A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Premise involves near destruction of humanity with robots taking over in their stead. Not a particularly positive message.
Positive Role Models
Poncho, the robot hero, is a cute little guy trying to save what's left of humanity by meeting his Maker.
Ease of Play
Gameplay can be challenging thanks to limited visibility, timed gauntlets, unforgiving jumps. Using keyboard controls, it's downright punishing.
Violence & Scariness
Things get destroyed, structures sometimes crumble, but there's no outright violence.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Poncho is a challenging downloadable adventure-platformer that's nearly unplayable on a PC without a game controller. Though characters and content are kid-friendly, game levels are designed such that gameplay can often be far more frustrating than fun thanks to poorly designed environments and a clumsy control system. Things get destroyed, but there's no overt violence to most characters in the game.
Is It Any Good?
Nothing kills a video game faster than bad controls, and this one's hindered by them from the get-go. The PC version has it the worst, with keyboard controls seemingly designed to eliminate fun. Exaggerating the control scheme's built-in problems are difficult puzzles (some of them timed!) that insist players have exceptional coordination, perfect timing, and, in some instances, the ability to see into the future. Without the latter, you're likely to send poor Poncho to an untimely death more times than you can count and/or get stuck in a perma-death loop that can only be fixed by shutting the game down and restarting it.
On a more positive note, the game's graphics exhibit a distinct retro charm that's well matched by its sophisticated 8-bit-style soundtrack. Randomly generated levels and an interesting collection mechanic provide ample reason to replay the game, but the retro charm is undercut by vague storytelling. The abstract introduction doesn't do much to fill players in on what they're doing or why, and this makes it hard at first to care about Poncho or his objectives. In fact, it only serves to remind us of other stories (such as Wall-E or The Iron Giant) where well-meaning robots become heroes we can care about -- and to point out how Poncho suffers in comparison.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.