The PS4 version of Secret Ponchos is not exactly lighting up the “most played” charts for the system. Despite the fact that it was a PlayStation Plus Freebie, it seemed to be released with a dull thud. Well, that is not quite accurate: a dull thud still might have been heard. Trying to find a pick up multiplayer game is a futile exercise in waiting patiently, even with a the small player base needed to get a round started. It isn’t difficult to see why. The maps are simply too large for the two versus two in the game’s best mode, Domination. The eight player free-for-all Deathmatch was a tad too chaotic to match the game’s style of action, and the one versus one mode is better left unspoken. Finally, players only had a handful of characters to choose from without ponying up some dough, assuming said hand had just won a “holding a lit M80” contest.
To be entirely fair to developer Switchblade Monkeys, they have the right idea. This top down competitive shooter set in the Old West is a thinking man’s action game. Those who do not measure and choose their shots carefully will soon find themselves to be another number in the growing legend of some other gunslinger. When to take cover, flank, or just run in guns blazing are all decisions to be considered and made quickly.
Fortunately, Switchblade Monkeys are giving this release a new life on Steam, and with it fixes all of the issues mentioned above. While the developers take more pride in the improved back end, such as their matchmaking, the new additions to the front end make this the version to get.
First of all, four new outlaws will be added to the package in addition to the original and DLC characters found in the PS4 release. Their unique abilities add quite a bit to the game and complement other characters, making proper teamwork more viable. Finally, there will be a reason for players to choose someone besides Kid Red or Phantom Poncho, the only two I ever saw used in the console release.
The new three on three mode, Posse Leader, adds quite a bit, easily surpassing the original ones. In it, a player on each team is designated the leader. It is the other two players’ jobs to ensure the leader stays alive while softening up the opposing team so the leader can get the kill. The more enemies a leader takes down, the stronger he or she becomes. This level of forced cooperation takes the strategic action in whole new directions.
Also included in this package are a new single player arcade mode, AI integration and two new maps. Due to the multiplayer focus of the booth at PAX, I was not able to check out the single player portion. It is nice that it’s added so that folks can enjoy the game while waiting on friends to show up for some games.
Obviously, there were valid criticisms to be made about the original release of Secret Ponchos. Though they never stated as much out loud, a couple of this game’s exhibitors seemed to believe as much, too. With the new additions and updates, the Most Wanted Edition of Secret Ponchos is the game that it was always meant to be. After playing a round of the game, I asked the closest exhibitor a question I never thought I would ask before I walked up to the booth: “is it cool if I play another round?” Hopefully, when September 29 rolls around, this game will receive the acclaim that it now deserves. If you can’t wait, the Early Access version is available now.