When I first fired up Poi, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My experience with more indie-developed games didn’t come until more recently, and it was always very hit-or-miss. I either really loved the games, or couldn’t stand them. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Poi fit very snugly into the former category.
The game begins with you napping in a forest, when an old man approaches you and wakes you up. He’s lost a treasure of his, a medallion, and he would like one of you (you can choose to play as a boy or girl character) to retrieve it for him. You agree, retrieve the medallion, and meet the old man on his ship. Once there, he tells you that he used to be an explorer with a huge collection of these medallions, but he lost them when his ship was pummeled in a storm and he was knocked out.
He goes on to tell you there are lots of worlds out there with these medallions scattered across them, and that if you wish to become a Master Explorer, he is more than happy allowing you to use his ship on your journey. With medallions in your eyes, you head off to collect these little treasures and earn yourself the notoriety of Master Explorer by climbing, jumping, and head-bouncing your way across the worlds.
Platforming is a big drive in this game. You can jump (single, double, and triple), you can wall slide/wall jump, climb ladders and grates. There isn’t any access to any sort of combat moves, but you can squish your enemies and, at some points, kick objects in their direction. Really though, these are all the moves you need as they more than get the job done.
Right off the bat, when you begin your journey, the old man tells you about four worlds you can visit, once you’ve practiced honing your skills on the earlier worlds (aka, collect enough medallions). He shares with you his collection of explorer tools as well, since he doesn’t have a use for them anymore. These include a shovel for digging up fossils, a compass that highlights the numerous objectives in each world, a telescope to see things far away, a bigger wallet to carry lots of coins, a camera for taking photos, a magnet to make collecting coins a bit easier, and an extra heart container.
But, that’s not everything Poi has to offer. If I’m being completely honest, just when you think you’ve discovered everything this game has to offer, it keeps pouring out at you. The main hub for this game is an area called The Sky, and at first it’s just you on the explorer’s ship with the four worlds to visit and conquer. That doesn’t last long, though. A handful of new characters and islands appear that offer even more challenges through mini-games, collectibles, and more worlds to visit.
On top of all that, Poi looks, sounds, and feels amazing. While the graphics might not stand up to most modern “standards”, once you take control of your character the worlds just fall into place around you. What’s more, they all look so different from each other. From forests, to sands, a volcano, slippery snow worlds, using everything at it’s disposal to t’s fullest extent.
There wasn’t a moment in this game, either, where the controls didn’t feel anything but smooth. When you’re grabbing the first medallion after being woken up in the forest, the game introduces you to the controls in a quick fashion that is as necessary as it needs to be. As a gamer, I’ve played far too many games that over-explain the simplest of concepts, but Poi trusts you with that pretty little head on your shoulders.
Lastly, the music is just perfect. It suits the themes of adventure and exploration, and meshes beautifully with everything around you. It seems to quiet down just the tiniest little bit when you’re caught up in some action, then kicks back into full gear when there’s not a lot going on around you.
Poi is a great play from start to finish, and just beating the story won’t be enough. Once you discover not even half of what this game has to offer, you’ll want to do everything you possibly can. And if indie games aren’t really your thing, let me just ask : does anything I mentioned above sound familiar? Traveling to different worlds collecting medallions, the triple jump, wall sliding/jumping…
Poi is an excellent example of an indie inspired 3D Mario game. Before you even collect the first medallion, you’ll feel like you already know this game, and to me that’s what makes Poi a must play game. It takes the core concepts of something that’s familiar to all of us as gamers (Nintendo gamers specifically) and gives it new life.