Switchblade Monkey's upcoming PlayStation 4 shooter set in the Wild West, Secret Ponchos, shares similarities with fighting games and team shooters, even though it looks nothing like either, according to the developers.
During a hands-on demo at PAX Prime this weekend, UI designer Caley Smyth told Polygon that while the game resembles a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) because of the way the map is laid out, the actions the player performs are more similar to fighting game moves.
In the demo we played, we paired up with another player in a two versus two match. We were able to choose from a wide array of colorful, exaggerated characters inspired by Spaghetti Western films, each with different stats and weapons. Characters are persistent and come equipped with a primary and secondary weapon that players can quickly switch between during the game. Players can level-up these characters by gaining notoriety through killing their opponents. The more people a character kills, the more notorious they become and the bigger the bounty is on their head.
"It's like you're diving in and out of range, taking shots, trying to read what your opponents going to do..."
The game dropped us into a map that resembled a Wild West battle arena, and our goal was to take out enemies by any means necessary. This is where the MOBA similarities end. Switchblade Monkeys' creative director, Yousuf Mapara, told Polygon that, unlike MOBAs, the combat in Secret Ponchos is designed more like a fighting game or a team shooter because it relies on the player's reflexes and twitch actions.
"The game looks like a MOBA because it's top down and it has different archetypes, but it really plays more like a fighting game or a team shooter because it's reaction-based," Mapara said. "It's like you're diving in and out of range, taking shots, trying to read what your opponent is going to do, what special moves, trying to dodge — there's a lot of quick twitch gameplay and that's where the fighting game influence came from."
While the build we played at PAX Prime was still very early, it did show off some of the rock-paper-scissors elements of the fighting system. Spamming the same attacks with the primary weapon worked to some extent, but better players used a combination of close and long-range attacks and changed their strategy depending on which characters they were up against. More skilled players at PAX, who also took out our character many times, also observed which attacks we were performing and were able to quickly counter them or dash out of the way before striking with their own weapons.
Mapara told Polygon that Secret Ponchos will launch as a PlayStation 4 exclusive, but the studio is not ruling out bringing the game to other platforms in the future.