Poi: Explorer Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 19.01.2019

Review for Poi: Explorer Edition on Nintendo Switch

Homage is not inherently bad in the same way homage is not inherently good. As is the case with most aspects of game design, how homage is done dictates whether it's a net positive or negative. For all intents and purposes, Poi: Explorer Edition is an attempt at emulating Super Mario 64 for a modern audience. Conceptually, that's not a terrible idea. Super Mario 64 remains one of the greatest platformers of all time thanks to its level design and core mechanics. Unfortunately, Poi severely lacks the right amount of quality to pull off emulating such a landmark title in gaming history.

From a design standpoint, Poi is as basic as a 3D platformer can possible be, copying the Super Mario 64 formula nearly 1:1. The player characters enter stages from a hub world, select a specific mission in said stage, and then platform their way to the main collectible. It's a tried and true structure that has been proven to work, but it falls flat here in large part due to a serious lack of originality on all fronts.

Mechanically, the player character - either a generic boy or girl chosen at the start of each play-through - is capable of pulling off many of Mario's signature abilities from his 64 bit adventure. There's jump chaining, wall jumping, wall sliding, a jump slide, and even a double jump for a bit of unique variety. This in itself is a problem, however, as the only addition to the Mario 64 formula is a double jump that, quite honestly, feels unnecessary given the general level design.

Screenshot for Poi: Explorer Edition on Nintendo Switch

Platforming certainly isn't helped by the fact that movement has a distinct lack of weight to it. Both characters control far too loosely for a 3D platformer with their mobility allowing most platforming challenges to be circumvented thanks to floaty controls, as well as an incredibly forgiving jump arch. There's nothing wrong with a great deal of fluidity in a control scheme, but the level design fails to accommodate for the lack of weight. As a result, what could be seen as fluid in a better title is rendered floaty. Perhaps unsurprisingly given how poorly platforming itself is handled, Poi also does a fairly subpar job when it comes to enemy design.

Although there is a basic attack in the form of the jump slide, and jumping itself does work to take out some enemies, not everyone is affected by said skills, and a lack of invincibility frames paired with excessive knockback means dying can happen quite easily despite how lacking in difficulty the overall adventure actually is. This wouldn't be as as much of a problem if enemies were given more care both in how they're visually designed or where they're placed within stages. Due to the general art style, enemies and NPCs look strikingly similar.

Screenshot for Poi: Explorer Edition on Nintendo Switch

On top of that, both enemies and NPCs are often placed into areas with little rhyme or reason as to why they would or should be there. This results in a distinct lack of clear cut "safe areas" where players can distinguish between what's necessary to advance the mission narratively, and what's necessary to advance the mission from a gameplay perspective. To be more specific, Poi is lacking in the necessary visual cues to convey information to players quickly. NPCs aren't necessarily designed to look friendly nor are enemies designed to look aggressive.

In a platformer modelling itself after the 3D collectathons of yore, such a distinction is absolutely vital for gameplay to progress smoothly. In general, the visuals are nothing to write home about. Everything looks fine on a technical level, but the aesthetic leaves much to be desired. Not every 3D platformer needs to have a colourful mascot to thrive, but there's a distinct lack of charm in Poi's world. Set pieces and characters fall flat as they don't feel cohesive with one another. The emphasis on airships and exploration is certainly interesting, but neither are they incorporated into the gameplay or world enough to leave a major impact.

Screenshot for Poi: Explorer Edition on Nintendo Switch

It is worth mentioning that there is a shop and pseudo-upgrade system in place that actually feels right at home in the genre. By collecting coins in stages, players can then purchase new items or hearts to bolster their character. It's a genuinely nice inclusion that adds a consistent feeling of progression to the whole package. That said, an upgrade system isn't nearly enough to save Poi from its frankly uninspired presentation.

Levels aren't engaging, platforming feels awkward, and the world itself has no charm. One would be tempted to recommend such a title for beginners in order to gives its failings a pass, but why not introduce younger gamers to platforming with titles that show the genre at their best? Super Mario 64 is just as much for beginners as it is for veterans. Poi: Explorer Edition is ultimately a game for nobody.

Screenshot for Poi: Explorer Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Devoid of both style and substance, Poi is perhaps the least interesting 3D platformer currently available for the Nintendo Switch. Not only is it mechanically shallow with a relatively skill ceiling and floor, the level design rarely, if ever, gets creative enough to mask how lacklustre the platforming can be. To make matters worse, this is just charmless all around thanks to an incredibly safe aesthetic that renders a potentially fascinating world completely unmemorable. This neither reinvents platforming, nor serves as a suitable love letter to the genre, ensuring it is best left forgotten.

Developer

PolyKid

Publisher

PolyKid

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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