Poi follows the story of a young boy, or girl, whose only goal in life is to become a master explorer. They’ll scale cliffs, they’ll balance over lava, and they’ll sail the skies in their airborne ship, alongside a wise old man who appears to be a veteran explorer.

This was written during early access in May 2016

We’re at a moment in time where all the latest games on the video game store shelves are competing against each other to be the most realistic, or the most action packed, or the most filmic. It has become the norm, so it becomes incredibly refreshing to see a game come from the smoke and fire of the war between the big name games, and bring forth some simplicity and what could be essentially seen as a throwback to the past.

These things are medallions, collect them, level up, become the best explorer EVAR!
These things are medallions, collect them, level up, become the best explorer EVAR!

What I mean by this, is that Poi literally feels like an old N64 classic. It doesn’t bear elements, it actually plays like one. I booted it up and instantly felt like i was playing Banjo and Kazooie from the tutorial level alone. The running, the platflorming, the simple controls, the enclosed map surrounded by walls. Admittedly the graphics are of a higher quality than the limited games back in the day, and Poi is on par with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker with it’s cel shaded simplicity.

Poi is very much the perfect homage to the past, giving a nod to those games that paved the way for the games that we play now.

This guy shoots you out of a cannon, where you land in mini games.
This guy shoots you out of a cannon, where you land in mini games.

Poi features a silent protagonist, boy or girl, both runaways who get awoken by an old bloke with cheery eyes. They join him on their mission to become explorers, travelling across the sky in the old guys flying ship. The more they explore, the more experience they gain, and the more likely they are to find the Explorer Medallions that will level them up, allowing them to progress to the more dangerous lands. There are 30 Explorer Medallions to collect and 4 worlds to explore.

On top of the four worlds to explore, is the sky. You travel the skies in a ship, and amongst the clouds are floating rocks of land, and trees. These can be reached by jumping out of the ship, then automatically, your parasail will activate and you’ll be able to fly to the areas you wish. There’s also another ship that’s travelling in the same space as you, and if you jump over to it, you’ll be greeted by a travelling trader who doesn’t actually sell tools, but instead he sells mini games. Pay the guy and he’ll stuff you into a cannon, target the mini game of your choice, and fire you into the stage. There’s several mini games to try and get the best score in, and they’re nice and challenging, but not challenging enough to make you hate your life if you fail about 7 times.

Come to your ship and speak to old man face and he'll give you tools in exchange for coins.
Come to your ship and speak to old man face and he’ll give you tools in exchange for coins.

As for actually exploring on a level, you basically look at a mass of golden coins, there’s loads to collect, and you’ll want to collect them to get yourself new tools, or to get access to more mini games. You earn XP by exploring areas in the world, and by doing adventurer things, and you even have a health bar…although, not going to lie, it seems rather pointless. I scaled to the top of a lighthouse, and jumped off it and landed gently to the ground like a falling feather. No HP was lost. You can actually be hurt though by things such as lava and spikes, and when you get hurt, in similar tradition to Sonic the Hedgehog, the coins you’ve collected fall out of your body and scatter around you.

You can fly with a...well I call it a duvet sheet.
You can fly with a…well I call it a duvet sheet.

One of the first things I noticed was the ease of use, the controls are very well thought out and really rather simple. My fingers were not spreading themselves out over the entire keyboard just to get to an “activate” button, instead it’s all centred around the left hand side alongside the WASD keys. Everything can be done from this side, it’s really simple, it comes naturally, and yet it looks like you’re working really hard when you watch your character manoeuvre around!

One thing I noticed about Poi, is that your goal is to collect all the medallions basically, and instead of putting you on the world and allowing you to collect one, then instantly start advancing to the next one, you end up being taken back up the the ship in the sky where you speak to the old man, and then you have to re-enter the world and select which area that contains a medallion to venture to. Upon selection, you end up back to the start of the world rather than the start of that particular area of the world. In which case, it would have made more sense to have just allowed you to collect a medallion, unlock the next area, and repeat until you decide to go back to the ship.

It's a nice world to look at from the skies.
It’s a nice world to look at from the skies.

Poi literally feels like an old N64 classic. It doesn’t bear elements, it actually plays like one.

Mini games. They're a nice break from exploring.
Mini games. They’re a nice break from exploring.

The tools, even though this is early access, are plenty and very simple and easy to understand. The spade allows you to dig up fossils and treasure, the telescope allows you to see afar, the bug net allows you too…you guessed it! Catch bugs. It’s nice to see such simplicity being brought back to life when the consoles after the wonderful years of the N64 and the Gamecube brought new graphics and started to introduce more advanced open world elements. Games such as the ones I mentioned earlier, Banjo and Kazooie, and even Gex, may have featured a lot of content per level, but you were confined within the walls of the map, yet it wasn’t bothersome.

Poi is very much the perfect homage to the past, giving a nod to those games that paved the way for the games that we play now. The atmosphere is set beautifully with the soundtrack and the subtle atmospheric elements, such as the clouds passing through you, the wind symbolised by cartoonish white lines. It’s a game that not only adults could enjoy, but children also. In fact, my next step will be to get my six year old to play it and introduce her to my childhood in a more modern system.

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