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Video Game / Pony Island

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"You just had to fix it, didn't you?"

Pony Island is a Suspense Puzzle game by Daniel Mullins Games, released on January 4th, 2016.

You are in limbo, trapped in an arcade and forced to play a malevolent and malfunctioning arcade machine devised by the devil himself. The devil detests having his puzzles solved and poor programming exposed; you will need to think outside the box to proceed and you will be insulted when you do. In the process, you encounter a Hopeless Soul trapped in the game who will help you escape. If you poke around, you might even be able to discover some secrets.

Gameplay alternates between an automatic runner for the actual game, in which you control a pony and must make it to the end of each level, and a Point-and-Click adventure interface used for everything else, like the hacking minigames you will have to win to fix the many glitches found in the game.

Available on Humble Bundle as a DRM free download and Steam game, as well as Steam itself.

It is recommended that you play the game first, as there are major spoilers below, you've been warned.


  • Anachronism Stew: Since the game is set in Limbo, time and space has no meaning. The Arcade machine has an old style curved CRT monitor, the graphics look like something from Atari or Coleco, the desktop looks like Windows 95, the copyright notice for pony island lists 1992 and the machine prints out arcade tickets. Then there is the fact that the player is a Crusader from the 1200s who's able to operate a computer.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If there is a Hacking portal around, the cursor will spit between red and blue and will point towards it.
    • A patch added an Act Select to the main menu to make accessing Ticket hotspots easier.
    • During the final level, you have unlimited Pony Laser power. You're probably going to need it.
  • Artistic License Religion:
    • Asmodeus is the demon king of lust, but he doesn't seem all that interested in love or sex over testing your wits in the most horrendous way possible. Also, Beelzebub is another name for Satan, in this game they're different demons altogether.
      • Some demonology works have Beelzebub as a separate demon that represents the sin of gluttony.
      • Makes a bit more sense if you connect Lucifer's statement immediately before the Beelzebub encounter. You get to the mostly incomplete ending of Adventure Mode, and he says that he is the last boss. He's just correct From a Certain Point of View.
  • ASCII Art: Baphomet is rendered as a red ASCII demon head.
  • Beeping Computers: Or Beeping Arcade Machines Not only does your arcade machine make loud hard-drive clicks and whirrs when booting up and reading data, it actually has an option to play "Struggling Hardware" sounds.
  • Big Bad: Lucifer is the creator of the titular Pony Island who has trapped the player and several other souls inside his game.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • During your second go at Pony Island, Lucifer will surround the pony with Devil heads that kill it after a few seconds and are unavoidable. His response after you inevitably lose? "MY GAME IS CHALLENGING BUT FAIR."
    • When the 1st version of 2D Pony Island refuses to load a new game, forcing the player to fix it, Satan is dejected about this, arguing it was going to work because he "tested it 1,000 times." Evidently, he did not.
  • Blood from the Mouth:
    • You are forced to shoot Louey when he appears on screen. Your air breath suddenly turns into a laser, causing him to vomit and cry blood.
    • In one of the versions of Pony Island you get to play, the pony heads that surround the title will vomit blood when highlighted. This is actually something you need to exploit in order to get one of the tickets.
  • Breath Weapon: One of the first things you get to do is to enable "Pony Lasers" that enable your pony to fire a Wave-Motion Gun from its mouth.
  • But Thou Must!:
    • Early on, Lucifer will force you to type "yes master" regardless of what keys you press, or if you complete the message. Also, as he actually lampshades at one point, doing what Hopeless Soul asks is the only way to progress the plot, despite all the warnings that he's not trustworthy.
    • At a later point, you will need to use the Pony Wings before they are re-explained to you. You can play dumb and avoid using them, but you'll just keep hitting fences and respawning until you use them.
  • Catastrophic Countdown: Initiated by the player, when they commence a full system dump. The lost souls, in the vessels of ponies, have to all race to escape the destruction of Lucifer's machine... they don't all make it.
  • Collapsing Lair: The system dump not only shows game assets degrading around you, but also throws corrupted code that can kill you. You have to use your pony lasers to clear a path for you and your fellow escapees.
  • Deal with the Devil: With Lucifer himself. You play the eponymous Game Within a Game multiple times, and are usually interrupted after a few levels with a screen saying "Experience the rest of Pony Island! Insert your soul to continue."
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: As levels aren't terribly long, death isn't much of a punishment. Dying in a boss fight causes the boss to heal a small amount of health, but otherwise no progress is lost.
  • Deceptively Silly Title: "Pony Island" sounds like it'd be a game targeted towards young children, but it definitely isn't.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • Retroactively invoked; some players had the gall to replay the stage at EXP Beach enough times to actually get 100 EXP in Adventure Mode, so a patch made it so you do get the Pony Wings from doing this.
    • Didn't get all the tickets on your first run? And now you know which one(s) you missed? No problem. After completing the game, the Start Menu is glitched to include a 'select chapter' option.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: You can use pony lasers to destroy Lucifer.
  • Dummied Out: In-Universe; many aspects of the game are left out by the creator Lucifer himself no less, since he's never satisfied with his work. A lot of content and features made by him remain orphaned and nonfunctional in the machine. Ranging from game options like 'Pony Blades,' 'Ponymobile' and 'Unlimited Ammo,' to system programs such as Buer.exe, an outdated guardian of an important core file.
  • Endless Running Game: The Pony stages are this mixed with Auto-Scrolling Level your pony is fixed in one position and you must avoid obstacles to get to the end of each level.
  • Escort Mission: Of a sort, considering you are the only one with any ability to protect the ponies behind you during the escape. If you don't feel up to it, there's no penalty other than keeping the Souls Lost as low as possible. It is also impossible to keep the count at zero, as there are ponies in the background that Lucifer will attack with no way to stop him from doing so.
  • Exact Time to Failure: The System Dump has a helpful Exact Progress Bar at the top of the screen showing the dump's progress as you make your escape.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Most of the game's various options, regardless of the version Satan created, simply do not work. Even the text-based adventure has errors.
  • Forced Level-Grinding: The game parodies this with the Pony Wings upgrade. You need the wings to clear an otherwise impossible jump. You unlock the wings at level 2. You need 100 experience points to level up, and clearing the EXP Beach level grants 1 experience point. Fortunately, you can hack the game to skip all the grinding.
  • Foreshadowing: The pony wings, butterfly enemies and Lucifer's final form appear on Satan's desktop.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Looking through the credits of Pony Island reveals that several historical monsters (among them Nero, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and Osama Bin Laden) had a hand in helping Lucifer with the game. Oh, and Dracula, who is a distinct individual from Vlad the Impaler, since both are credited.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: In-Universe: Your first attempt to play the first level of the titular game results in the game being unable to load. Naturally, you have to fix the Start button to even begin. They keep on popping up as you progress and they're very useful in bypassing Lucifer's security protocols.
  • Gaslighting: After beating Beelzebub.EXE and dumping the second core, Lucifer gasses you. When you wake up, the entire game has been changed to look like that of an actual Sugar Bowl game. The facade doesn't last long however, and you break it once you kill Louey.
  • Genre Roulette: Shifts between a Running Game, Programming Game and a game of miscellaneous Mind Screw puzzles.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • Getting many of the Tickets. The solution to the Ticket Lake ticket in particular was so obtuse, the creator made his own gif showing how to get it.
    • The Settlers of Catan knockoff you can find lying around. Unless you've memorized the cost of all buildable resources, let alone how the game works in the first place, it's terribly difficult to play since the game doesn't tell you anything about it. That said, even if you can't figure out the rules, you can still safely brute-force the buttons to get the ticket.
  • The Illuminati: As you browse upon the profiles in the devil's computer, a strange eye starts to follow you around. Log into the Guest account and move an image file of a triangle over it, and the eye is finally content. The message "Illuminati Confirmed" displays, earning you a free ticket.
  • Informed Species: What with the double horns, bat wings, breath weapon and fangs, the titular pony ends up looking more like a dragon.
  • Interface Screw: Constantly due to the glitched out nature of the machine on top of everyone backhacking. Then there's Asmodeus, who, among other things, sends the player fake Steam chat messages and fake-crashes the game in an attempt to divert your attention.
  • Interface Spoiler: Several of the aforementioned Interface Screws rely on the player playing with specific software. You will still get fake Steam messages when playing the DRM-free version without Steam installed. The fake crash window is in Windows 7's style even if you are on a different OS or version of Windows.
  • Knockout Gas: At the end of Act II, the arcade machine spews sleeping gas at the player, causing a 300-year Time Skip. Not that it matters in Limbo; the only difference being that Pony Island now looks nicer.
  • Lovecraft Lite: The game ends with you fighting, and killing, Lucifer.
  • Mind Screw: The game. And that's without considering PonyIsland.META...
  • Never Trust a Title: Pony Island is not a game about ponies. Ponies are in it, but they aren't the central focus.
  • New Game Plus: Replaying the game after beating it will cause Lucifer and Hopeless Spirit to call you out on doing this stuff again. And then there is Louey...
  • No Fair Cheating: You get chastised by the game's creator for cheating and not playing his game the way he intended. Given that the creator is Satan, however, and that it used to be literally impossible to progress in the game without cheating (and even now, it's a boring grind), you won't be inclined to feel guilty.
  • No Fourth Wall:
    • If you decide to mess around with the game's save data, Lucifer will bluntly tell you to knock it off the next time you load up a game. He also remembers the player if they start a New Game Plus and changes his opening speech accordingly.
    • If all the tickets are collected, the Hopeless Soul determines that you must be looking for the Golden Ending and challenges you to a "cathartic" final battle. Once the fight is done, he tells you to close the game, because there's nothing else to see.
    • The Hopeless Soul outright encourages the player to delete the core files as it's "the only way to advance the plot."
    • The fight with the third demon, Asmodeus.EXE, is nothing but this as he tries to trick you into looking away from the game window. This includes faking a Steam friend message, playing social media notification sounds at random, and intentionally causing a program stall that you have to "wait for the program to respond" on.
  • Not Quite Flight: The Pony Wings, which gift your pony with the ability to glide over gaps and obstacles by holding the Jump button in midair.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: All over the place, and they only get worse as you delete CORE files. The most common one is the CRT De-calibration of Red and Blue, often used by Lucifer and to indicate Hack Portals.
  • The Overworld: The devil later adds an "Adventure Mode" to Pony Island, where you go from stage to stage a-la Super Mario Bros. The devil's shoddy programming means you soon go Off the Rails to explore it.
  • Our Demons Are Different: They're specially-programmed AI named after famous demons, made to guard the core files from deletion. Whether or not the actual demons they're named after are inhabiting the program is up for interpretation. The only obvious "real" demon is Satan himself.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Theodore's soul is both simultaneously inside and outside the arcade cabinet machine. He's trapped in not just Limbo, an empty arcade, but also in the Devil's game machine. He can't move, until he either surrenders his soul, or tears down the prison itself. Not just him, but thousands of other damned souls too. Each in their own empty arcades, stuck in their own profiles.
  • Outrun the Fireball: It's technically a full system dump you have to stay ahead of, but the trope still applies in the finale of the game.
  • Player-Exclusive Mechanic: The effects are shown during the escape: you're the only one with the Pony Wings and the Pony Lasers.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Lucifer delivers one just before the Final Boss, a third of the way through the full system dump, which shows that he's no longer playing around.
    "You don't want to give me your souls? Fine. I am no longer asking."
  • Programming Game: The hacking sections, where you must place command blocks to guide the program counter represented by a key to the desired instruction. It starts out simple with simple arrows, then adds "portals" that cause the key to warp to the other portal upon passing one, splitters that creates a second key on the right side, and variables that require passing through certain bits of code multiple times while avoiding code that will reset the variable.
  • Religious Horror: You fight Satan as a crusader stuck in purgatory.
  • The Reveal: Getting all the truths is a slow version of this. You play as a Crusader named Theodore who left behind a mother and daughter to fight alongside King Louis IX during the 7th Crusade. You died in 1252 in the waning summer sun to Abu Al-Kindi, who fought for his city along the walls of Jerusalem. You died far from home wearing plate armor and riding a horse and your soul was damned from a presumably vicious streak. The place you are in is purgatory except, in here, you have to prove you are redeemable. note 
  • The Scottish Trope: To say Lucifer has a negative relationship with his father is putting it rather lightly. He never speaks his actual name, and gamers who sift through the code long enough discover he only refers to him as "father, pure evil." Baphomet warns the player not to go around uttering that slanderous nickname, since he is always watching and listening.
  • Sequence Breaking: The player is told that the Final Boss hasn't been coded yet. The player can get to it anyway through exploiting a few glitches. Lampshaded.
    Lucifer: I wanted there to be more of a build-up, but if you're here we might as well do this.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: The System Dump, in no uncertain terms, destroys the arcade machine trapping you and thousands of other damned souls. Once you start the Dump, you have to high-tail it out before it all unravels around you.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the credits, Dracula's name shows up.
    • One of the files when you exit to the desktop for the first time is called MissingNo. Interesting because it's a shout-out to a famous glitch in a game that's all about fixing and exploiting glitches. In addition, the <CORRUPTED> files that appear during the System Dump bear a heavy resemblance to MissingNo.
    • One of the glitched option screens has a list of Yes, No, Maybe, I Don't Know and Can You Repeat the Question.
    • The way the colored version of Pony Island starts out as a bright and cheerful world and gradually decays into something more nightmarish is more than a little reminiscent of Eversion, including trees withering away and the screen briefly flickering at some points to a screen showing only a setting sun that looks similar to Eversion's World 4.
    • The I AM ERROR Room has ERROR with a design very similar to that other game he was in.
    • Louey himself is obviously a reference to Flowey. Besides the name, they both use "howdy, friend" and look innocent at first.
    • There are certain names that Hopeless Soul will have special answer for, including Bojack and Chara.
      • Checking the Credits in Pony Island 3D only gets the message "Credit Where Credit Is Due," written in a mix of Comic Sans, Papyrus, and Wingdings.
    • Louey bears a resemblance to The Gatekeeper (in his pajamas, at least) from Adventure Time.
    • The existence of "Adventure Mode," an allegedly cheerful exploration mode in the middle of a dark game, is clearly a parody of Five Nights at Freddy's World, itself a self-parody of the Five Nights at Freddy's series.
  • Show Within a Show: The titular Pony Island is loaded onto an arcade machine located in Limbo.
  • The Stinger: After the credits, Hopeless Soul appears and requests that you uninstall Pony Island so that his own soul can be free as well. Also, by typing "David" in the red devil face where it tells you about your background, then digging through some hidden in-game control options. It will reveal to you the title of the sequel "Pony Island 2: Panda Circus."
  • Story Breadcrumbs: The only background information you get about your character depends on your interactions with Baphomet. It might require a couple of playthroughs to get every tidbit. Not to mention that if you somehow manage to board the boat in Adventure Mode, the pony sprite changes to a crusader.
  • Stylistic Suck: Pony Island. Lucifer really sucks at programming and game design.
  • Surreal Humor: Much of the game's humor comes from the idea of Hell as a video game... programmed by Lucifer, who is quite possibly the most incompetent game designer in existence.
  • Sugar Bowl: At one point, you have to replay a reskinned version of the game with obnoxiously cutesy graphics and a lengthy Forced Tutorial explaining things the player has already learned from earlier playthroughs. It actually gets a little ominous when the player pulls out the pony wings before Louey explains how to use them.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Satan had trapped thousands of souls in an arcade machine to play his ill-programmed games. During the escape, several of these souls-turned-ponies dogpile him.
  • Thinking Up Portals: The Hopeless Soul can make portals to the inner workings of the machine via a utility program. The problem is that he needs to find corrupt data to create the portals. That's where you, playing Satan's buggy games, come in.
  • Unending End Card: The regular ending doesn't qualify (although the H0peles$0uL tells you to uninstall the game and closes the game on you, you can reopen it at any time and continue). The ending you get via 100% Completion qualifies. After beating H0peles$0uL in a boss fight, he tells you there is nothing left to the game and leaves you to continue running an endless void.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: If you actually take the time to play the level grinding level 100 times to level up legitimately instead of cheating, Lucifer comments that he's both touched and surprised that you didn't cheat, sincerely thanking you for enjoying his game.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The pony game to Programming Game was just the start, and then you find PonyGalaxy.exe. At one point, you need to dig into Lucifer's old games to find one buggy enough to break. One is a first-person 3D version of Pony Island, and another is a text adventure.
  • Unicorn: The basic Pony sprite has a single horn to resemble one of these. Gaining the Pony Wings upgrades you to a Winged Unicorn. Devil Island and the System Dump stick two horns on you instead, making them look more like Horns of Villainy.
  • You Bastard!: The game will call you out if you killed Jesus during the Colored section.....and if you didn't kill him.