Written by Leo Faria.
Poi is a 3D platformer which first started as a failed Kickstarter project, originally released on Steam in February. Though the game failed to attract crowdfunding cash, it still got released after a lengthy delay. It is yet another 3D platformer from 2017 which relies heavily on nostalgia: while Yooka-Laylee was a love letter to Banjo-Kazooie, Skylar & Plux was a love letter to Jak & Daxter, and the Crash Bandicoot collection was, well, Crash, Poi is a lovely low-budget tribute to Super Mario 64.
The resemblances are uncanny, and can be seen a mere couple of minutes after you boot up the game: your main character plays exactly like Mario in the already 21 year old game. Triple jumps, wall jumps, backward somersaults, air attacks, long jumps, they’re all here and if you’ve ever played Super Mario 64 you’ll quickly remember all of the inputs. The sometimes unreliable camera and collision detection are also present, in order to maximize the 1996 nostalgia factor, I guess.
The controls aren’t the only familiar element present in the game. Poi‘s gameplay and progression structures are pretty much just like Mario 64 as well. Open worlds with 7 main collectibles each, one of them which can be acquired by collecting 100 coins, another one in which you need to find 7 silver keys (this game’s red coins), secret stages which include a snowy slide, and much more. It’s a nostalgia bomb for those who grew up with a Nintendo 64, but don’t worry, there’s more to it than just a complete carbon copy of a game from 21 years ago.
There are quite a handful of elements which make Poi stand out. There are only 4 worlds in the game, and 28 medallions you can collect from them in total, but the game still has a grand total of 101 of those bad boys. You can get the remainder of them by collecting a lot of items scattered throughout the worlds, such as golden gears and fossils. There’s a lot to look for throughout the levels, in a quasi-Donkey Kong 64 level of collectability. And another element present in Poi that wasn’t present in Super Mario 64 is the possibility to use your coins to buy items and unlock secret stages, giving you a reason to look out for the trillions of coins scattered around the worlds. Poi might look short at first, given its very few worlds, but it’s bigger and more complex than you’d think.
Another little neat addition is the possibility of taking pictures of all enemies in the game and cataloging them just like a Pokédex. It might sound stupid on paper, but Poi boasts a somewhat varied roster of baddies, ranging from faced slimes to downright carbon copies of Mario‘s Monty Moles, and “catching them all” is yet another nice element to extend the game’s life.
Just like the immense majority of 3D platformers both from the 90s and from nowadays, Poi has a killer soundtrack, very reminiscent of the works of Grant Kirkhope and David Wise in the Rare platformers from back in the day. Those tunes were pretty good, and it didn’t take long for me to start whistling them after turning the Xbox off. Sadly, the same can’t be said about the very cheap and very poor sound effects.
Not everything is fine and dandy with the game as it has a major flaw: despite being infectiously charming and colorful, Poi is an ugly game. Poi looks very cheap, with very simplistic polygonal work, simple textures, very bad lighting and a very cheap implementation of shadows, which made the game look like a cheap Unity asset flip at some points. Granted, the game was made with a small budget, but it still annoyed me a lot. The good thing about the cheap visuals, if you could say so, is the fact that the game boasts a considerably high and very consistent framerate, and a great draw distance.
In the end, while looking absurdly outdated even for a game relying on 90’s nostalgia, Poi was a delightful indie, well worth its very affordable pricetag, which played smoothly and had enough content to keep me entertained for many hours.
Poi was yet another good platformer from 2017. We’re looking forward to A Hat in Time, Sonic Forces and Super Mario Odyssey doing the same as well. Long live the everlasting 90’s nostalgia. Except Bubsy. That one can rot in hell for all I care.
Also available on: PS4, PC