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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Zordix
Developer: Purple Tree
Release Date: Nov. 5, 2020


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PC Preview - 'Ponpu'

by Cody Medellin on June 1, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Ponpu is a frantic multiplayer party game where you should get ready to break some eggs! Ponpu mixes classic gameplay with new mechanics, all packaged in one of the coolest art styles.

Bomberman is easily considered a staple of local multiplayer games. Since the days of the TurboGrafx-16, the simplicity of people running around a maze while trying to blow each other into smithereens has provided easy-to-understand mechanics and everyone a fair shake at claiming victory. Ponpu is a new game looking to spice up that formula, and we recently took the game for a spin.

Although the basic formula is Bomberman, there are a few elements that make Ponpu different. For starters, you can automatically drop multiple bombs at a time instead of having to wait for one to blow up before tossing another one. From the beginning, you can equip yourself with a special bomb, like a drill bomb that can embed itself into the ground or one that emits a poisonous gas when it explodes. You also have a shield that acts as a multi-use tool. Not only does it protect you from explosions, but you can also use it to stun nearby enemies and deflect bombs if you time it well.

The learning curve for bomb deflections, whether you're pushing away incoming enemy bombs or using the shield to kick your own bombs away, is to be expected. There's also a learning curve when it comes to the bombs themselves, though. You're going to deploy a bomb right in front of you instead of underneath you, but the animation that plays when deploying the bomb means that there's a second or two of waiting before your bird can regurgitate the explosive. You'll get accustomed to it in time.

The demo build came with a campaign mode that does a good job of training you on the game mechanics by virtue of being easy to beat. The robot birds can be lured to a bomb and stay put until it explodes, so the only way you'll get hurt, aside from standing near the bomb, is by not mastering the deployment time. The level design is the exciting part, as there are a number of secrets available in the stages, and the boss fight does a good job of training you to properly use the bomb deflect mechanic. What's on display here is enough to get one interested in how the rest of the campaign plays out.

The multiplayer, arguably the main focus in the end, consists of three modes that are meant for four human players, computer players, or a combination thereof. Deathmatch is self-explanatory, and everyone is equipped with life meters and three lives each. The hardier characters mean that no one can quickly take themselves out of the fight, but it also means that you have to put in more work to take out foes. Coin Chase is a money-themed variation on the standard deathmatch formula, while Color Fight is reminiscent of the early Switch game Flip Wars, except with your shield bomb kick producing more colors than the explosion itself.

The multiplayer uncovers one issue that's not present in the adventure mode, and it has to do with the camera. The battlefields do a good job of using all of the available screen space, but the camera insists on zooming and panning to get close to the action while also keeping everyone in the shot. It isn't disorienting so much as it is off-putting, and while it means that one-on-one fights can feel more intense, the option to keep the camera static would be appreciated. Perhaps that can come in a post-launch patch.

The sound is quite nice thanks to a head-bobbing soundtrack, but the graphics will command your attention. The white and gray color scheme with splashes of color is similar to the recent indie game Kunai, but with more fluid animation for every move. Meanwhile, the grotesque looks of the bosses and your own death sequences will remind you of The Binding of Isaac, since everything looks so charming. Thanks to the style, the game looks very nice on all platforms.

There's a solid formula in Ponpu. The presence of a shield and special bombs for everyone makes this a more chaotic and strategic experience compared to the likes of Super Bomberman R, and there's even an intriguing campaign to boot. The camera could use some work, and there is a learning curve when it comes to the various bombs and deflections. Its interesting graphical art style grabs attention, and we're looking forward to a deeper dive with the game once it releases.

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