Secret Ponchos on PS4: Spaghetti Western Style Combat

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Secret Ponchos on PS4: Spaghetti Western Style Combat

The Spaghetti Western is an inspiring genre brimming with attitude and style. From iconic character personalities and vivid settings, to tension-filled musical climaxes and boldly stylized visuals, every moment spent in a Spaghetti Western is filled with anticipation and epic drama.

At Switchblade Monkeys, we were inspired by this genre, and set out to make Secret Ponchos. We focused on 3 areas: creating original gameplay; setting a bold tone with the art and music; and shaping a player experience that feels true to the Spaghetti Western genre.

Secret Ponchos on PS4

It seems like many first- and third-person shooters use similar gameplay mechanics to each other, and while we love those games, we knew we wanted to do something different with Secret Ponchos. We wanted to create an original gameplay style, one that felt as unique as the genre itself.

As it turns out, the keystone for this change was the camera. By placing the camera overhead, we discovered the game had its own unique feel for combat, because there were new types of information a player could draw from. Players could suddenly see who is where, how far they are, the environment in-between. The gameplay became about how you read and react to these situations in addition to the combat itself. We now had opportunities to create new mechanics. Among these, we studied fighting games and included elements of precision range mechanics as well as precision timing to give the game a responsive quick-twitch console control feel. The result is a combat style with a unique marriage of fighting games and team shooters. What’s especially cool is that even though it has fighting game aspects, it works for a wide range of player modes, including: intimate 1 vs 1 duels, 2-4 player gang fights, and guns-blazing 8-player free-for-all shootouts.

Secret Ponchos on PS4

Secret Ponchos on PS4

The art & music direction on Secret Ponchos was a real highlight for us to start developing. While there are other Western games, we found they tend to aim for a realistic feel. With Secret Ponchos, we wanted to push in a more stylized direction and go for more of a graphic comic book feel. Character shapes and attitudes were exaggerated. Dramatic poses and stylized animations brought the characters to life. Envision a mysterious character standing perfectly still, with his Poncho whipping in the dusty wind. Not to be outdone, the original scores were created to raise the epic feeling even higher. In Spaghetti Westerns, the music defines the mood, things become incredibly intense with ranges of tension building timpani rolls to epic trumpet melodies and crescendos of violence. Spaghetti Western music was the inspiration that started us to focus on this genre!

Lastly, the setting itself. The premise of the game is “What’s Your Head Worth?“. Players create an outlaw (a persistent character) and enter the town of Lonetree – where they instantly have a bounty on their head. Players then engage in battle against others, battles where one will stand and one will fall. Our bounty system fosters this mentality of kill-or-be-killed. If you win, the value on your head goes up, while the defeated outlaw’s bounty drops. As your notoriety and reputation increase, you can unlock perk points and upgrade your gameplay abilities, tweaking your properties in a way that suits how you want to fight. Something interesting that developed from this was the aspect of head hunting. When players gain fame and accomplishments, they also become larger, more valuable targets to take out. “What’s your head worth?” sets the player mentality in a space that we felt was a cohesive fit with the wild west.

With Secret Ponchos, we set out to create something unique, both in style and gameplay itself. We created and embraced a new type of cross-genre combat, and set the stage in a dramatic, highly stylized Spaghetti Western world that we hope people will love.

We’ve a very hands-on development team, and enjoy talking to people about the game and process. Please feel free to ask any of us questions and we’ll do our best to answer!

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5 Author Replies

  • I’ve been waiting for more news on Secret Ponchos & this was great! I love the comic book art style you guys took on this. Best way to flesh out this type of game & characters,as well as the setting imo.

    When you guys say fighting game aspects, does that mean you can perform some sort of combos?

    • @Zage-Zaikano

      Im glad you like the Comic book like art style, we thought it would be a great mix with the Spaghetti Western Genre.

      So my conceptual answer to how it plays like a fighting game is this.. In a fighting game your character has a set of moves, all with different ranges and timing, and your opponent does too. You’re trying to impose the spacing (distancing) you want on your opponent so you can setup your moves, while using defense and movement to keep out of the way of their attacks. We use this concept a lot in Ponchos, players will do awesome if they are really mindful of their range, and the abilities they have from there, and also the timing of those abilities. So even though the presentation seems like a top down shooter, we learned a lot from studying our favorite fighting games.

  • Wonderful game :)

  • ThreeLeggedFreak

    No trailer?

  • Looks good and I think that is coming to PS4 in the IGC!!!

  • The art design is fantastic.

  • This was definitely me favorite that you had on stage for indie developers. I like how the character moved and that he had a revolver instead of a never ending stream of bullets. It seemed like it would take a little more skill.

    Nicely done.

  • Thanks for the kind words all ! It was an honour to be on stage with Sony, and We’re really excited you guys liked the game. Please feel free to join our face book page too

    For the inquiry about the trailer, there is a trailer on the front page of, ,check it out, and let us know what you think!


  • The art is indeed awesome, no doubt about that.
    What you wrote is intriguing too but man I would kill for a gameplay! That’s the only way we can get the real fell of the game..

    One question: We select who we want to play from a pre-definied roster of characters or can we somehow create one of our own?


    • @Milagres

      hey thanks for the kind words, we’re glad you like the art!

      How character customization works… You select an archetype from the character roster we create, but from there its yours to customize how you want. As you earn perk points you can assign them into your gameplay attributes for example Move speed, Damage, health , fire rate etc. So you kinda maximize your characters abilities in a way that suits how you like to fight.

  • Already excited for the game, but man, I’d love to have that first image as a poster. :O

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