Some western games are all about the gun-toting adventures. Some are even darker affairs that involve a great deal of mystery and a whole load of clicking, as is the case in the atmospheric Aurora series. There are some that aren't quite as heavy or in-depth as these however, and that's because they just don't have to be. When it comes to instantly-enjoyable, cowboy-centric fun that's designed to give your brain a bit of a workout and your free time a bit of accelerated passing, the delightful Amigo Pancho is on hand to fill the gap in the most colourful and light-hearted way possible. Forget being terrified to click on the screen for fear of what will come next (again, this is the specialty of Aurora and its sequel); Amigo Pancho is a jolly physics-based puzzle game set in the comically stereotypical wild west.
The physics-based world of Amigo Pancho is a difficult one, partially because our Amigo seems to live his life in segmented, level-based form, but mostly because he spends quite literally all of his time clinging to life by grasping onto two helium balloons that are keeping him from falling to his death at the bottom of the canyon. It is this life-threatening scenario that forms the basis for Amigo Pancho's puzzling fun; you have to manipulate the objects on the screen in order to allow him to float to freedom, and all the while avoiding the pitfalls and obstacles that are stopping him from doing so.
You control the action solely with your mouse, clicking on the objects that you wish to be removed in order to create a scenario where Pancho floats effortlessly off the top of the screen and onwards to the next level. It may sound staggeringly simple but it's never a straightforward journey as you will soon find out. A variety of physics-adhering obstacles will stand in the way of you and Pancho's escape including wooden barriers, cacti that fall onto your balloons, cacti that fire spikes in various directions, wood with barbed wire coating, and a range of other sharp objects all designed to make you consider the situation and form a strategy for allowing Pancho to escape.
It is the dynamic way in which you must solve the puzzles that makes Amigo Pancho so entertaining to play. Often you will find yourself having to click on things in a certain order and keep manipulating things on the screen until you have made your escape. In other words, you cannot simply click on one or two things and watch as the puzzle solves itself - you must always be on the lookout for potential pitfalls and harmful objects, finding ways to minimise or eliminate the danger they pose to your escape. This often means utilising special objects like "crazy balloons", which allow you to move a pair of dangerous forks out of the way for just enough time to float past them. Get the timing wrong however, and Pancho falls to an untimely demise.
As far as physics-based puzzle games go, Amigo Pancho isn't anywhere near original in its premise. There are many physics-based puzzle games that involve the manipulation of objects to achieve certain goals - Apparatus for Android and the outrageously popular Cut the Rope are just two fine example of mobile-based physics fun that play with similar subject matter, as well as a multitude of flash-based offerings like Fantastic Contraption and Red Remover. Amigo Pancho is one of the few western-themed physics puzzle games of its kind however, giving it a niche appeal that will appeal to a number of wild-west fans out there.
I wouldn't say that Amigo Pancho is earth-shatteringly innovative or even hugely original in premise, but what I will say is that in spite of this, it still turns out to be a very entertaining experience. The physics are pretty much spot-on and the puzzles are nicely varied, increasing in difficulty at just the right rate to provide a challenge without frustrating players too much. It isn't anywhere near the difficulty of games like Red Remover however, and may consequently be a little too easy for some. It is one of the easier balloon-based physics games out there that's for sure, but it fits in very well and could act as the perfect taster for the more difficult balloon-based physics titles waiting to be played out there. One of the better collections of these games out there can be found at http://www.balloon-game.com/. I highly recommend checking out Bloons as a priority since it is one of the original balloon-based physics games and is still showing other games like Amigo Pancho how it's really done, even today.
Bebop Rating: 7.6/10