I have a bit of a soft spot for weird and wonderful games. I especially like it when they look unusual and try to make themselves stand out from the crowd. What I worry about though, is if it will be all glam and glitter and no concept.
Ponpu by developers Purple Tree Studios and publishers Zordix Publishing is a single and multiplayer indie puzzle game that has been influenced by Bomberman. If Ponpu can reach even 50% of the standard that Bomberman has, then my fears surrounding the concept can be forgotten.
You know it’s going to be weird as hell when the story is based on the Duck God’s desire to wipe a planet. Even so, let’s roll with it! This all-seeing being has decided that every 2 billion years the planet that he has created must be destroyed. He sends you a birdlike creature known as a Ponpu to complete its task. As you fall to Earth, you bump your head. Upon waking, you decide you must protect the creatures that you’ve been sent to destroy.
The gameplay flows through 10 challenging worlds. Each has a different environment and unique monsters. Traps and puzzles will block your path, and you must use your arsenal of bombs to attack your enemy’s and remove the environment. Feathers can be collected and keys must be found to unlock the door to finish each stage. These golden keys are then required to access the den of each world’s boss.
Single-player doesn’t evolve.
The bosses that you face will test your resolve as they blast you with their bodies and projectiles. Once you understand their attack patterns, they are as simple as the rest of the game. Unfortunately, the ease at which this plays out soon makes the gameplay flat, and it fails to evolve. The addition of traps and pits gives you something to consider, but this soon becomes tedious as well.
Ponpu’s saving grace, and where Bomberman can be seen most, is the multiplayer modes. 3 different ones are available; Deathmatch, Coin Steal and Paint Battle. Each is a joy to play, and the online community I experienced was fun and enjoyed the challenge. It was refreshing to play a game that didn’t have a toxic online environment.
The three modes.
Deathmatch – Exactly as you’d expect; choose your character, grab your bombs, and kill everyone in sight. Tactics are a must and using your shield to deflect bombs and running away are handy tips to staying alive.
Coin Steal – A ruthless game of murder and theft. Pick up as much gold as you can and stay alive. If you die, you drop it all, and others benefit from your misery.
Paint Battle – A Splatoon style game where bombs colour areas, and the person who has the most land in their colour wins.
They are all fun in their own rights and show off Purple Tree Studios love of the Bomberman franchise. Had the multiplayer mode not been added, I’d say this was all talk and no substance. But this breathed fresh air into something that looked great but felt bland.
It looks great!
I was instantly struck by how great it looks. A mainly monochromatic colour palette allows the striking art style to take centre and front. The crisp lines and unusual character models gave this an alien appearance. The last time I was in awe of imagery like this was in Don’t Starve. The surreal sprites and unusual worlds were great to look at and explore. Ponpu is simply a fantastic game to observe.
The weirdness didn’t stop there. A synthesised fast-paced audio joined in with the bizarre gameplay. This high-tempo music wasn’t to my liking, but it worked well with the theme and the style. The constant shuffling sound of your characters webbed feet and the crash and boom of your bombs were set at the right level. They were neither annoying nor did they overwhelm the other elements.
Bomberman strikes again, this time it can be found in the easy controls you’ll experience. Responsive movement, no lag issues, and simple layout make this a straightforward title to master. Even during the hectic online play, you won’t struggle to play Ponpu.
I wasn’t sold on the single-player mode, and though I plan to gather all the achievements from the small list, I have no real desire to return. What makes this game addictive, however, is the competitive, stupid and fun online play. This is the area that will keep gamers coming back for more.
It’s good, but it’s no Bomberman.
Quick, fun and non-toxic online games are scarce, so I applaud the developers for their success here. It was such a joy to play, and I could have lost myself for hours in its different modes. The overall package is good, but it’s not Bomberman! Its single-player campaign lets it down, but if you want to play online, then I recommend it. If you want to take on the Duck God, buy a copy here! It’s time to pick your Ponpu and save the world you were instructed to destroy.