Friday, April 6, 2012

Review:Pony Platforming Project 3

The title screen for the game, which also functions as a link to the game itself

Mark Sprague has proved me wrong once again with the third release in the excellent Pony Platforming Project series, and unlike the last two games this one stars Colgate, a time-manipulating unicorn who wants to change her destiny and become a dentist instead. Thankfully Mark has decided to continue this series despite his involvement with Mane 6, and he has stated that he specifically addressed many of my complaints in this new instalment of the Pony Platforming Project. To be honest, it's really nice when developers listen to feedback from critics and address their problems; many are too stuck-up to admit that they did anything wrong and refuse to change anything.

So what do I think of the third Pony Platforming Project? Has Mark Sprague managed to create yet another fantastic fangame, or has my overall praise gotten to his head? Find out after the break!

So first off, the already excellent graphics have been improved even further. The sprite animations are smooth, midair attacks don't look near as clumsily animated, and the game environments now actually feature parallax scrolling (which was a very nice touch, one that I'd always wanted to be added to the series). Colgate's brush looks rather out of place floating by her side, but without it Colgate couldn't possibly melee without using Applejack's even worse kicking animation, and besides that brush comes quite in handy, letting the player perform moves that would have been impossible with Applejack (more on that later). The game's new environmental music is also quite fitting, and while it's not outstanding it does its job and does it well.

An image showcasing some of the game's parallax scrolling.
The game greatly benefits from Parallax Scrolling, which adds an illusion of depth while in motion.
While the core gameplay has largely stayed the same since the project's original incarnation it has received a couple of fairly minor changes in this release. For one, the player has a magic bar that recharges over time, and drains from usage of special attacks and abilities, such as ranged attacks and Clocking Up. When activated by holding jump and attack together Clock Up freezes time and lets the player move at an increased speed, effectively replacing the run ability in the previous games. However, this ability takes up a lot of energy, and is not really necessary if you're good enough at the game. There is also a working points system that can be used to buy items from Trixie's shop (which is no longer free), and a points multiplier can be gained by defeating enemies in quick succession.

In my review of the second game in the series I mentioned that the environments felt a lot more organic then the original. Sadly the current release of this game actually took a couple steps backward in the very first level, with long, unnaturally flat portions of ground followed by small hills and various platforms. It's a real shame, but thankfully the second level remedies this with a better-designed cave level. The game also features a greater variety in enemies then it's predecessors, and added environmental hazards make the game more interesting. I actually found the poison joke's side effects to be an additional challenge mode, with greater scores gained and more rewarding dialogue found by playing under its effects. Plus, it's ridiculously satisfying to beat the crap out of enemies as a toothpaste tube.

Let me tell you, you can actually gain more points by playing as Toothpaste. It's harder, but trust me, it's worth it.
Playing as toothpaste proves you're a real boss at this game.
Unlike the previous games in the series the Pony Platforming Project III is much more story-driven, with a clear goal to the game, multiple endings and hidden secrets. There is also a couple sidequests throughout the game as well, and a couple options that give minor changes to each endings. Upon completing the game the player receives various "cutie marks", achievements that showcase the player's various accomplishments throughout the game, and add extra replay value to the game. This feature was not originally in the game but was patched in soon after, an addition that was well worth it.

Remember how I said that the Pony Platforming Project Holiday Special was better in every way then the original? Well, this game comes quite close to doing the same to its predecessor, but actually regressed a little on level design, which is quite unfortunate. Otherwise, it's an excellent fangame with great graphics, fun gameplay and the only video game to ever let you beat the crap out of giant, armoured lizards as a toothpaste tube. Despite its shortcomings this is probably the premier of released MLP fangames and takes the crown from the Holiday Special, which received the same score this game is about to receive:

A score of nine!

Congratulations on creating such an excellent game, Mark Sprague, and may you continue on to create many more such games (if you so desire, although since you're busy with Mane 6 we understand). Hope you all enjoyed the review and I'm sorry about posting it so late. Now if you haven't played the game yet already, go on and do it! Trust me, you will not regret it, and maybe try returning to find more endings and hidden secrets.