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Ponpu PS4 Review: Quack Before Thy God

Bite the wing that feeds you as you deceive the almighty Duck God in Ponpu, a multiplayer Bomberman-like experience.

Ponpu PS4 Review
Source: Steam

As a loyal follower of the Duck God for some time, I’ve become bitter in my old age through lack of change and the usual ‘wipe out all of creation’ mantras that I’ve recently been praying for a herald of sorts to show up and stir things up. I’d do it myself, but I have a veruca. Fortunately, Ponpu answers those rhetorical prayers.

It’s no secret that I’ve been looking forward to this Bomberman contender, with its understated visuals and promises of duck-infused chaos. The spotlight is on, Purple Tree Studio, and I hope you’re sweating. That includes you Zordix, who were on publishing duties.

This review was concocted from a PS4 version of the game, played on a PS5. This was out of convenience as the gargantuan console has successfully pushed the PS4 to the confines of the bedroom should wifey like to get it on with hubby and play some Pixel Junk Monsters.

Ponpu PS4 Review

You know the story by now: a duck herald is sent to wipe out existence by the Duck God only to suffer an accident and endure a spot of amnesia. Through this life-changing experience, the herald bites the wing that feeds and has a change of heart when it comes to destruction. Only a little; they still cause mayhem regardless.

The reference point for Ponpu is, of course, Bomberman – the developers mention that themselves, but this ain’t no clone – no siree Bob. Bomberman is almost an untouchable multiplayer of youth. Sure, it has flaws, but that’s the base model as the original was such a fantastic experience, but Ponpu has charms of its own.

Ponpu - Evil eye
Evil eye. Source: Steam

Well, duck would be on the menu if it lacked a multiplayer mode and sure as hell, there are several modes here to play against others. Aside from the Story Mode, there’s Death Match, Coin Steal and Paint Battle. You’re bound to have your favourites, and though they’re relatively similar, they offer countless battles that will be perfect when entertaining.

Referring to the last statement, at the time of writing, we’re in a lockdown in the UK, and even when that lifts, not much will change. Options were limited on who to play with, so the score is mostly based on the story mode an a multiplayer with my eldest child – not much in the way of other players.

 A Party In My Feathers And You’re Invited

Not the best heading, but the lack of multiplayer options (just local play with a 10-year-old child guilt-tripped into playing) was a bit disappointing – no reflection on Ponpu, you knows I loves ya. A party game dealbreaker will be those taking part, so I reckon that once her friends can come over and anyone I can seduce with alcohol (grown ups), this could be another Gang Beasts experience.

As for the solo experience, is that part any good? Forget lockdowns, if you have no mates, should you even consider Ponpu? Absolutely. Unlike the Bomberman references, the solo campaign is a perfectly good standalone (but I will stress, this will be more enjoyable with others).

The art style in the game is superb with a minimalist palette and gorgeous animation.

You’ll be faced with several worlds to choose from and an accompanying ponpu – a choice from four. Instead of bombs (they are bombs though), the ponpu are equipped with eggs, and you will need to place them next to breakable objects and enemies to blow them up. The USP here for Ponpu the game, however, is your shield.

Your character can deflect incoming attacks from a quick flash (ooer) of a force field, but its importance lies within its other function: launching eggs from a distance. Said egg will fire in the direction you are facing, though can’t be shot diagonally. Interesting to note, they ricochet off walls back at you. I often felt the brunt as an enemy ignored it, and the egg came back, killing me dead.

Extra Ponpu’s

Outside of the default eggs, you have a few special ones such as remote eggs that blow up on command, plus there’s a dash option to get past nasty pitfalls and evade the boss attacks. Oh, I haven’t mentioned the boss battles yet?

Ponpu - Easter eggs
Easter eggs. Source: Steam

Available in the Story Mode, boss battles are excellent, and these behemoths reminded me a bit of Ren and Stimpy characters – they were tremendous and the highlight/reward after wandering around a level from restarting at the beginning a handful of times when you die (though there are a few checkpoints).

I’ve put it off for some time and will say that the visuals do not disappoint. The art style in the game is superb with a minimalist palette and gorgeous animation. It has a retro feel to it – not like Cuphead, but the artwork of Mcbess. Yes, I refer to him a lot, but he’s one of my favourite artists, and I think the style here complements that approach.

The levels are varied enough to be entertaining, but as touched upon, there were a few moments of wandering back and forth and the (duck) god awful restarting of a level should you miss a checkpoint. Shifting back to the multiplayer modes though, this was where Ponpu shined – the unpredictable nature of a win was amplified when you inadvertently fire an egg that ends up being your demise, awarding it to the other player(s).

What’s Wrong With The (Ponpu) World Today?

And that’s one of two things I didn’t like. You can’t change direction when you place an egg. If you’re facing right and release an egg, it will be to the right of you; you can’t turn it to face left. In this scenario, you have to let it blow up, getting to safety beforehand, or hit it to the side, move out of the way and hope it goes the direction you intended.

This mechanic certainly isn’t game-breaking, but it’s particularly frustrating if you have a good run but then find yourself trapped by your own error. I suppose that’s the nature of a Bomberman-like experience though, right?

Ponpu - Mates
Mates. Source: Steam

As for the other thing I didn’t like, it was the slowdown I experienced every time I collected a rainbow feather. Regardless of what was on the screen, i.e. nothing taxing, my character never failed to freeze mid-animation, the screen freezing for a couple of seconds and stuck in motion for each feather I collected.

I tested this again and again, restarting the game, reinstalling, disconnecting from the internet, taking off my clothes and standing on my head – it consistently halted every time that it got to the point that I stopped collecting the feathers. One would surmise that Ponpu wasn’t playing well with the PS5 or it’s to do with the game. Regardless, it can be ironed out in a patch (I hope) as it doesn’t happen anywhere else in the game.

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