3D platformers come in all shapes and sizes, with many of them offering unique takes on time honored mechanics. Through tight level design and creative elements, the 3D platformer has strikingly evolved over the many years since it’s introduction in the late 90’s. Today the genre is slowly coming back with games like Yooka-Laylee and Super Mario Odyssey releasing in 2017, making many hopeful for the genre’s future.
Poi is a unique beast compared to those other games though. The game originated as a Kickstarter project that slowly grew as an early access game on Steam since 2015; Febuary 1st marks the game leaving early access and now it’s in a complete finished state.
Does the game stand up next to the 3D platformer genre’s best adventures? Lets go on a 3D platforming adventure invoking memories of past and present to find out!
Design & Lasting Appeal
The game opens with you having control of either a male or female child who leaps into action after being asked to go on a grand adventure. After collecting a special Adventure Metal you are offered the chance to explore the skies and find the remaining ones scattered about. While the story doesn’t evolve much after that point, you still have charming character dialog with various NPC’s to discover. Not a big deal at all, considering the main focus of Poi being exploring the great skies to find new adventures.
You have a total of four giant worlds with over eight Adventure Metals to collect in each world. But there is much more content to the game than the four worlds. You have various side islands to explore which offer various challenges and mini platforming levels to complete. Helping a Penguin reunite with her six children scattered around across two mini levels, flying through the sky into rings, navigating across dangerous challenge levels that test your platforming skills and even playing a few mini games are just some of the many examples of things you can do outside of the main worlds.
Other goals include completing special missions for NPC’s on the islands like collecting special gears, digging up fossils, and doing achievement-like missions which reward you with an Adventure level as you complete them. This ensures that you have plenty to do across your eight to twelve hour adventure.
Another noteworthy thing about the games design is Adventurer Tools that you need to purchase across the game. Using coins you collect, you can buy various items like a Shovel or Compass to complete specific goals. They are very useful (with the compass being very helpful for the ‘Collect the Key’ Missions for example) and you are rewarded through using them in accessing more of the game world.
One example was in the very first level, as when you can go back to it later in the game. You likely have your shovel by that point and can dig in a special spot hidden behind a waterfall. By doing this, you discover a mini-level underground that leads to an Adventure Metal. When I discovered this, it was a great feeling personally. Little things like that are common throughout Poi’s level design and make buying the Adventure Tools worth it.
General design and longevity is strong with Poi, as many of the games basic framework is some of the best I’ve seen in a 3D platformer. Clear direction for what you have to do, lots of options early on so you can tackle the game as you see fit and being rewarded through your purchases with coins. Poi is a great platformer on design alone, but what about core gameplay?
Poi functions like your basic 3D platformer, but taking a few notes from Super Mario 64 specifically. Your character has the ability to roll, back-flip, long-jump, triple jump and wall jump. You can even do a basic double jump to get extra height as well! It creates gameplay that pushes you to use every single move in your disposal and level design is fully aware of this.
While you can select a mission when you enter a world and get a little cut-scene telling you where the objective is, you can easily walk off the beaten path and do whatever you want. Want to get the 100 Coin Adventure Metal first and then complete the main objective? Or would you rather take on the ‘Collect 7 Keys’ Mission? Better yet, just explore and find something for your travels! It is so free-form and open-ended, I just get lost in levels sometimes and enjoy jumping around.
That feeling is something ripped right out of Mario 64. Accomplishing this feeling is very impressive and the game never punishes you for doing that. It results in levels being a set ‘world’ despite clearly being built for your platforming first and foremost. Level construction is high quality thanks to many aspects of the game world being interactive like ladders, springs and the odd floating object being present to help out with platforming.
Combat is a bit tricky, as I feel it’s a bit weak in Poi. You can take three hits (four if you buy the extra heart) and just jumping on foes is a bit tricky sometimes; more so if you play with Mouse & Keyboard. So you can take pot-shots sometimes and die. Thankfully checkpoints are frequent and overall enemy placement is solid. Just a minor issue I had from time to time. Bosses are also present in Poi but they are a lot of fun to fight. They take all your skills across the game and apply them in ways I really enjoyed. Climbing to a wall so you can hang on and land on the lava creature felt great as did kicking bombs on a sea creature inside a light house. It works great and results in quality bosses.
Controls are important for a platformer and considering this is a PC title, solid mouse and keyboard controls are a must. I’m happy to say Poi controls wonderfully with mouse and keyboard; something I never would think considering my history playing the 3D platformers on Nintendo and Sony consoles. Using well implemented mouse controls for camera movement and responsive inputs from WASD keys (in addition to great key placement for rolling and jumping), preforming all the iconic platforming moves felt fantastic. Even better is that Poi supports Xbox 360 controllers so if you would rather play the game that way, your 360 controller will work.
Poi overall is a quality 3D platformer thanks to great level design, open-ended level structure and fantastic controls that work great on keyboard or controller. It’s a 3D platformer I feel could stand next to Mario or Banjo regarding core gameplay and design.
Presentation & Preformance
Visuals of Poi are strong, pushing for a basic cartoon-like art style that works well on all PC set-ups. The art direction is very charming with bright colors and well implemented effects (like rainfall and lava ashes) being used at the right movements helping establish atmosphere in levels. Character animations also help with this; despite being basic, they do look good and have a nice flow of movement.
Character design for the human characters specifically look great, as they feel lifted out of a quality cartoon. The main characters look great and have enough personality to them through voice clips/animations to make you connect with them.
Music and sound are great here, as they complement the game world perfectly. The Sky Overworld Theme is an example of the games soundtrack at it’s best. Through having quality instrumentation, a catchy beat and just an overall grand feeling, it makes exploring the sky feel wonderful and unbound. Such a feeling accomplished only through music is impressive and one I greatly appreciated across the adventure. The rest of the games musical score is quality due to offering strong melodies and clear audio that adds to the overall experience.
Regarding performance, it depends on your PC set-up. On higher-end PC’s you will not have to worry about low frame rates as even on the lowest setting (what I played the game with), it never drops below 30FPS which ensures stable input commands. Dialing up the graphics settings and other specific effects to enhance the visuals are present like in most PC titles as well. However it is important to note that even if you have a low-end PC, you can still run the game and have a great time.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
The 3D platformer is back and Poi joins the ranks as one of the best 3D platformers in recent years. Offering fantastic design that allows for you to chart your own path to completion, tight gameplay honoring the classics while also doing a lot of new things to push exploration and having a great presentation that not only looks/sounds great but also runs on all PC set ups ensures Poi will be a gem that all can play. I highly recommend this 3D platforming adventure for fans of the genre.
This game was reviewed on the PC (Steam) using a review copy provided by the developers. You can purchase the game by clicking the following link to it’s steam page.