Certain game genres would probably do well to avoid particular platforms since it’s unlikely they’ll be able to gain much traction. The Xbox One is probably not where you want your Japanese RPG, for instance, though your FPS will probably find a good home there. Meanwhile, you might not want to launch your collectathon game on a Nintendo console where it’s going to have to stand toe to toe against Mario – and if you’ve seen that guy in Super Smash Bros., you know he’s no joke in the ring. That’s the dilemma faced by Poi: Explorer Edition, an entirely competent collectathon that has to deal with playing second fiddle to one of the best games of the year.
The plot here’s fairly straightforward: two orphans decide they want to be explorers, so they become explorers. Playing as the orphan of your choice, you’re tasked with exploring and collecting Explorer Medallions to help an old man who’s in search of the mysterious Milky Way Globe. With the help of the old guy’s airship and your own jumping abilities, you’re on a quest to grab all the shinies you possibly can, like some sort of orphan turned crow.
Poi is a classic collectathon through and through, encouraging you to dig up medallions from all over the game’s various levels. Extensive medal collections will unlock new people to talk to and things to do; in turn, this will allow you to get even more medallions. Eventually you’ll have them all. Your goal will have been achieved and you can finally rest. The life of a collectathon hero is tough, but fair. The means by which you’ll grab medallions are standard for the genre: run, jump, roll, glide around and so on.
Had this released around the time the Switch launched, it would be in good shape, ready for people fresh off their Zelda high to embrace it! Sadly, it launched later on and now it has to compete with Super Mario Odyssey. It cannot. Poi is a perfectly fine game on its own…but it’s no Mario Odyssey. The life of a collectathon hero is tough, but fair…right up until they have to compete with the legendary plumber himself, then it’s not fair at all. If, instead, we compare Poi to a less impressive collectathon like Yooka-Laylee then it comes off a bit better thanks to its superior control sensitivity and reduced reliance on outdated gameplay tropes.
Poi also looks and runs well, especially given the comparatively underpowered hardware of the Switch. The music’s great and well-suited to the adventurous theme, and for what it’s worth your character is easy enough to control…even if they aren’t Mario. Sigh. This is a relatively compact game and offers a few cute extras over its initial release earlier this year, like concept art and so on.
Collectathon fans have been a bit spoiled for choice lately between A Hat in Time, Super Mario Odyssey and, if they’re desperate, Yooka-Laylee. Poi: Explorer Edition adds another option onto the pile, one that’s entirely competent and worth checking out even if it needs to compete with some of the better games to be released this year. Indiana Jones it is not, but Poi’s exploration can at least keep up with the likes of Dora the Explorer – and she’s got a magic, talking map, so that’s saying something.