Sometimes I play a game and I wonder if its designers were in good physical and mental shape and if they found the concept of it. A good example of what I mean is the latest independent game released by Switch, Purple Tree and Ponpu from Zordix. A game that could certainly have been made with recreational elements, because with good thinking I could never have made that damn thing.

But you know what? I’m really glad they’re crazy about it. It’s a game for crazy people, which you can’t help but watch, even though it’s far from perfect.

You can clearly see that they hired Aaron Sorkin for the scenario of this game.

Ponpu revolves around a group of nightmares in which deformed ducks travel through the galaxy to prevent the almighty duck god Tanos from completely destroying the universe so he can restart it at will. You’ll work your way through the different brown and white levels, collect the keys and eventually kill the boss at the end of each world. A lot of windmill stuff, with more drawings and animations, which I’m sure were once part of someone’s sleep paralysis. It’s fun and all, but it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.

The fact is that Ponpu is largely based on Bomberman. The control is almost the same as that of a bomber; you only move in four directions and attack by placing bombs. Just as you upgrade a powerful bomber, you have the ability to push a bomb against an enemy if you time it perfectly. And it doesn’t quite work.

I’m not gonna lie. He’s very handsome.

The reason is simple: Bomberman’s gameplay works best in narrow, gangway-like arenas full of obstacles that help you understand where you are and where to go. That doesn’t leave you or your enemies much room to escape a well-placed bomb. Ponpu, on the other hand, has wide, open levels that remind you of adventure – the tough games of Bomberman 64. There are fewer enemies on the screen, but they have much more room to escape your attacks. Which is even worse: If you push the bomb in any direction and it hits a wall, it will bounce off you, probably with a piece of your health.

There are still some things I like about the whole Ponpu game cycle. The game isn’t as fast as it seems ridiculous at first glance, but it’s investigative. The levels are filled with secret rooms and hidden passages, often filled with extra delicacies such as an extra heart container. It’s a bit more casual than Bomberman, so the game may be inspired by him, but he plays very differently. Then there are the big battles, going back to Bomberman’s nonsense. There were only a few, but I loved them.

That’s what I usually look like after a bad dream.

In addition to a bizarre but not entirely adrenaline-filled single-player campaign, Ponpu offers a range of multiplayer modes. They range from your typical death match to the Bomberman style platoon where you’ll have to cover the arena with your own gourmet sauce as you push the egg in each direction. Sure, they’re fun, but Ponpu can’t really bring out that sense of meanness and fun that makes Bomberman so easy. Even the latest Bomberman game, Super Bomberman R, which is currently in much better shape than when it was released in 2017, looks more like a crazy party game than Ponpu.

The best part of this game is not the gameplay, but the ultra-chic presentation. If you like the absurdity of cartoons as much as you did in Ren & Stimpy in the ’90s, then this game is for you. It’s really weird, it’s strangely animated, but it manages to catch your eye like only a few credits there. The soundtrack is not as strange as the visual effects, but the melodies it contains are actually quite catchy. You can play them as an extra texture in the background, but they are very well built and stayed in my head after I quit the game.

Such a beautiful bird.

In his games department, Ponpu doesn’t always do his job, and it’s not Bomberman’s spiritual successor we really need right now, but it’s still fun. What really distinguishes the game is the whimsical presentation, the visual effects and the surprisingly catchy soundtrack. If you’re looking for something similar to Bomberman and can handle a bit of junk, Ponpu is a game worth watching. Also recommended if you like strange animations and images.

Ponpu has a very strange style, often hilarious, sometimes artistic. It is incredibly well animated, but because of the monotonous color palette the game seems too repetitive after a while. A movement similar to the Bomberman grid is constantly at odds with the game design. This control scheme was not intended for more open levels. However, the secret paths and the general focus on exploration have been a good change.
There have been cases of short but solid voice-overs, and in general the soundtrack is actually very good. Ponpu has a great presentation and some interesting new ideas based on Bomberman’s proven formula, but it suffers from an uninteresting single-player mode, long download times, confusing gameplay and very rare glitches.
Phrase: 7.0

Ponpu is now available for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

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A copy of Pohnp was made available by the publisher.

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