Old Timey 3D Platformer
Poi: Explorer Edition by PolyKid on Nintendo Switch is a love letter to the 3D platform genre of yesteryear, taking heavy inspiration from Super Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie. By no means does Poi reinvent the wheel or even generate any unique gameplay elements but instead celebrates being a kid friendly, collectathon 3D platformer with a lighthearted and whimsical atmosphere.
Playing as either a young male or female adventurer, the goal is help an old man collect his lost adventure medallions by venturing through 3D environments. From double jumping, ledge grabbing, wall hopping, and tightrope walking, all the standard platform tools are available throughout the adventure. Each stage is essentially an obstacle course, giving the player a reason to jump around in a playground environment. Even the color selection is deliberate, mimicking that a child’s toy box.
One aspect that shines through is the level design and structure. Each of the half dozen or so worlds is filled with objectives and things to do and it is easy to get a little side tracked. While the few available boss battles are nothing special and usually more tedious than entertaining, each stage encourages playful exploration. Sometimes it feels like busy work to collect dozens of coins and each world is stereotypical but there is always something to interactive with just a jump or two away. In time, more stages and tasks become unlocked and the player even steers a giant airship, acting as the hub world. There are also numerous challenges that will test the player’s platforming and collecting skills.
Since the entire game is designed around friendly primary colors, it is actually difficult to distinguish friend from foe. There are non-playable characters that can strike up a conversation but right around the corner are friendly looking enemies that are out to kill you. Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way; carrot spuds are good whereas pink slimes are bad, for example. Death kicks you back to the beginning of the stage too, which is a little annoying especially if you went out of your way to collect a stash of coins. Like Sonic, the player loses a bunch of coins each time damage is taken and coins are used to purchase in-game items like a shovel or extra health containers. Also, the player only receives a split second of invulnerability after taking damage so it is possible to take three quick death hits. The camera also needs some work. I found myself constantly thumbing the right analog stick as the camera always wants to circle directly behind the player, which isn’t often ideal especially when needing to make specific jumps. In fact, I was moving the camera so much that I actually started to feel motion sick after a while and had to turn the game off and return to it later. Unlike Mario 64, where the player had a punch attack, the only means to attack here is to jump on the heads of enemies. The camera often makes this difficult thanks to the loose controls and short window of invulnerability after taking damage.
This Switch version is officially titled the “Explorer Edition” as there are some exclusive features over the original Steam version; this game is also available digitally on Xbox One and PS4. Switch buyers will have access to an unlockable soundtrack, a digital art book, there are a few special costumes and hats, along with HD rumble support. As the player collects medallions, more and more of these bonuses will become unlocked via the main menu. The game is also playable in docked and undocked modes. Granted, this Switch version currently sells for $30 whereas it is only $15 on Steam not on sale. Doubling the price for some optional content is not exactly the best selling point.
In addition to the increased price, Poi: Explore Edition also has one other major aspect fighting against it – Super Mario Odyssey. Released just days apart, I honestly am not sure why Switch owners would consider Poi over Odyssey, especially when the game is so much cheaper on other platforms. Although Poi has some issues and sometimes feels a bit choreish with everything that is needed to collect, it isn’t a bad game and there are much worse 3D platformers out there. But one of the main reasons to own a Switch is playing Super Mario Odyssey, currently the highest rated game of all time. Stiff competition for sure, and it might not be fair to compare the two, but perhaps Switch owners will want to experience Poi a year from now when the game goes on sale and after Mario Odyssey has been one hundred percented.