We can’t help but feel sorry for Poi: Explorer Edition. As a 3D platformer, releasing in the same week as Super Mario Odyssey on Switch must be incredibly disheartening; the latter has been receiving praise left, right, and centre – and will likely be slotted firmly into many players’ consoles as we speak – leaving little room for any attention to be given to the former. Our time with Poi has been a real treat, though, so - whilst you may have another platforming great on the mind at the moment - you may want to give this one a whirl too.
Comparisons have been made between Poi and various Mario titles – especially Super Mario 64. This writer would argue that it has a stronger Super Mario Sunshine vibe, however; one of the earlier worlds even consists of windmills and ropes to walk along! There are two main reasons for why these comparisons are regularly made – firstly, the platforming gameplay (which we’ll get to later) and, secondly, the structure and core format of the game itself. Seeing the game’s layout gave us a little boost of warm, nostalgic feelings that were very welcome indeed.
Your task is to collect Explorer Medallions – there are over 100 of them in total – and these are scattered around various ‘worlds’ and can also be obtained by completing challenges. You can jump into these worlds from a hub-like area and, when you do, you’ll be asked to select a chapter. Each chapter directs you towards a Medallion but, should you stumble across a Medallion from a later chapter first, you can grab that one instead. On top of this each world contains coins, fossils, locations, and gears to find – all of which can result in more Medallions - and there are lots of minigames and challenges to complete that will net you even more.
The gameplay itself works exactly as you might expect; the basic idea is to run around in 3D worlds, jumping across platforms (double jumps and wall jumps included) or on top of enemies to defeat them, collecting everything you can get your hands on. At first, the jumping felt incredibly ‘floaty’ to us – almost too imprecise for any solid platforming gameplay – but after some time had passed we really managed to get to grips with things and it eventually allows for some very fast, exciting movement. There are times where you might feel your character get away from you a little - causing the odd flash of annoyance – but, for the most part, everything begins to fit into place. You can also roll into enemies to temporarily stun them and other mechanics are eventually introduced such as hanging on to mesh-like gates and flying with the help of a parasail.
For the first few hours you are bombarded with new things to see and do – your hub area is a flying ship and, as you collect more and more Medallions, numerous other characters start to appear in the sky around you. These offer slightly different experiences should you want a break from the main game’s chapters; some are minigames, some are challenges, and some will keep track of your collectables and offer Medallions for your hard work. What starts as a very open, sparse hub-world quickly becomes incredibly populated with various little areas to visit and, largely thanks to this fact, the game really does feel like an adventure.
As you spend more time with the game you’ll realise that whilst it feels like it’s overflowing with content – and in some areas it truly is – several things are often repeated, which is a slight shame. For example, there are a couple of chapters that are exactly the same in each world (collect 100 coins, and collect seven keys) and, whilst these are fun at first, you’ll eventually get tired of completing the same tasks. As a complete counter argument to this, though, some of the game’s chapters are certainly good fun and are unique to each area. Boss fights stand out as highlights and Medallions that are obtained by pure platforming fun are always a blast to collect.
The ‘Explorer Edition’ of the game is exclusive to Nintendo Switch and adds a few, pleasing, little touches. There is an unlockable soundtrack and a selection of art pieces from the game for you to look through at your own leisure – the accompanying artwork (which can also be seen on loading screens) features some really pretty pieces and is well worth a look through. There are also costumes and hats for you to wear which are new to this version and, pleasingly, the game has been adapted to work with the Switch’s unique features as both Joy-Con motion control (which is completely optional) and HD Rumble are supported.
Whilst it could never compete with the likes of Super Mario Odyssey, Poi: Explorer Edition is a great platforming adventure in its own right. Anyone who enjoys a good ‘collect-a-thon’ will be in Heaven with this game – the Medallions are great fun to work towards and finding every single extra collectable will take some considerable time and effort. If you enjoy games of this genre, and have the means to do so, we’d definitely recommend giving Poi a go and help it to be noticed in what must be one of the cruellest release windows ever. It deserves to be played.