Making a quality 3D platformer is a difficult job for even the most talented developers. The controls must be spot on, the art style should be appealing and of course the dreaded camera has to obey. Developed in my own backyard of San Francisco, California…Poi is a platformer that really doesn’t do much to stand out. The name doesn’t really mean anything, it has a generic art style and your local game store employee likely hasn’t heard of it. All these things are a real shame because Poi is one of the most enjoyable and addictive 3D platformers I’ve played in years.
Playing as either a boy or girl character, you are tasked with discovering the mysteries of the Milky Way Globe. You are orphan siblings who ran off in search of adventure, one day you are awaken by an old man in need of help. This master explorer is your guide as you travel to different lands in search of his missing medallions, which basically are akin to stars or shines from Mario platformers. As you earn more medallions, you will be able to travel to new worlds and smaller areas containing mini-games or challenges. The main hub area consists of floating airships and islands that you reach with a parachute glider. Main levels have roughly 7 medals to earn by performing a specific objective. You might have to reach the top of a tall building, collect 7 scattered keys or defeat a pesky boss. Of course, there is also the “collect 100 coins” medallion for every main level as well. Ranging from very easy to average difficulty, these objectives are always fun and I was completing full areas in no time. I was surprised to see how much the difficulty ramped up in the final challenge level and boss fight, although it was nothing that determination couldn’t overcome.
While gathering medals is the main objective in Poi, there are many other smaller objectives that ultimately earn you more medals. Saving your coins for explorer items lets you do more in each area. Buying the shovel allows you to dig up fossils, collect them all for medallions. A camera item allows you to photograph and document the enemies in the game and the compass is crucial for locating many things. Other explorer items include a periscope for long distance viewing, larger wallet, magnet that attracts coins and an always useful extra heart slot. As you make progress, you will meet another NPC who needs golden gears to repair her airship. There are 50 of them scattered around the game, she offers a medallion for every 5 you bring back. To recap, at a point in Poi you will be completing a main level objective, digging up any fossils you find, photographing enemies, collecting gears AND finding all the “locations” within each level. All this would seem overwhelming except your explorer book documents everything for you. With so much to do I never felt overworked and was always making progress in some form. There are 100 medallions in total, but thankfully only 60 are needed to reach Poi’s ending.
Controlling your character feels exactly like I want a 3D platformer to feel. You can jump, double jump and triple jump if given enough space. A quick change of direction and jump will perform a cartwheel jump (ala Mario). You can slide down walls, bounce off them and jump dive as well. Killing enemies is done by bouncing on their heads, frankly the only thing missing from the Mario series was a butt-stomp! I almost always felt in complete control, this was especially evident during areas where I needed to balance or suffer a deadly fall. I was also surprised by how well the camera behaved during the entire game. I had full control over it with the right trigger and could even zoom the camera out by clicking it. It never got in the way and in this genre, that is something to brag about. The hit detection sometimes felt a little funny, especially when trying to avoid fire. Sometimes I would be completely out of range from a fire statue but I always suffered damage.
At first glance, Poi looks pretty bland graphically…while this may be true, it didn’t take long for me to appreciate the vivid colors and simple beauty of the environments. The music is fitting for each level and helped set the atmosphere for my adventure. Everything also held steady with no slowdown that I noticed throughout my 12-hour plus trek through Poi. There are some brief loading times but they don’t last for more than a couple seconds. Of all the games it resembles, I keep being reminded of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. There are some cliché worlds such as: forest, volcano, desert and ice but most had enough variety to keep them interesting. A cavern level with mining equipment and mechanisms everywhere was especially unique.
I also must mention that there is a glitch that slowed down my progress more than a few times. After reaching a checkpoint flag, if you lose all your hearts you will restart at the flag but won’t be able to move, or your character will just run in place. This was a genuine problem at the final level that caused a lot of frustration. I’ve done my part by alerting PolyKid Games on Twitter and I will gladly strikethrough this section of the review when it’s patched. Sadly, this glitch is keeping me from playing New Game Plus mode, as it challenges you to play the game with just a single heart container in mirror mode. The thought of the frustration this glitch will cause in NG+ is enough reason to wait for a fix.
I’ve told everyone who has asked me that Poi completely hooked me over the span of almost 13 hours. I earned all 100 medals, found all 50 golden gears, photographed every animal, found every costume, beat every mini-game, challenge AND more. It’s incredibly addicting and rewarding to do all these things and the variety in the tasks kept it fresh. At the price of $19.99, you are getting a very good 3D platformer that is simply fun. When you factor in new game plus mode and all there is to do, there is good value at that price. Poi has everything I wanted in a 3D platformer: fun gameplay, solid controls, beautiful art and lots to do. Highly recommended.
Poi is available now on Xbox One, PS4 & PC. A review copy was provided by PolyKid Games for the purpose of this review.