Crouching Pony: Hidden Dragon (PC) Review

By Ian Soltes 26.09.2014 2

Review for Crouching Pony: Hidden Dragon on PC

Crouching Pony: Hidden Dragon, developed by Le Cortex and published by Neko Entertainment for the PC, is one of those rare, almost legendary, games within the medium. People have heard rumours of horrible games in the past - Action 52, Superman 64, Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis - but do those legendary titles of horror have a new accomplice? Read on to find out.

There have been many games that have tried to extol the virtues of the older times. Games that have sought a return to the difficulty, to the simplicity, to the immersion, or absurdity of those older games. Releasing a game actually designed for a defunct console is a decision of unfathomable stupidity. Crouching Pony: Hidden Dragon is stupid enough to attempt such a thing, and upon playing it, there is little doubt as to why.

Crouching Pony: Hidden Dragon attempts to bring back the older style of arcade beat 'em ups that could be found within many arcades and on consoles back in the earlier days of gaming. Some notable examples that come to mind of these games include titles like X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, and Gauntlet. However, it does not possess even the slightest bit of understanding as to what made these games great and memorable, and has instead fallen back on stupidly punishing difficulty, bafflingly designed game mechanics, and humour so horrific it could appear on a crime show as a valid suspect to the murder of comedy.

The game takes place in a world of baffling choices in which there are two clans, red and blue, and the playable characters are a ninja named 'Pony' and a ninja woman named 'Biki'. The task is to work through levels against a time limit that is so absurdly gracious that it may as well not exist, and a swarm of bullet-sponge style enemies. This alone sounds like a very good reason to knock this game below average, but each point should be picked apart and shown, if only so future generations might learn to avoid this game.

Screenshot for Crouching Pony: Hidden Dragon on PC

The first thing one will notice about the game is its comedy that is among the worst in existence, but why shall be saved for later. The second thing that will be noticed is the gameplay, which is among the most poorly designed in existence. Within the game there are three types of enemies that will appear on-screen: red enemies, blue enemies, and purple enemies. In order to fight each kind of enemy, weapons of a matching colour need to be flung at them to damage them. This sounds simple so far, yet it is ruined in the most spectacular of manners.

The game makes it so that if an attack hits an enemy of an opposing colour, not only will it deal no damage to them, but it will bounce back to hurt Pony or Biki.

When a swarm of enemies of mixed colours ends up being fought, many of the attacks will bounce off the enemy and back at the player, potentially wounding them, simply because one of the other enemies moved into the path of the weapon. To make this an even worse mechanic the purple enemies can only be hurt by melee attacks and any ranged attack will simply bounce off them harmlessly. A single purple enemy can ruin an entire fight by making it so that the player has to run around in circles, randomly shooting at the swarm, hoping that their attacks do not hit the enemy or enemies whom will simply reflect their attack right back towards them before having to move in close, well into the enemies attack range, to kick any remaining purple foes to death.

Even the background conforms to this mechanic as the various barrels and crates come in red and blue varieties, and chests always come in purple meaning that they must be kicked open in order to use them. When even the non-threatening boxes that would be cracked open for quick cash or items in a game pose a valid threat there is something VERY wrong with the game.

All this is perfectly exampled in the first boss battle in which a purple guy is surrounded by two layers of alternating red and blue shields. What this results in is furiously flinging random-coloured weapons at the two shields, hoping that they hit one of a valid colour, because there is no way to ensure that the right weapon can be flung at the right time, before having to pass through both shields to perform melee attacks upon the boss himself.

Screenshot for Crouching Pony: Hidden Dragon on PC

Thought the poorly designed gameplay ended there? Not by a long shot! The enemies hold very little variety to them and often are little more than bullet-sponges that swarm together and are best dealt with by running around in circles flinging in attacks, hoping they don't hit the wrong-coloured foe, as they whittle the enemies down.

Then arena mode kicks in. Arena mode is a 'special' thing that happens seemingly at random when the walls of the screen become locked, keeping Pony or Biki inside, as a swarm of foes of various colours flood in to all attack at once. With the poorly-made combat mechanics this is already difficult. They then chose to make it so that each blow deals a sizable chunk of damage to the life bar and health pick-ups are rare. Of the many pick-ups in the game, most are time pick-ups, which add a bit to the time limit, some are temporary power boosts, but only rarely are they health boosts. When faced down ten or more foes, each capable of hurting for a notable amount of health, and there is no room to run, things get messy very fast.

There is also a 'jump mechanic' that is a mechanic in only the loosest sense of the word. On occasion there are small gaps, the jump button is pressed, and then Pony is on the other side of the gap. If it has a use in combat it is not shown or made apparent in any way.

Lastly, and most importantly, upon dying Pony will restart at the beginning of the level. These levels are not short, are not forgiving of mistakes, and can be downright frustrating to work through, only to have all that work count for naught because an arena mode happened right near the level exit. This makes the game far too frustrating for anyone not outright focused on beating it because, with one small event beyond players' control, all their work becomes meaningless.

Screenshot for Crouching Pony: Hidden Dragon on PC

Now for the biggest problem of them all: this game's humour. Right from the get-go the player will notice that Biki, the main female character, is overly bosomed and wears so little clothes she would need to put on some to be considered 'scantily clad,' and exists only to make sex puns and jokes within the game. Crouching Pony quickly devolves from there in the most disgusting of manners. Before long, players will: fight prostitutes in the Red Light District, while standing over the disembowelled body of a panda; explore a prostitute's room labelled 'Samus,' with 'Bill,' 'Bush,' and 'Obama' listed as her top customers; fight off gay French sailors on docks with the drowned bodies of prostitutes in the water; enter into a gay bar through 'the back door' - and this is within the first two levels of the game.

This was intended to be 'tongue-in-cheek humour' according to one of the game's trailers, but instead comes off as offensive, disgusting, confusing at times, and unfunny even in an offensive manner. This is only made worse by a confusing plot that made little to no sense as to why things were happening and characters so shallow as to make the notion of humour a vapid, meaningless word. It is pure confusion and vitriol mixed together without a dash of sense or sanity added in.

Screenshot for Crouching Pony: Hidden Dragon on PC

Cubed3 Rating

1/10
Rated 1 out of 10

Awful

It is insulting to even grant Crouching Pony: Hidden Dragon a score of one. Everything about this game plays not like a tribute to the older games, a parody of older games, or even a misguided attempt to make one. Rather, this feels like it was a game designed by people who hate video games and wished to make the most insulting game they could to frame all gamers as pony-loving idiots who rejoice at excessive violence and gore, enjoy needlessly difficult and archaic games, can only laugh at horrible and offensive jokes, and only understand women as these weird things that need to be insulted and degraded. The only positive to it is that it can function, though for the few players who may own it, they may wish it hadn't.

Developer

Le Cortex

Publisher

Neko

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  1/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Wow!

1.) Great first review
2.) What an amazing game to have as your welcome to C3
3.) Those 'jokes' sound like my level of puerile humour Smilie
4.) It scored higher than The Letter, and lots of people bought that...so it must actually be good Smilie [/flawed logic]

Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Jordan (guest) 29.09.2014#2

Wow, seems like the designers had to be in a pretty dark place to create this game. I'll be sure to avoid.

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