Pony Island Review – Diablo Ex Machina

This is more than a one-trick pony.

01

Developer: Daniel Mullins Games
Publisher: Daniel Mullins Games
Format: Steam
Released: January 4, 2016
Copy provided by Steam

Pony Island is bloody genius.

Many games have come and gone that try to play with the medium, break the fourth wall, and subvert a player’s expectations, but very few have stood the test of time. Metal Gear SolidThe Stanley Parable, most recently Undertale – these are all games that have managed to succeed in using interactive entertainment to its fullest, delivering an experience that only a game could, all in a way that ensures historical significance.

I feel confident in adding Pony Island to the list, a deceptive puzzle game that uses every trick in a book it helps write.

There is no secret to the main premise, though it could have been a twist in any other game – the initially cute Pony Island is the work of Satan himself, and he wants your soul. Trapped in an archaic arcade machine, your job is to solve the Devil’s puzzles and find faults within the code in a bid to escape. As you attempt to break free, Lucifer regularly mocks you, calls you a cheater, and expresses dissatisfaction at his inability to program an infallible product.

From the outset, Pony Island screws around with a mischievous glint in its eye. To even start the game proper, you’ll need to go into the Options menu and fix the Start command. This one little goof is only a sampler of what’s to come, as the game regularly addresses players directly, uses familiar interfaces to trip people up, and blurs the line between genres in order to craft a wholly unforgettable story.

02

At the game’s core is an unassuming “runner” style platformer, as you make a pony jump over gates to clear stages. From this benign foundation, designer Daniel Mullins crafts a narrative that isn’t just about escaping Satan’s clutches – it’s about the frustrations of game development and the associated demands of the audience.

The Devil is a hapless programmer as well as a cruel antagonist, and exasperation at his failing abilities becomes apparent throughout as you expose weaknesses in the programming to solve various coding puzzles and battle against semi-sentient daemon software.

Most of the puzzles focus on getting a key from a starting point to an end point, dragging and dropping tiles into a path of code to direct said key. While it initially may look like a run-of-the-mill hacking minigame, Pony Island is never content to tread water for too long, as various interface screws and challenging concepts consistently expand the scope and pull stunts no other game has.

While some of the puzzling can provide a roadblock, there’s nothing too challenging to keep players stumped for long – I’m quite certain that’s a deliberate move, as actually being “tough” isn’t the point. Pony Island exists more to deliver its sly exposition and show off how clever the developer is.

Normally, I’d say something like that to be disparaging, to accuse a designer of putting their own arrogant self-satisfaction above the gameplay. However, Mullins has succeeded where so many would-be smartasses fail – he has charm, humor, and genuine intelligence on his side, and he uses those talents to make a game too damn brilliant, amusing, and sometimes creepy to feel insulted by.

03

Pony Island knows what it is. It knows when it’s being smug, when it leans on the fourth wall to an excessive degree, and even when it’s not being as clever as it tries to look. Its most obvious “gotcha” moments are delivered with a knowing wink or a sense of playfulness, and these more blatant attempts to trick the player only make the genuinely smart stuff all the more surprising.

There was one moment where I actually found myself nodding at the screen and muttering “well done” out loud.

You’ll notice this is one of those reviews where I describe around the game rather than provide too much detail – and even in doing this, I worry I might be giving too much away. Suffice it to say that going in with as little information as possible is the best way of maximizing the fun, though even an exhaustive review might not quite be able to undo some of the magic of this thing.

The biggest criticism I could level at Pony Island is that, while it’s always doing its best to change its tone, some of the puzzling sections nevertheless grow to be a bit too familiar and run the risk of breaking the absorbing tension built throughout PI‘s story. Some moments come across more like “obligatory game segment time” than functional interaction, something done just to keep us reminded that we’re playing videogames.

Such moments are mercifully brief, however, considering the game itself isn’t very long. You’ll get maybe two hours out of the main game – which for the five buck asking price is well worth the trip – though secrets abound and it will likely take significantly longer to uncover everything Pony Island has to offer.

After all, this is one of those productions where simply “beating” it once isn’t the only thing to do.

05

It’s easy to draw comparisons between Pony Island and major indie darlings from last year – Her Story and Undertale make fine counterparts when describing this weird little game about games. Still, Satan’s little soul-grabber is most certainly its own work, and the things it does are, as I already said, bloody genius.

When the game allows itself to have music, the tunes are fantastic, piercing through an unnerving bass rumble that underscores the entire adventure. The retro-themed visuals serve a purpose in this particular instance, adding to the atmosphere rather than looking like a cheap attempt at indie cred. In fact, it looks like it should be a cheap attempt at indie cred… which might be on purpose.

Or maybe it isn’t.

That’s the other wonderful thing about Pony Island – you never know quite what it’s getting at. For all my authoritative reading into what Satan represents and the underlying themes of the plot, I could be completely off base and just sounding like a pretentious wannabe art critic. Or is that what the game wants me to think?

04

I can say one thing with confidence, however. I’ve said it already. I’ll say it again.

Pony Island is bloody genius.

9.5/10
Superb

  • TheTopHat

    But there’s one question that hasn’t been answered by this game: Is friendship magical?

  • Robert Williams

    I also found myself talking to the game – “Yup. You got me. Fine. “

    • Sean Huckel

      Same. Absolutely loved every minute of it.

    • xCROOKEDx

      Me too, I’ll totally admit I shift-tabbed at that one part.

      • Lasse Andersen

        I did one further and alt-tabbed. XD
        Incidentially the best sequence in the whole game.

        • Mandrake42

          I did it too, and by that stage I should have known better.

    • Dragongelf

      Good to know I wasn’t the only one who did that. Clever little bastard game.

  • TheTopHat

    You know with games like undertale and pony island, we might find a renaissance/resurgence of adventure games on steam in the coming year

    • Chris N

      It takes more than a year to build something like this, really. To really nail not just the theme but also the execution takes a lot of time iterating. Maybe 2017, but probably not anything really noteworthy in 2016.

      • spyro2060

        Na, we’ll definitely see games trying to copy the likes of Undertale and this, but they’ll just be crappy Steam Early Access games or Steam Greenlight games, it’s like the walking simulators, they all want to be the Stanley Parable with none of the effort

    • Manioc

      Makes sense, we’ve already seen a revival of the CRPG genre, which also had its heyday in the 90’s. Both were also genres largely abandoned by big-budget publishers.

      I suspect RTS games will be next. The market is ready for a game which brings back the simple magic of the original Starcraft.

  • Aiwass

    I’d quite like to play it, but I feel like it’s been ruined a bit by watching both Jim and VideoGamerTV play it.

  • Wait what

    I sincerely look forward to more articles added to the tag “Satan n’ Shit”.

  • Sean Huckel

    I look forward to a day when most have played this and we can talk about it. Because I think this game is even more meta than it’s outwardly trying to be, but getting into that means spoilers, so obviously can’t talk about that here.

    • SavingPrincess

      The comments here by people are so amusing… calling it pretentious… calling it “repetitive trash.” I am overwhelmed by the massive “WOOSH” sound this game is making with some of the audience.

      I feel bad for the developer, half his audience isn’t smart enough to enjoy his product… and that’s not a “wah I’m so smart” comment, I genuinely feel bad that people are either writing this off before getting deep into the experience, or are playing through it and thinking it’s a “one-trick pony.” /lol

      Undertale was cute, which brought people in, this game is not “cute,” and actively makes fun of the concept of what’s “cute” from the get-go, hell, even from the title. The title itself risks people writing this off as meme-greenlight trash… but the game wouldn’t be the same without it.

      • Richard Claus

        you’re excrement. and full of yourself. are you smart enough to get that?

        showersack.

        • SavingPrincess

          No joke, get some professional help man. That ain’t healthy.

          • Richard Claus

            so that’s a no then?

          • SavingPrincess

            Seriously, whatever impulse you felt to reply this way to some stranger you don’t even know… it’s not a good thing. I hope things get better for you.

          • Richard Claus

            good grief, you’re a snooty patronizing cat and when this unsurprisingly rubs other cats the wrong way your response is to be even more condescending snooty and patronizing? makes me glad i don’t know you.

  • Mike Wallace

    An early contender for Best of 2016, maybe?

    • Sean Huckel

      I think it’s going to be in my top 5-10, barring 2016 becoming a truly great year. More legitimate moments in my 3-ish hours of play that gave me a genuine reaction than most 20+ hour triple A games have.

    • This game looks pretty legit, don’t get me wrong, but I think the biggest contender for 2016’s GOTY has to be Fallout 5: The new one

    • iamagiantcat

      at the same time dark souls 3 is on it’s way, fingers crossed

  • SilentPony

    Golden Veronica!

  • ghettojack

    these little games like this and undertale and stuff seem so polished to the bunch of other trash being released these days. its so nice

  • Steven White

    Man, what happened? When did the best use of the phrase, “looks like it’s from [ ] era” go from games that wanted to look old because old sells, to games with such cleverness it could only exist now AND the visuals giving such a strong effect it probably wouldn’t work looking any other way?

    • bluemoon

      The retro graphics help to make the game more disarming. Pixelated ponies gives way to Satan and glitches. Quite a few indie titles also go for the retro look because it has a genuine charm to it when done right. Think Nuclear Throne, Spelunky, or Binding of Isaac with the newer look. Realistic, high-end graphics would rob much of the minimalistic charm from these games. Sometime less is more.

    • someperson1984

      Also, many of these games are from small teams, or in some cases a single person. This doesn’t usually allow for lots of extraneous detail.

  • CaitSeith

    I think I reached my limit on subversive indie games for a while. I have lot of catching up to do from games in my library that I haven’t finished.

  • RotwangRevived

    And it runs on Linux Without having to deal with wine. Looks like I have no excuse but to try it.

    • wvstolzing

      Yes that’s great.
      I wish Downwell had an official Linux port. (‘Unofficially’ it does work natively, with a Game Maker executable imported from elsewhere.)

  • prh99

    Gotta give it to Ludum Dare, their jams consistently turn out interesting indies.

    • The Interloper

      Yeah, I gotta agree. There’s one pretty good wave-based game with a pretty cool gun mechanic called “A Gun that Shoots Bees” that came from Ludum Dare. It’s one of the game jam events that I actually check out entries for.

  • Coolg82

    Are the TFA references real? Thats very current.

    • Forrest Kayssen

      I think that’s Jim talking to Satan, and Satan just telling him he’s going to ignore him until he clicks to enter the game.

  • Yaro

    This looks like a stoner game.

  • Beginning Anew

    I actually had to double check that ‘Diablo Ex Machina’ wasn’t part of the actual games name. Actually perfectly suits the game, very clever!

    • wvstolzing

      A little pedantry:

      It should have been ‘Diabolus Ex Machina’ to make it Latin all the way through.

      • Benson

        I thought ex machina was Greek…wait, are Greek and Latin the same language!?

        • wvstolzing

          It’s a Latin term (‘Deus’, ‘ex’, and ‘machina’ are all Latin words); but it refers to a device in Greek drama.
          Greek and Latin are pretty distant cousins within the Indo-European family.

          • thatdamnrat

            And mixing your Greek and Latin roots is considered terrible for some reason.

  • Stephen Mc Devitt

    Looks like 2016’s gone off to a great start. I’m already seeing this getting a Jimquisition award later in the year.

  • I played this, crafted the badge, and got a 33% off coupon for Devil’s Share, I feel betrayed.

  • The Guy

    Normally I tend to agree with Mr. Sterling, but I thought this was repetitive trash. Eh! Guess this one’s not for me.

  • Newbiespud

    There’s a difference between a developer going “Look how clever I am” and “Hey, look at this cool thing I made the game do.” Not a lot of difference – mostly in tone – but when the player agrees, “Yeah, that’s pretty darn cool,” I’d say it achieves the latter.

  • Tyler Cataldo

    Incredible game, way to set the bar for 2016 Jim.

  • Overblown Ego

    Will you be doing a spoiler cast or video? I played though it, liked it, but nowhere near as much as you seem to have. Kind of curious what I missed.

    • Richard Claus

      nothing. you missed nothing. it’s a flat game that caters to wanna-be gaming intellectuals.

      • Ian Smith

        So salty.

  • Sapphire Crook

    I dunno.
    I thought it was a flat game and am surprised people think it’s majestic.
    I guess…
    This is what Undertale was to some people.
    What an eye-opener. Golly.

    • The Guy

      I get the impression that this one isn’t quite as accessible as Undertale was.

      • SavingPrincess

        Yes, the point of this game is flying over more heads than a stunt flyer at a mid-west airshow.

        • The Guy

          But then, I’ve been hearing people say that same line about Undertale and innumerable indie titles in the last year, so it’s kind of becoming a moot statement.

          I mean, I’ve heard that be said about Rocket League. You know, the game that’s just soccer with cars.

          • Jabroni

            I’m so sick of those people who whine “You just don’t get it” when someone doesn’t share their opinion on a game.

          • Sissel

            Only morons use that as an “argument” anyway.

          • Ruud de Bont

            I’m not a moron, I’m a genius, you just don’t get me, yeah it seems to work

          • Max Whiteley

            Said every great artist who ever lived.

          • Benson

            Is it really that common of a saying?

      • wvstolzing

        I’ve been thinking the opposite — but I guess that’s because I’m completely ignorant about the Mother series, JRPGs in general, etc., while I like hacking/programming puzzle games.

        • The Guy

          Well of course. Personal taste is always a factor. Still, there’s a whole more of the former than the latter you mentioned.

  • Looks awesome.

    • thatdamnrat

      Something makes me think you might be biased….

      • Something makes me think I don’t care what you think 😉

        • thatdamnrat

          And that’s fine, I was just cracking wise about your avatar.

          • Mandrake42

            It’s ok thatdamnrat, I got the joke.

  • Jesse Helmfall

    This must be how Jack Thompson sees video games.

  • SaburoDaimando

    King Sombra. Is that you? #MyLittlePony

    • Janio

      Is it Sombra or is Sumaho :p and is it thejimquisition or jimquisition dot com ?

      • negaman1020

        This is THEjimquisition.com because, as I understand it, jimquisition.com without the ‘the’ is a porn site or something. Jim mentioned it in one of his videos, but I don’t know whether it’s a joke or not. gonna be frank, don’t want to find out.

  • Clark Kent

    The comparison with Undertale is quite obvious indeed. An other oneI would draw is with The Magic Circle in the way you are not only playing the game, but also toying with it, constantly breaking the rule and making your own in the hope to escape it.

    I found my main criticism during the ending, though. Although not bad, it tries the same thing as Undertale at the end of a pacifist run, except it didn’t create the huge emotional attachment for the world and its characters that UT had and thus fell flat. That made me realize that although it had been a fun and interesting experience, it hadn’t this emotional investment that would make it truly memorable. It’s still a great game though, and cheap too.

  • KetchupBBQ

    Really really brilliant game. Played through it in one sitting after a friend did the same and they watched. Then we watched another friend play through it all.
    The only weakness I would say is the regular ending without all the tickets. Running bit went on just waaaaay too long.

    • Mandrake42

      There is a different ending if you get all the tickets?

      • KetchupBBQ

        Yep! A much more satisfying one imo

        • Mandrake42

          Cool. I have most of them and I notice now Ive finished I can jump to any act, so Ill have to go back and nab the last one and see the other ending. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Janio

    Where are my reviews about Sumoha for adult game commentary. And why is there a The after the www ? Me what my Sumoha, Sake and Sushi. Me thinking Konami taking a pony mickey with jim?

    • thatdamnrat

      Okay, what did that mean in English?

      • Janio

        Surf to http://www.jimquisition.com and let chrome auto translate the page and you will see.
        Also click on the weblink on the page. Sumoha is romantic which is satire in this case.

        • thatdamnrat

          Chrome, eww.

          • Janio

            yup

  • Za_Docta

    I think it should have microtransactions to appeal to mobile gamers.

    • xCROOKEDx

      Put your face to the screen for PREMIUM EDITION PONY ISLAND!

      • Mandrake42

        Don’t listen to him, that costs your soul!

  • Johnggernaut

    So the game appears to be one thing while delivering another? I thought only AAA titles did that ;P

  • Milestone_RP

    The best part about this game is how Satan appears to actually be actively, behind the scenes,working his little black heart out to try to actually improve his game.
    Then you get to the “full release version” bit of the game. And you mutter to yourself “good on you, Satan. Ya did it.”

    Then you realize that Satan did a better job polishing his game than about 90% of everything released via Greenlight this year, and 110% of everything coming out of Digital Homicide. Hey, it even crashed less often than your average Ubisoft or Activision PC port this year! Heyo!

    (also i wish people would stop pulling out the undertale comparison to like, everything now. The Magic Circle was a recent game that needs more love, and the comparison is kinda more apt, there, I think.)

    • thatdamnrat

      Ubisoft and Activision more evil than Satan confirmed.

    • Chimera

      Totally agree. The Magic Circle is/was more of a game that dealt with the metanarrative/critique of games as games, or the industry that produces them. In may ways, The Magic Circle and Pony Island are two games trying to make similar statements through entirely different means. Much like the Beginner’s Guide, but in a more cynical, devs-be-crazy light, The Magic Circle and Pony Island are games that use its meta angle to talk about the game’s industry rather than the player.

      That’s where Undertale’s meta differs. Its a narrative that affects you personally, and the morals of your choices when presented with the opportunity to play God. Undertale doesn’t say anything about the games industry, and all it really says about games is jokes about RPG tropes and the aforementioned morality of player actions IN games–it takes killing seriously when other games treat it as an afterthought.

      So yes, people need to stop comparing every meta-game to Undertale, because it had a very clear-cut message. Other games are trying to say something else. Don’t smack someone down for using the same language to convey a different idea.

  • Crenando

    Did I miss something? This game is incredibly simple and downright boring, what’s with all this hype?

    • Just Some Guy

      There’s various games like Goat Simulator that people, particularly gaming critics, have come to refer to as PewDiePie bait games, due to the seemingly apparent appeal they would have to gaming streamers. Well, stuff like this which try, so, hard, to be different, and “clever” I think should be called gaming critic bait games.

      • HisDivineOrder

        I think this is the kind of game someone who plays games every single day for hours on end, even when they don’t like said games and don’t want to be playing said games, for years upon years… this is the kind of game that does something different.

        And as a result, critics like if it does it well and often if it does it in some way that’s surprising. Games with hype are often not going to live up to it, especially to the game-world-weary game critic.

        This is the same reason long games that give gamers good value are often reviewed poorly by said reviewers. They get “tired” of all that value and just want to finish the game, finish the review, write the review, and move on because there’s nothing new for them.

        For the average player, that “value” might give them a great return on their investment for hours and hours of time. They might not have played every single game that came out all year and certainly didn’t play it every similar games every day of every month of the last five years…

        So gaming critics are in a place that’s very different from the mindset of the average player. What’s new is like a “new” used car. “It’s new to me.”

        I’m not saying that Pony Island is bad. I’m not saying it’s great. I’m not saying anything about that. It’s just obvious to me that some reviewers are suffering from fatigue with open world games, for example.

        And if you wonder why… well, the reason is connected to why these critical indie darlings are lighting up critics and other professional game players moreso than it is normal, average joes. The 99%’ers want games to give them a solid value for the money paid in established franchises they enjoy.

        Then there’s a 1% of gaming elite that play everything that comes down the pipe (often because they’re not paying for all of it) and as a result, they suffer from self-inflicted fatigue. Then they blame developers for that.

        • Just Some Guy

          Yes, yes, I, and I imagine most people get that, as especially after something like Mad Max which went over well with players, but bombed for many critics, we’ve been seeing, and hearing about that for a while now. It’s just tiring to see another game that comes into the room with a marching band proclaiming how exceedingly “different” it is, and is then showered with praise by many critics.

        • I don’t think that’s entirely fair, because it leaves out just how familiar a lot of these games are.

          I don’t write reviews for money. I don’t buy every major release. Mostly, I play games a year or more after release and get them on discount. I still follow the latest games in press and I still try to play as many games as I can afford the money and time for.

          But, personally, I like novelty. I like interesting systems. I think you’re radically understating how much those things appeal to “regular” gamers outside the professional elite. I think you also underestimate the non-professional critical gamer–that is, people who are interested in design and criticsm but are not themselves “critics.” People who want to explore games and game design either because they make games as a hobby or because they just think it’s cool.

          There are so many reasons to be fatigued by some of these immediate trends that it comes off as a little delusional to write off all love of oddball games as a quirk of the gaming intelligentsia and further delusional to imply that because more “normal” games sell well, they have inherent value. That advertising and the hype machine and the console cycle have abused players into accepting the same thing over and over for more and more money shouldn’t be simply taken, without the slightest concern, as a sign that such is just what gamers want at the end of a long day. If I want to just have a simple, well deigned, bang-for-buck experience shooting some virtual mans … I can still do better than a lot of what the AAA meat-grinder spits out and just because the indie darling of the moment doesn’t get me there either doesn’t mean the indie darling of the moment should be ignored as hipster critic bait.

          A lot of mainstream games succeed because they’re easy. You see advertisements for them constantly. You know approximately what you’re going to get. It’s safe. It’s easy. That doesn’t mean critics expect better purely because they’ve artificially fatigued themselves–sure, that’s certainly part of the equation, but they aren’t the only people asking for better.

          Back to things like Pony Island … I don’t think this particular game is in my wheelhouse. But I love new and strange things and I don’t think it’s so unusual for people who play games to be interested in strange and unusual games. I don’t think there’s any harm in praising novelty and I don’t think doing so marks critics as quite so out-of-touch as you say. Undertale didn’t just catch on with critics, afterall, whether you agreee its all that great or not. The main difference is that without critics and/or social media making games like this the darling of the moment … no one plays them. Whereas even if were considered absolute gutter trash even by hardcore series fans, the latest CoD game would sell a ton of copies before everyone found out.

      • Benj

        “Critic bait” doesn’t work quite so well as Pewdiepie bait because it’s a constantly shifting category. What’s new and inventive is changing all the time and like with “Oscar bait” films there’s still a clear expectation of quality there. Nothing bombs so hard as someone who acts like they’re much cleverer than they are.

        It’s appealing to a taste whereas Pewdiepie bait games aren’t really designed to be enjoyable to play, only enjoyable for streamers to react to. It’s not your taste apparently and that’s fine, you don’t have to go down the “I bet lots of fans are only pretending to like it to sound cool” route. It’s not an argument, it just makes you sound insecure, the flipside to people who shout “you just don’t get it!” when other people think their favourite thing isn’t as clever or meaningful as they do.

        • Just Some Guy

          These critic bait games games go out of their way to try to be different, “clever,” and different, yes I said different twice on purpose. Regardless of what sort of games are the current “in thing,” if you look at a game, and get the idea it’s trying very hard to not be that “in thing,” then the description will always fit.

          Then it’s very clear that there’s a lot of mob/sheep mentality going on, saying I suspect that’s part of what’s going on when when some obscure something blows up in popularity as some of these sort of games have isn’t unreasonable. Although I guess one of the “in things” going on in Internet discussion groups is trying to beat down someone that sounds like they may be trying to be mean, after all, people just can’t be allowed to freely express thoughts, or feeling, nope, can’t have that.

          • Benj

            Mob mentality on the internet exists for a bunch of stuff, I don’t dispute that, nor do I see any reason to consider it when evaluating the quality of a game. Criticisms of something based on the behaviour of the fans is almost always irrelevant (except multiplayer where you are actually interacting with fans when you’re playing)

            Perhaps you don’t like games that go against the grain and try and do something new or out of the ordinary, that’s fine everyone’s different. My distaste was the use of term “bait” to dismiss/ undermine something that doesn’t appeal to your own tastes. Would you ever use “bait” to refer to games designed with your particular interests, preferences and biases in mind?

            It makes sense with Pewdiebait because pewdiebait games usually don’t even try to be good, they just have good moments for let’s players to react to. They’re hack jobs copy-pasting the something that’s already been done whereas the “critic bait” could never be like that because newness and experimentation is the main selling point.

      • Daryl Ward

        Just Some Guy: I got the exact same feeling when playing this: Gaming Critic Bait.

        I also agree with how it is a clever game: lots of novel ideas.

        But, for a game that bases it’s central narrative around stealing souls, it has no real ‘soul’ of it’s own. It felt pretty damn cold playing it.

        So i think it’s a great achievement, but not exactly standing ovation, near flawless work that Jim sees it as.

      • Because no one’s trying to jump on the Look I’m Cool bandwagon when they say they like some of the most well selling, most profitable games of all time like various CoD games?

        This logic is all bent out of shape. Look, I know the whole hipster-shtick exists but that’s not most people. If you want to look cool and hip and like you fit in … you don’t brag about the new cool indie game you played you brag about how good you are at the biggest, most popular AAA release.

        When you talk about marginal sub-cutlures and their recalibration of the definition of cool within those sub-cultures … you have to remember that the very point of needing to redefine cool with “popular != cool” comes from the group in question not wanting to be, or not feeling capable of being, part of the mainstream. That’s the whole point–you’re not “cool” by normal standards so you rebel against those standards whether you do it through claiming you have a better norm armed with elitism and classism (Hipster) or through direct attacks on the very existence of norms armed with loud attitude (punk) or yet other styles.

        It follows that most of the “mob” IS the AAA fanboy set. The Call of Duty fans, etc. And that’s fine–it’s not like it’s unethical to like those games or whatever. But it’s just plain oblivious to act like the only mob mentality at work is for these small out-of-nowhere games. What do you think makes so many people fork out $60 on a regular basis to buy what is sometimes a more expensive downgrade of the last military shooter they played? What makes these games do so well so consistently? It’s not that we’re born CoD fans its that various aspects of our culture create a “mob” of people who all decide that CoD is part of what’s Cool and Awesome in gaming.

        • Just Some Guy

          Actually, bragging about loving that new indie game critics can’t shut up about, while bashing the living heck out of the AAA gaming industry is **exactly** what you do these days to come off as hip, and cool. Seriously, look around, there is a **LOT** of that going on.

          • This is the eternal danger of anecdotes. Something you perceive to be more common than you would expect it to be can easily assert itself as your perception of the new normal. But you need to assess that perception critically–what games are actually the most talked about? What games are actually the most popular? In film, we have a term for these sorts of hot films that get disproportionately loud buzz relative to the size of their audience–“cult films.” There are video games that attract the same sort of following; that without actually being “cooler” or more popular than the most popular and successful games, have a disproportionate presence in the relevant communications channels. People who already pay attention to this sort of thing get the impression that “everyone’s talking about it” even if statistically way fewer people have actually seen it/played it than the blockbuster of the moment.

            Honest question–do you think people who like indie games are inherently cooler? Do you think people who like AAA games are inherently cooler? The answer to both of these questions, I’m guessing, is “no.” Do you think you’re some sort of special snowflake? Or do you think maybe you’re overdoing it in your warnings about how prevalent disingenuous hipsterism is?

            I think most of the people who say they like a game actually like the game.

    • Jpkurihara

      It’s a very clever game in how it toys with the forth wall.

    • RagAndBoneMan

      I don’t think it is just boring, I think it is trying to hard to be clever. Should have been a browser game.

  • Dave Dogge

    Is this a game for Bronies or Cloppers ?

    • thatdamnrat

      I don’t actually think it has anything to do with MLP, at least based on Jim’s Squirty Play.

    • Ian Smith

      Absolutely nothing to do with MLP.

  • xbb1024

    When I read ‘Metal Gear Solid, The Stanley Parable’, I got excited for a second thinking that somehow Kojima had made a combination of both games

    • Nathan Stapleton

      So… The Metal Gear Parable? I hope that be Kojima’s next game. Everything in the press info and stuff would be about literal metal gears rather than bipedal nuclear tanks. Then the twist is Konami actually are THE Patriots and the Metal Gear series is actually a warning about them planning the take over the world with Pachinko machines based on beloved properties and we just didn’t realize it. Then we all play them again and, knowing their true intent, realize that IS what they were about (rather blatantly too) but we were too dumb to realize it until it was too late. “You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

  • Brad Fang

    I got stuck early and moved on. I guess I should keep going, huh?

    • Richard Claus

      no. it’s a waste of time. go play something worthwhile instead. i regret finishing it.

  • Ann O. Nymus

    With all do respect Jim, but if you want your scores to mean something, I think you need to get some perspective and chill the hype before deciding on one.

    Is this game good? Sure, it’s alright. But at the same time I can’t help but notice how Undertale did the same thing both sooner AND better, while at the same time not feeling the need to constantly yell “look look, I am so meta” at me. Undertale also had more content and more humor (which, as it prooved, does nothing to undermine the creepyness if done properly).

    All in all, do you really think that this game deserves only 0.5 points less then Undertale?

    Like you said yourself, if you are going to use scores, make use of the whole range. Don’t let yourself get tempted into the metacritc user-review mindset.

    • Kylr Avery

      “Same thing.”

      If you think both this game and Undertale are “doing the same thing”, then you are missing something important in your understanding one of those games.

    • Steve

      What makes you presume Jim “wants [his] scores to mean something”?? I’d say he’s made it more than clear on many occasions that his scoring system isn’t a quantitatively-justifiable series of algorithms to determine a number which accurately and objectively reflects the game in question. It isn’t, and has never been, his intention that you can stick all of his reviews in a table and compare and contrast them to create some sort of game quality control chart.

      Jim is a human being, just like you! And like you (and all other human beings) he has feelings, and can experience different levels of enjoyment. Based on how much much enjoyment he gets from a game, he subjectively associates a number with it, and that’s the score! Pretty simple really.

      Jim doesn’t have to justify his score against scores he gave other games, or against scores which other outlets gave the game or other games. He can give games whatever score he wants. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. Tough! Go build up your own fan base, write your own reviews and assign your own scores, then you can score games however you feel they should be scored!

      • Ann O. Nymus

        I didn’t say he wants to, hence the “if”. I do think there are good reasons to want to, namely that it makes them more useful to his readers.

        And just because it’s probably impossible and definitely frickin’ hard to make scores 100% accurate and objective doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try to get them as close as possible.

        And yes, while having a look at the (hopefully) constructive criticisms of your work never hurt anyone, of course Jim doesn’t *have* to defend his reviews to anyone. Never said he did; I offered my opinion and he can take it or leave it.

        So in closing, if you don’t like people trying to have critical discourse, tough! Build your own website, where that will matter!

        • prh99

          It’s a review, and the score is a very loose quantification of Jim’s opinion of a game which makes objectivity impossible. As for accuracy, that’s down to quantifying his experience. There is no objective measure here, everything is subjective and filter through the lens that is Jim’s mind.

          Also Undertale should have nothing to do with it, the games aren’t comparable on think but a very basic level.

    • Inos

      I just want to BAAAAAAA really loudly whenever someone complains that they were left “disappointed” because, ostensibly, they bought a game based on a single review and came to realize the review didn’t match their subsequent experience. All review scores are a numeric quantification of an opinion. Why do people expect a reviewer’s personal opinion (including the numeric score) to match their own? *EVEN IF* it has on previous occasions? As an example, a friend and I can love “Lion King” and disagree as to the relative scoring of “Aladdin” compared to it.

      “All in all, do you really think that this game deserves only 0.5 points less then Undertale?”
      Yes, he does, or he wouldn’t have scored it that way. Do I agree with his relative scoring of those two games? Completely irrelevant. It’s Jim’s score, not mine. You can have a different opinion than Jim, and it doesn’t mean either opinion is objectively “wrong”. As such, don’t get me wrong — I’m not critiquing that you didn’t like the game as much as undertale. That’s completely understandable. I *am* critiquing the suggestion you’ve made that Jim’s opinion should match your own. (And before you disingenuously say that that’s not what you were arguing… yes. Yes it was.)

      As much as many of us seem to like to think of him this way, Jim is not actually the virtual extension of your psyche.

      • m0ng00se3

        When Jim rates a game highly I tend to take notice because I like a lot of things Jim likes.

        High ratings from him just seem to mean “actually worth a look” with his pick-a-number-any-number system rather than “a better way to spend time than a different game,” though

  • lovestospooge

    I like how he could have made a cheerful mobile game with the pony blowing away butterflies, but had to make it edgy to be noticed. I got the point… didn’t I??? yes, yes I did…. think ill give myself a celebratory pat on the rear.

    • Bosch

      Edgy comedy about Satan as a miserable, incompetent game programmer.
      Extreme Sunday drive through the park.
      Heavy metal shopping for fresh vegetables.
      Hardcore rubbing a puppy’s belly.
      So-intensely-extreme-your-reproductive-organs-will-launch-out-your-throat-to-the-sound-of-a-power-chord deciding on what tablecloth to bring to the picnic.

  • Ruaridh Blake

    Wow, what is with all the hate for this game? I heard about it from this review, bought it on Jim’s recommendation and have loved every second of it so far (although I admit I’ve not finished it yet. :P) I mean, this game is 5 USD, and it’s a great way to spend a little bit of time. It’s fine if you don’t like it, but seeing comments saying that it’s ‘critic bait’ are, in my opinion, taking it a bit far. It’s a small game that has a cool idea and enough originality to keep you interested. For what it is, I think it’s great.