Secret Ponchos Riding Steam Early Access to PC Release

Top-down two-stick shooter Secret Ponchos will have a PC version, and it’s largely because of the opportunities offered by Steam Early Access.

At PAX East 2014, developer Switchblade Monkeys talked about its recent announcement that Secret Ponchos would be headed to PC later this year. That’s something players interested in the title have been very vocal about, said Creative Director Yousuf Mapara, while showing off the game at PAX’s Indie Megabooth.

But for a while, Mapara said, Switchblade Monkeys had a couple of excuses for not porting Secret Ponchos to PC from its original planned Playstation 4 release: first, the developer had no contacts at Steam and didn’t know if it would be able to get the game through Steam Greenlight; second, the team didn’t really have the money to divert to working on the game for another platform.

Still, the fans wanted a PC port, so the team began looking into it, starting by contacting Valve. The response was a surprise: Mapara said the folks at Valve knew of the game and liked it, and would be willing to put it on Steam, no Greenlight voting required. With one hurdle down, Secret Ponchos started thinking about surmounting the second — money.

Luckily, Steam had an answer for that, in the form of its Early Access program. With Early Access, Switchblade Monkeys can create a port of the code it has already been developing for PS4 and put it straight onto Steam to sell to players interested in playing Secret Ponchos right away. If the Early Access campaign is successful, the team will be able to use it to finance its push to polish up the full PC port. And the PS4 version of the game will benefit as well, Mapara said, as Early Access pulls in feedback from actual players trying the game on PC.

As for the port itself, Switchblade Monkeys mentioned that it’ll be pretty much the same game we’ve seen on PS4, which is what they demoed at their booth last weekend. Though last year the developer said Secret Ponchos would be releasing sometime in the early part of 2014, the game instead has been delayed probably into fall 2014 to put further polish on its online capabilities both on PC and PS4, because Mapara said the team really wanted to make sure to get those elements right. Expect the PC port to be gamepad-only, as well, another choice that makes sense given the game’s reliance on two-stick controls.

Though Secret Ponchos is seeing a bit of a delay to accommodate the PC version, the demo Switchblade Monkeys put on at PAX East was a lot of fun and felt very polished. Free-for-all mode was on display, with eight players simultaneously tearing each other apart with revolvers, muskets, shotguns and matador blades. As GameFront has noted in the past (you’ll want to check out our earlier hands-on impressions from PAX Prime 2013 and PAX East 2013) each character handles in different ways, bringing new strategies to bear for players that are determined both by who they choose to use in the fight, and which character (and player) they’re up against.

Mapara said Secret Ponchos will include a few other game modes when it launches, including 1-on-1, 2-on-2 and 4-on-4 modes that leverage Secret Ponchos’ underlying tactical sensibilities. You’ll also see some of those team deathmatche games operating with quicker rounds, as players will go in with only one life (rather than free-for-all’s infinite respawns with the match on a timer). That’ll force players to be smart about the damage they take, the fights they get into, and the moves they risk.

Also unveiled at PAX this year was a new player character known as the Matador. Where the other character focus on various firearms, the Matador plays a much faster, more close-range battle, employing a sword for up-close attacks, and a throwing spear that takes quite a while to replenish once it’s used. Though the Matador moves fast, Mapara noted that she’s not quite as strong as other characters, with a lower count of hit points to work with to balance out her ability to close gaps, strike quickly, and vanish using an ability that Blinds enemies and renders her invisible to them.

Several of the players using the Matador on the PAX East show floor employed her abilities to devastating effect, often taking high scores or wins in free-for-all matches.

With the game coming closer and closer to completion, Mapara also said Switchblade Monkeys is thinking about where Secret Ponchos will go post-launch. He said the team wanted to avoid trying to monetize the game before they’d released a complete product, so instead of relying on things like micro-transactions, the plan is instead to look at smaller expansions through downloadable content post-release. Mapara said the team is thinking about things like adding additional characters to the five that will appear in Early Access, which would give players even more variety in their battles.

Watch for Secret Ponchos to hit Steam Early Access sometime in the early part of summer.

Phil Hornshaw is senior editor at GameFront. Read more of his work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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