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Abandon ship

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    Rating: 2.0 – Poor

    Abandon ship

    3D platformers are hard to come by. It seems like only a handful get released every year, if that, and it’s a shame, too. Super Mario Odyssey has shown that 3D platformers still have a lot to offer, but most developers seem to stay away from the genre. Fans of 3D platformers don’t have a lot of options, especially those that own non-Nintendo systems, and so they may be tempted to pick up something like Poi. Unfortunately, Poi is something that no one should play, even if they are absolutely starved for 3D platformers.

    First off, I will say that Poi does have at least some redeemable qualities. The art style uses bright, vibrant colors and is pleasing on the eyes. It also has some solid controls, and uses a neat dive ability that allows for some rather creative platforming tricks. Some of the bonus levels are fun, and the game is stuffed with content, with no shortage of items to collect. However, even though Poi does have some bright spots, it’s mostly a miserable experience. It starts off fun enough, but then it devolves into something that is simply a chore to play. Poi is a game that gets worse the more that you play it.

    The story is paper-thin and filled with generic characters. Players are orphans that go exploring in a variety of generic, unimaginative platforming levels. They can choose between a male and female character, but it doesn’t matter, as Miis have more personality than the playable characters in Poi. An old man explorer and the story of his missing wife is at first kind of intriguing, but there is no significant payoff and the story is too thin to be a driving force in the game.

    Decent challenge is also not a driving force in the game, because Poi is just way too easy. Players can unlock all of the helpful explorer items just by playing the first level a few times. While giving coins a purpose is always good in 3D platformers like this, being able to unlock everything right off the bat makes coins feel rather useless. The items that players unlock make the game that much easier, especially the compass, which will point players to almost every hidden collectible in the game. Since players are led directly to these collectibles, one has to wonder why they’re even included in the first place.

    Earlier I said Poi is a game that gets worse the more you play, and part of that is because of its annoying music. The music in Poi is charming at first, but it loops endlessly, and becomes absolutely unbearable by the time players near the conclusion of the game. Players will also get sick of dealing with the annoying camera, which can sometimes be a hassle and tends to screw players over during the trickier platforming segments. But make no mistake, there are very few platforming segments that are all that challenging, as the game is very, very easy. In fact, one of the only times it actually poises a challenge is because the camera is a hassle.

    Poi also suffers by not feeling like a 3D platformer should on a seventh generation console. The game is stuck in the past, making some mistakes that 3D platformers made 10-20 years ago. For example, it pulls players out of levels for each medallion earned, which feels archaic in a post-Super Mario Odyssey world. In some cases, this makes sense, but since there are many medallions that can be collected in one version of the level, this doesn’t make too much sense. The game would simply flow better if players weren’t constantly forced to return to the airship.

    Speaking of the airship, Poi’s hub world is fairly unique and filling it out is one of the more rewarding aspects of the game. As players progress in Poi, the sky becomes filled with more areas to explore and some of their collected items are put on display. This is a nice visual reward for players’ progress through the game, and other, better platformers should consider copying it.

    Seeing one’s sky hub fill up with items and new areas is rewarding, but most of Poi is highly unrewarding. Many of the challenges players complete are unrewarding because they tend to "reward" players by just giving them more to do. This may seem like a genuine reward in a better-designed game, but in Poi, it feels like you’ve completed your chores only to be stuck with more chores to do.

    It doesn’t help that the game is often more frustrating than it is fun. Enemies have an annoying tendency to send players flying dramatically when they get hit, which can screw up longer platforming sections and force players to redo long stretches of the game. Bosses are frustrating for the complete opposite reason. None of the bosses in Poi poise a threat, though the method in which players damage them is often really touchy and requires way too much accuracy on the part of the player.

    On top of all these problems, Poi also has creepy-looking characters that seem completely out of place in the game world. These characters aren’t creepy on purpose, but honestly it does give the game an oddly eerie vibe. When some of the nicest things you can say about the game though is that it is accidentally entertaining for reasons not intended by the game designers, then there are some problems. Ultimately, Poi is a poor 3D platformer that is worse the more you play it.

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