Thursday, October 26, 2017

Review: Poi


Sometimes in this world it is all about timing and I’d say that in terms of its arrival on the Switch Poi is likely to get trampled in the Mario Odyssey rush and that’s an absolute shame. Once people have had their fill of Odyssey, and perhaps a palette cleanser in between as well, my hope is that they’ll come back and give Poi a look. Sporting colorful locales, some cute characters, numerous styles of play, and helping of charm Poi love letter of a game very much inspired by the classic play of Mario 64, Sunshine, and more.


Throughout your journeys in the game you’ll be in control of either a young boy or girl (a nice touch) on their quest to find Explorer medals and become accomplished adventurers. The format of this is highly reminiscent of Mario 64 and other games of the genre where you’ll start out with an objective in mind and the world you’re in will adjust accordingly, sometimes opening new areas or exposing new elements. You’ll still be able to complete some objectives as you go but I’ve had some cases where I’ve gotten medals for other objectives and that has reset the progress I’d made on my intended one. Since a typical run for a medal isn’t terribly long the good thing is that this isn’t generally a big deal.

What consistently surprised me with Poi was how many secrets there are in the game. The levels are all fairly big and tend to have distinctive zones that are well-designed for challenging your platforming skills as well as your eye for “suspicious” areas to explore. Curious gamers like me will find all sort of hidden nooks, crannies, and passageways hidden here and there, often before even getting a prompt from someone in the level that there’s something there. As you get rolling you’ll also find fossils and other collectibles strewn about here and there but they’re handled well and at no point did there get to be a collect-a-thon feel to things, just when you stumble upon a set of bones in the ground or you see a gear hiding nearby you’ll want to pick them up since you’ll unlock even more medals and fun as you find them. As new secret areas open up they’ll often bring themed challenge levels that are distinct from the others. Whether these involve platforming, your ability to fly, or some form of exploring the game does an excellent job of continually offering up new gameplay throughout your adventure.


Getting into the downsides overall I’m happy to say there weren’t many stand-out issues. I will say that some of the enemies can be troublesome to deal with and can feel cheap for the wrong reasons. It wasn’t unusual to end up taking damage from an enemy even as I had hit and killed them, and sometimes this was an annoyance when trying to do something more challenging. I won’t lie, one remnant of the older 3D platformers that comes along for the ride is the camera control. Thankfully it is never a crippling problem, and I think all gamers have become more accustomed to controlling it than they used to be, but there were times I wished it was more dynamic and I didn’t have to tweak it myself to try to get a good angle on the action. The most obvious issue for it has already been noted, there’s no escaping that this is a game inspired by a different generation of play, but I think it represents the time very positively and even sands down some of its rough spots as well.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Poi and would easily recommend it to anyone looking for a classic 3D platforming fix with some well-implemented touches. I also acknowledge that this is a review being written shortly before the goal posts are likely to be forever adjusted by Mario Odyssey. That does make it a bit challenging to not be unfair, crippling Poi in advance for the unknown, while at the same time not being naive. In the end I’d say that regardless of the direction 3D platforming may be moving in, and the expectations that will come with it, Poi is a terrific taste of nostalgic beats that fans of the genre should enjoy.


The review copy of this game was provided by Alliance Digital Media

Score: 8

Pros:
  • Solid level design and control reminiscent of the best classic 3D platformers
  • Plenty to discover and find along the way without it becoming a collect-a-thon
  • Consistently challenging while rarely seeming to be unfair, so very accessible overall
Cons:
  • The camera can be finicky at times
  • Some enemies can feel cheap with their attacks at times
  • This is a throwback experience and not meant to directly compete with the likes of Odyssey


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