I remember a time when 3D platforming adventures were all the rage, with titles like ‘Mario 64’, ‘Croc’, ‘Banjo-Kazooie’ and ‘Sonic Adventure’ showing what developers could bring to what was traditionally a 2D genre with the help of an analogue stick and a bit of camera control. Recently though there seems to have been a bit of a lull in the genre; whilst we do have titles like ‘Yooka-Laylee’ in the pipeline, it seems like developers are more likely to bring out a 2D platformer these days. It’s a shame because it’s a genre that I’ve always loved and spent plenty of hours enjoying over the years.
Enter Poi, a 3D platforming adventure with no fancy gimmicks and no snazzy bells or whistles attached either. Poi offers an adventure that puts you in the role of either a young boy or young girl who dreams of becoming an explorer. It’s a simple premise that manages to maintain that simplicity through its visual style and gameplay, though it’s certainly an experience that fans of the classic 3D platformers will enjoy.
There’s not a whole lot to Poi’s story, with the two young adventurers meeting an old gentleman known as the ‘Master Explorer’ who tasks them with uncovering a collection of medallions for him. Being wannabe explorers they accept this task (you are given a choice though I didn’t see what the ‘no’ option brought) and thus begins their adventure across the skies and through multiple perilous worlds.
Poi’s gameplay mechanics will be familiar to just about anyone who has played a 3D platformer. The player is able to control their character freely across colourful worlds as they run, jump, double jump, and bounce off enemies in a bid to complete the game’s many goals and earn themselves some medallions. These goals are typically simple enough; the first world alone tasks you with objectives such as ‘powering up a windmill’ or ‘finding the seeds for a contest’ so they’re of the garden-variety for the genre, but they’re all enjoyable enough and bring a decent amount of diversity to each world.
Most of these tasks are completed by working through the game’s many platforming sections – I hope you missed the days of making tight jumps between hazardous moving platforms, because you’ll be doing plenty of it here. You’re able to double jump and wall jump to help get through these platforming sections, but I found the jumping mechanics could be a little tricky to get used to at first. I didn’t necessarily feel like I had the complete accuracy to make jumps (especially when trying to land on top of an enemies head) so there were plenty of mistimed leaps on occasions when I felt like I’d timed it right, whilst making quick turns and jumping had some mixed results too. I don’t know if this is down to human error on my part or if there’s something that doesn’t feel fully ‘right’ with the game, though I’d managed to adjust a little and by the end of the game was hitting targets with ease… most of the time.
The double jump could be a little frustrating though – there were so many times where I’d try to double jump over a high platform, only to see myself bounce off it in a wall jump. The wall jump mechanics were a bit too sensitive at times, resulting in my little adventurer spending more time bouncing off the environment rather than over it. You get used to it all with time, but there’s certainly a bit of a learning curve before you’re hopping around the worlds of Poi with ease.
There are multiple worlds to visit in the game, though they’re all the typical environments you’ve seen in 3D platformers of yesteryear. A luscious grassy area full of greenery? Check. A dangerous volcano with burning pits of lava? Double check. A snowy area that’s full of icy perils? You’ve got it. Whilst Poi doesn’t take you anywhere that you wouldn’t have been before, it does offer refined level design that makes each area a treat to explore. You constantly feel like you’re uncovering something new, and with levels that shift a little in design depending on the objective you’re chasing they always seem to be reinventing themselves – it can be subtle, but at least it demands a keen eye when re-visiting areas you’ve already been to once before. Each level has collectibles to find too, all of which are stored in your trusty ‘Explorer’s Log’. Being a die-hard 3D platforming fan, the ‘Exporer’s Log’ was something I needed to see completed before I could even consider my time with Poi to be finished, which is something I can imagine other 3D platforming fans will be able to relate to…
You’re not exactly going to be amazed with Poi’s visuals, especially in the modern day of super high end PCs, though there’s something undeniably charming about the visual style of the game. It looks like an up-scaled Playstation or Nintendo 64 game, with Poi featuring a very polygonal style with simple textures that looks a little unnatural with the game’s dependence on platforms that are made from perfect squares and rectangles. This isn’t a bad thing by any means and you’ll never think the game world looks bad – it actually looks very pretty at times with its vibrant colours and locales that are full of personality. It just looks likes it has come straight from the 90s, albeit in a 1080p resolution. To a gamer like me that’s charming, but those who didn’t get to experience the classic 3D platformers and don’t have the nostalgia to relate to may find it a little lacking when compared to modern releases.
Besides all of the worlds to venture through and medallions to unlock, Poi has a series of challenges for the player to complete. They can all be unlocked with ease and fairly early on in the game, but they each offer something fun to play through with a unique gameplay hook. You might be running across falling platforms, sliding down an icy hill, or climbing a tower of blocks that constantly keep moving around – the challenges really keep things varied and offer a lot of fun, plus with the added incentive of online leaderboards to compete with other players they’ll keep you coming back time and time again. The challenges were actually one of my favourite aspects of the game, though they were generally brief endeavours. I’d have liked to have seen a few more of them, but that’s only because they were so fun to play through.
Poi doesn’t do anything to the 3D platforming genre that you wouldn’t have seen before with its simplistic visuals and uncomplicated gameplay mechanics – the game’s biggest feature is probably the nostalgia it’ll bring upon players. It’s a welcome trip down memory lane though, with Poi offering an enjoyable 3D platforming adventure that won’t necessarily blow you away but will certainly bring a smile to your face.
Release Date: 01/02/2017
Format(s): PC (Reviewed), Mac, Linux