Pony Island - Review

Author: Mattia "Zave" Ravanelli
Date: 2020-03-02 23:58:50
There is a sweet, cute, innocent pony leaping across soft meadows, kissed by the sun, on the Pony Island title screen. It would seem more of a unicorn, considering the few but essential details of the silhouette against the light, but all in all it is certainly not the only lie of the game made, almost two-handed, by the Canadian Daniel Mullins. He certainly does not lack the courage, given that the two hours of play that are necessary to enter the unpredictable whirlpool of Pony Island totally rely on the word of mouth of those who have already passed it. How else can we hope to virtually swipe the credit card to those who don't know what this theoretically harmless Pony Island is?

The problem is that talking about it becomes almost a sin. Saying first, saying now, what happens after downloading and launching the game, seriously risks ruining the surprise effect, otherwise assured if your trust is at such levels as to do the following: go to Steam, spend those 5 Euros, play Pony Island and then we'll meet again here. Why should you do it? Because you could hardly find anything similar on the market today as today, even taking into account all the crazy bets that appear every day on the Valve store.

However, Pony Island is not a game in the strict sense. Or rather: it is not an experience that puts at the center of his speech the most refined, particularly innovative or addictive game mechanics. His strong point is the ability to always hit from the side, to constantly displace and never leave the player with the feeling of total control. Or, at least, he tries constantly to do it and, for long stretches of those only two short hours, he also succeeds, which is not a trivial matter.

Let's put it this way: at least one generation of players has been marked by the puppeteer blow of Hideo Kojima in Metal Gear Solid, when his Psycho Mantis was inexplicably (so to speak) to read in the player's mind, to dig into his past as a fan Konami. Illusionist tricks that, in a sense, are also the driving force of Pony Island, albeit in a different way and with different methods. What is most convincing about the game, however, remains the same ability to play inside and outside the rules of the game itself. After the start it takes on the break, the effect tends to get lost a little, but only partially. Even once you discover the Mephistophelic nature (in more ways than one) of Pony Island, it becomes difficult to escape its grip. The fact that everything lasts so little naturally helps and in this sense it must be said that Mullins was able to understand after how much to stop, even if the last shots under the belt do not convince as the first.

Just as everything does not always manage to flow supported by the best rhythm. When his two main game sequences, repeated several times (a simple shooter and a puzzle game), occupy the screen, towards the end you can be taken by the desire to avoid them, to move on. Because it is the absurd narrative and the minimal and intoxicated scenography that deserve the applause.

Pony Island is a good experiment, of those that make sense to exist only in this form: with a similar price, with a duration of this type and with the wisdom of not wanting to take yourself too seriously. Enough to spend some time wondering what the heck is going on, ending up throwing yourself into the cauldron of comments, of forums, of confrontation with those who have already put out their heads. And it's always a good sign.

I downloaded and played Pony Island in two sessions, for a total of just over two hours. There is no need to say much more than the end or what happened immediately before. Warning: the game is only available in English, whose understanding is fundamental.