If you haven’t played Pony Island, chances are you might have seen someone on your friends list playing or someone talking about the game somewhere. It’s a quirky, cool game that likes to subvert your expectations — in more ways than one.
If you haven’t played the game, some major spoilers are about to follow. If you haven’t played the game yet, close the window and turn back. Or something. Pony Island costs less than $10 and you’ll get a few hours of fun, and you shouldn’t ruin it for yourself.
But if you don’t mind me doing that, then carry on below. (There’s no spoilers in the screenshots, in case you’re worried.)
As you play through the arcade machine from hell, you’ll eventually uncover the three steps you need to do to rescue yourself and all the other souls trapped inside Satantech’s diabolical platformer.
To escape, a fellow soul within the game says you have to delete three core files that will unshackle everyone from “HIS” power. The core files, called daemons, are named after Hell-like creatures and they have personalities and different challenges of their own.
By far and away my favourite was Asmodeus, a creature that asks you a series of questions while prompting you to pay attention to him at all times. If you get any of the questions wrong, you have to start over, although the game is wonderfully generous with checkpoints and the solutions are a simple matter of maintaining your focus.
I played through the game on the weekend with my girlfriend and the Steam controller — the latter of which worked perfectly using a default Valve configuration, although it probably added another hour to our playtime — and we couldn’t help but giggle when Asmodeus asked us to type in “something dirty”.
“There are no wrong answers,” we were told. After a quick deliberation, we opted to run with my better half’s preferred brand of filth.
I won’t share what was typed. I don’t want to get fired.
But while Asmodeus made some soft jabs, the best part was a notification that came up in the bottom right of the screen — where I’ve set Steam messages and notifications to appear. It was a message from someone on my friend’s list. They were aghast: they couldn’t believe I’d type something so filthy.
The graphics were so on point that I ran back into my bedroom to check my main PC — which was turned on, and also logged into Steam — to see if the message came through on both machines. It hadn’t, of course, because it was a fake message.
I’d already had a Steam notification come up earlier from someone inviting me to a game of CS:GO, so the trick sold me completely. Pulling from an actual friend on my list was incredibly meta, even if the game doesn’t double down by finding a way to get the Steam dialogue box to pop up on the Steam overlay as well.
It’s just one Pony Island’s subversive tricks, but for me and my girlfriend it was undoubtedly the coolest. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how many other indies — or even AAA titles — dig into Steam’s API to pull the same move.