fits the setting and theme of the game and you have a core that’s worth paying attention to. Yet, in its case that’s not quite enough. As with every online game out there, the community is an important element and, right now, the playerbase is not that large. However, gamers can fix that, and, with a price tag of 15$, it is very much worth considering, as Secret Ponchos is quite unique, at least for the moment.

Mateș Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Switchblade Monkeys Entertainment
Developer(s): Switchblade Monkeys Entertainment
Genres: Shooter
Themes: Online, Action
Release Date: 2014-12-30

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