Review: Pony Island

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Ages 13 and up
Genre: Puzzle / Horror
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2016
Review Published On: March 27th, 2017
Played on: Martha & Thaddeus

Available from:

Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

Your progress is automatically saved whenever you finish a puzzle. Meanwhile, you can pause with ESC.

Once the story has been completed at least once, you'll gain the option to skip to any act you want.

Summary of
Major Issues:

Although this could have been a clever reveal, nothing even tries to hide the fact that you are literally attempting to best Satan at his own arcade game. Thus, there are a lot of satanic references in Pony Island.

Also, this game depicts Satan as childish and inept, in addition to being evil.


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Talking with another lost soul

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Subtlety is a lost art

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Happy little ponies

Game Overview

Satan has been known to use a lot of methods to get people to sign over their very souls throughout the years. However, as effective as he's been, it seems to have become rather boring. The end result is that he's now using video games to trap souls for eternity. His current product is a game called Pony Island, and it's a happy little game about a unicorn that jumps over hurdles.

Or it would be, if Satan had any actual skill in computer programming. His game is woefully buggy and broken, leaving the player stuck in an eternal limbo, waiting for the arcade machine to work. So, the player must hack the machine, fix the broken code, make the game work and eventually beat the Devil at his own game. Literally.

Most of this game involves logic puzzles involving "code", though you do periodically play the (now altered) Pony Island game itself. This get rather hysterical as Satan whines and throws tantrums over your "cheating". There's a lot of computer and gaming humor hidden throughout the game, so it's worth it just for that if you can ignore the demonic references.

Points of Interest

LOTS of computer related humor
Nearly everything that can be referenced is mentioned in some way. This includes desktops that resemble old versions of Windows, other popular games, programming concepts and even unexpected breaks in the fourth wall. Expect the unexpected, and enjoy the somewhat nostalgic trip.
The developer thought of everything
It seems like anything is fair game in Pony Island. This includes cheating your way through difficult parts or beating impossible odds through lots of grinding. There's a special response for many different things you could do.
Tickets are hidden throughout the game
Old arcade cabinets, like the one your character is playing on, dispensed tickets when certain criteria were met. These could then be traded for prizes elsewhere in the arcade. Here, they act as hidden collectibles. In addition to being hard to find secrets, finding them can earn you several achievements.
Steam achievements and trading cards
Like many games, you'll earn achievements as you play. Many of these are based on little more than your progression through the story, but earning them all will require a number of playthroughs. Of course, the longer you play, the more likely you'll earn the Steam trading cards that are offered, so it's something of a win-win.
Fairly short
Pony Island can be beaten within two hours, making it a very short game. But, the need to replay it in order to see everything does help make up the difference. Unfortunately, if you're not the type to earn every achievement or see every secret, this isn't going to help much.

Concerns and Issues

Satanic and demonic references
This game is remarkably open and frank about Satan himself being the architect behind Pony Island. There's no attempt to hide this from you or surprise you at all. Instead, it's often used for humor. Satan's depiction is closer to that of a villain from Scooby Doo than the ultimate evil, and many of the things he's done are depicted with cartoonish silliness. For example, many arcade games in real life have points where the player is instructed to "INSERT COIN TO CONTINUE". Here, you're greeted with a cheerful image and the message "INSERT SOUL TO CONTINUE".

Beyond this, various programs are named after demons, and pentacles and even the Satanic Cross can be seen throughout the game. Basically, the devil branded his products with his own logos.
Talking with a demon
There are a few hidden areas of the game where you can interact with a digital version of a demon. This demon offers information about your character and their past, but it won't tell you anything until you give it the right password. It's unclear whether or not the devil programmed this character into his game or if this is simply a bored demon that is using the game as a method of communication with your character's trapped soul.
A tiny bit of blood
Satan doesn't care for cheaters. At one point, this makes him angry enough that, like a toddler throwing a tantrum, he takes your pony character, rips off the sprite's head and impales it on a spike. This does absolutely nothing beyond look petty and childish.
Mild violence
In the actual Pony Island game, there is a weapon available for the player's character. Originally this is dummied out, but thanks to the player's hacking, their pony gains the ability to shoot energy beams from its mouth. This is as utterly ridiculous as it sounds, and the devil responds by creating enemies to fight you. Naturally, you just use your pony laser beam to take them out.
"Jesus" as a bad guy
This requires a little explanation. One of the enemies the devil creates to counter your pony laser beams is a wizard that shoots magic at you. Later on in the story, Satan gives Pony Island a colorful and cheerful overhaul, making everything pretty, cute and adorable. This is little more than a reskin, as the only difference is the new appearance of the game's characters.

In this retouched version, the wizards are replaced with a bearded man on a cloud that shoots stars at your pony. Using your lasers to defeat this enemy causes the game to display the message "YOU KILLED JESUS!".

Normally, I'd be concerned about this sort of thing, but by that point in the game you know that the devil is controlling everything you're seeing and it's all a sham.