Poinpy Review — Moving On Up
To simplify Poinpy, you could call it the opposite of Downwell. The comparison is relevant as both games come from creator Ojiro Fumoto. In Downwell, you make your way down a well shooting enemies and collecting upgrades as you fall. In Poinpy, you make your way up a well and collect fruit to feed the giant Blue Beast that is chasing you upward. In practice, though, Poinpy has mechanics and a style all its own that expertly gamifies an action anyone who has ever used a modern phone is familiar with: the downward swipe.
Poinpy is the titular bouncy dinosaur-like protagonist creature that wouldn’t look out of place in a lineup with Kirby and Yoshi. In the game, you are outrunning a giant Blue Beast who always lingers at the bottom of the screen, demanding specific fruit recipes. To climb, you drag down on the screen to slingshot Poinpy upwards, bouncing them against walls and leaping off enemies while collecting specific fruit that randomly appears. The downward swipe action is the key to Poinpy’s fun as it feels great to constantly launch them to progress. The mechanic perfectly encapsulates the video game idiom easy to learn, hard to master. My early runs were enjoyable as I awkwardly careened off the walls while not totally clear on my objective, but by the end of my playtime I felt like an acrobat expertly lining up my jumps to bounce off one enemy to collect the final banana and slamming down to deposit a mountain of juice into the blue beast’s mouth below.
All the practice in the world, though, does not overcome the occasional annoyance of making a mistake. Understanding how to gain additional jumps, earned from bouncing off of enemies and pots, is what leads you to success, and the on-screen icons don’t do the best job of quickly reminding you how many jumps you have left. On more than one occasion, I would think I was in good shape to grab the last kiwi I needed, only to learn too late that I was out of jumps and came crashing to the ground. At that point, you have to restart the recipe, which is a huge bummer especially during the late-game. This is, of course, the challenge of the game–managing jumps to collect the fruit you need–but sometimes it feels a little too punishing.
Poinpy has mechanics and a style all its own that expertly gamifies an action anyone who has ever used a modern phone is familiar with: the downward swipe
Alongside fruit collection, you also grab the occasional seed, which can be exchanged for equipable upgrades. Only a few of these help significantly, like one ability that gives you an additional jump (which I never unequipped), but most of them aren’t as helpful as I would like and were only good in dedicated situations, like one that resurrects you if you meet a very specific criteria. For those complaints, though, I do like having my choice of a handful of permanent upgrades rather than needing to earn the upgrades on each run.
After you upgrade your jumps enough, you unlock a side mode featuring a series of puzzles. Rather than climbing and escaping the Blue Beast, you must collect fruit in as few moves as possible. As an optional distraction from the main game with substantial seed rewards, I like that these puzzles exist, but I hesitate to recommend them. I had more fun playing the core game.
The Blue Beast, as they are referred to in marketing, is a smart mechanic as they are always present on-screen demanding juice. They don’t eat you or attack you for landing on them, but if you don’t get the fruit they demand, they fill the well with fiery breath in a dramatic show of power. There is little, if any story to speak of, but the small bits of world-building where the Blue Beast is evil until they have fruit is fun. Additional animation details, like the “enemies” that burst into tears if you steal their fruit, makes you think maybe you’re playing as the bad guy. Just that little bit of character building adds a lot to an otherwise benign story.
I won’t spoil it here, but I was also pleasantly surprised to encounter something close to an ending. It made all my practice and effort to build toward something exciting and left me feeling accomplished. I am disappointed, however, that there is no real score-tracking or opportunity to compete with friends as it feels like the type of game perfectly suited to chasing high scores.
Poinpy represents my favorite kind of mobile game. Bouncing Poinpy around is a simple, repeatable, and fun mechanic, and I never once had to think about currency of any kind. It can be played with one hand and is both rewarding and challenging without demanding too much input from the player. With its soft ending, it is clear this is not a game you are expected to play forever. A conclusion exists and feels great to reach, but if you want to bounce your way up the well again while listening to a podcast in the future, you can always revisit that simple, joyful experience.