Remember the nineties? A time that was all about optimism, Brit pop, mockney crime films and of course, cartoony platfomers. Every week we’d see a new Mario, Spyro, or Crash Bandicoot style title arrive for our hungry gaming pleasure. Then the serious 2000s came along, bringing with it the rise of the mega console. The platforming world seemed to dry up and die, as gamers favoured the more serious, more hardcore, super realistic games. Now though we have the release of Poi, letting us go back to that time of fun, jumping pleasure as we enter a world of colourful villains and heroes. But does it feel right to go back? Has the world of platforming died along with my youthful soul?
The moment you load up Poi it all feels so much like a bygone age of gaming. Whether you like that era and style of gameplay, will completely determine whether you’re going to be interested in Poi or not. This is a game for lovers of that period, and it’s both a mixture and homage to those platforming games I mentioned above. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or unoriginal, far from it; it takes the genre and runs with it in a unique way.
The story involves two kids who are on a grand adventure across the Milky Way, hoping to eventually become master explorers by collecting badges found in various worlds. On this journey they help all manner of strange inhabitants, and gain access to new areas and opportunities. The story is redundant really, because it’s all about that lovely jumping gameplay. As you would expect, you have a jump button, which can be used as a double jump, and a climb button and all the variations that this involves. I don’t need to say anymore – unless you’ve been living under a gaming rock for the past three decades, you’ll know exactly what to expect. As you make your way around, you will need to also collect coins, and with these you can buy new items to help you on your journey. These items range from a camera that takes pictures of the creatures you’ll stumble across, a compass to help find special items like fossils or locations, to a spade to dig up hidden treasures.
Each world has a number of quests for you to complete in order to obtain an explorer badge. The more badges you get, the more worlds open up to you for your jumping delight. The quests are a pretty mixed bag; there are timed obstacle courses, collection quests and monster bashing quests. All unique and good fun, without being extremely difficult to complete and do. There are also extra special challenges like fossil collecting, strange challenge courses to complete and the opportunity for a bit of space exploration in a homemade rocket. The worlds are colourful, varied and a real homage to that ‘90s platform vibe, but without really having a new generation edge to it at all. Which is a bit of a shame.
Poi plays well, and comes across exactly how you would remember these games were to play. The creatures are fun and easy to jump on, the obstacle courses are tricky, but add a lot of pleasure, and the world itself ticks along nicely.
The problem is however in the camera.
Throughout my time with Poi, the damn camera seemed to flick around behind me, in front of me, and every which way it could. Which made the precision needed for the jumping tricky and precarious at times. The gameplay does get a bit samey after a while too, and after the third world you feel that Poi needs an extra element to keep it fresh. An element which never arrives.
But then, if you like this type of platform game and you want to head back to this age gone by, then you’re going to love it.
Graphically, as I said above the game is bright, colourful and vibrant throughout. It really is like travelling back through time and getting the chance to spend time again with those gorgeous games that appeared back in the ‘90s. The characters are really fun and well drawn, with some good monsters and interesting level design. However, there isn’t much here to convince you that this is a game for the super consoles of 2017. But then, I guess that is maybe the point. Strangely, there are some dropouts and tech problems in the framerate at times, but nothing too bad to spoil your enjoyment of the game,and whilst the sound effects are cute and fit in with its tone, the audio department sees an epic theme tune that is rousing and fun.
Overall I have really enjoyed my time in the world of Poi. If you’re an old school platforming fan then this is a must for you. Others might be put off with the basic level of gameplay, but the colourful world should eventually win you over. It does get a bit familiar halfway through and you start to get that itch to play something else. But it’s a great game that allows you to just fire out a quick quest for ten minutes, before switching off and coming back again later.
If you have kids, then this is most certainly a family friendly game and I would highly recommend giving it a try. Similarly, if you’re wanting to head back to your childhood days, or long for a time when games were simpler and the summers seemed to last longer, then you won’t go far wrong with Poi.