From the makers of Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor comes There Might Be Ponds, a cute but uniquely odd game at IndieCade 2017. Initially seeming like a harmless adventure of girl finding a weird but cute garden while searching for a pond, the game’s uniqueness will hit you as soon as you bump into the first gate. The easiest way for me to explain it is a game utilizing Nintendo 64-era adventure puzzles, ala Mario 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but mixed with VR mechanics. Like the puzzles you solved on the N64, Ponds has you exploring a charming little world that’s largely non-threatening but at times frustrating with puzzles that, once solved, will make you smack your head.
For example, one puzzle involved moving a sleeping “Lard.” You aren’t able to directly interact with it at all, but it’s sleeping near a stone ring. Moving to high ground reveals a few switches. By moving those switches, parts of the stone ring move, but the “right answer” still isn’t obvious. Only by going down and looking at some of the moving parts will you realize that you’ve activated a loudspeaker, at which point you’ll be running back up the hill, moving the pieces to the right places, and waking the creature.
However, unlike most games where you simple press “A” to flip a switch, Ponds asks you to actually move pieces. That is, your trigger buttons act as grips, and the controls act as the movement. Opening a door means gripping the handle and pulling in the right directions. Valves must be spun, levers flipped, stones lifted.
The color-saturated landscapes and Adventure Time–esque character designs are, again, charming, but in my play experience, never hit the “this is kind of adult” type humor. Like Mario 64, the game gives an illusion of openness but is still fairly linear, at least from what I experienced. It’s hardly revolutionary, but the VR-like controls with a normal, non-motion based controller feels like a natural input evolution other developers seem to rarely employ.