As part of Netflix Geeked Week 2022, we caught a glimpse of a little game known as Poinpy. A bright and colourful platformer where players are constantly striving to head upwards like the Doodle Jump of old, Poinpy comes from creator Ojiro Fumoto, who fans may remember as the creator of the fantastic Downwell. In fact, Downwell is so good you may think, “how do you go up from here?” And the answer, it seems, is, in fact, by going up.
Poinpy puts you in control of the titular little blob called Poinpy, who must escape a hungry cat at the bottom of the screen, which demands to drink juice from the fruits you collect while platforming. The key is that Poinpy must deliver a certain recipe of fruits, or amount of fruits to the cat, and do it all before touching the ground. To collect these fruits, you need to chain a series of jumps and wall jumps to grab the recipe before Poinpy hits the ground, and here’s where the satisfaction comes in, especially as you progress further and unlock more jumps to use consecutively.
When trying to grab multiple fruits and avoid enemies, you need to drag your finger downwards from Poinpy and aim your jump before you launch in an unstoppable line using a handy little arrow to see where the jump will send you. Now the arrow doesn’t go very far, and you have to account for where you’re likely to ricochet when you bounce off walls, as there are a decent amount of enemies that litter the many platforms of Poinpy. But get directly above one of them, and you can use a single satisfying tap to stomp down from above, launch into another jump, and continue the chain while still not touching the floor. The floor is lava, but you’ve got the tools to avoid it at all costs.
Crucially, while you’re jumping up this endless vertical tunnel of platforms, occasionally, you find a vase, and when stomped on just like an enemy, it can give you gold coins. Sometimes the fruit you find also has a gold glow, allowing you to grab some more coins on your journey. Gather enough, and you can pull the lever on a giant gacha machine, which gives you a choice between three power-ups, but you can only choose one. These powers add a nice little touch to gameplay. For example, they can give you an extra jump, make fruit occasionally appear in pairs, cause wandering enemies to carry two fruit, or make Poinpy leap just a little further out of a wall jump.
Progression also appears in the form of XP and ascending levels, with each level rewarding you with something like another jump (for a possible ten total jumps ready to be chained together), an extra inventory slot for the aforementioned powers, or a butt-load of coins so you can pull for more power-ups. You could study the gameplay loop found in Poinpy in game design classes – it’s ridiculously addictive, as you launch the eponymous little hero up through the level, off of walls, grab a fruit, and then pull back for another jump quickly before you touch the floor, picking up buckets of fruit along the way.
Personally, the main thing that keeps me coming back is the addictive need to procure the largest combo possible, and the way you chain attacks. When you pull back to angle a jump, the game slows down time for a brief window (with a gauge showing you how long you have left), and it’s the perfect amount of time to assess the situation but still keep up the thrill of the gameplay as you attempt to chain together a gigantic fruit marathon to make the mother of all juices. That alone sounds good, right? Well, slap on gold coins for progression and XP for your hard work, and let me tell you, I was HOOKED – Poinpy had me in the palm of its hand. Landing a 30-fruit combo and a hefty heap of XP feels like one of my most satisfying moments of the year.
One thing that I occasionally find frustrating can be the enemy placement, as they move around the screen above you and often out of sight, and if you launch with enough force, it’s hard to avoid them. Once you take off, you have no way to move unless you use up another jump or quickly stomp down, risking an end to a combo. Plus, sometimes you can land in a launcher, and while this gives you a brief window of invincibility, you have very little time to pull off another move. On occasion, some other enemies have spikes that point straight up, which means that when you get hit, it feels more like bad luck than a lack of skill. I stormed out of a couple of sessions feeling cheated by the random luck of the run.
There’s not much more to say about the gameplay, but considering this game is free with a Netflix account and most of the Western world has access to one, I highly recommend you just give it a try for yourself. The drip-feed of new abilities continues to draw you back in after every satisfying little session. Luckily the presentation around it all is pretty fantastic, with adorable pastel colours and a rounded design to each aspect of the game that drew to mind the illustrations of James Turner. Poinpy also has a really fantastic animation style, with everything feeling just rubbery enough to match the gentle squelch of the juice and the quick downwards stomp.
Visually Poinpy does a lot with a little, and alongside those block colours and black outlines, each different area is represented with enough flair to separate them. The enemies are fairly cute (which sometimes made me feel bad about using my butt to make them explode into juice), as well as the giant cat that stands ever-present at the bottom of the screen like Jaws, ready to devour your fruits, and you, if you make any missteps. There are a lot of things to communicate and the minimalist style does it quite well, with enough variation over time to avoid monotony.
Sound design adds a satisfying little pop and squelches to each fruit you collect. Furthermore, the occasional little sparkles and effects when carrying out your moves add a joyous atmosphere to an already optimistic little game. Another lovely addition is the music which continually gives off twee Animal Crossing vibes, and gets progressively more energetic as you move up the worlds. What’s that? Did I say worlds? Yes, this game which theoretically could feel endless, actually has a story, worlds, and progression. And let me tell you, it’s bonkers.
As you move up the levels, you start to find new and progressively more difficult worlds with new enemies and hazards. Move up enough, and you eventually reach an absurd and aggressively enthusiastic ending that feels like a bizarre yet somehow utterly fitting reward for all of your effort so far. It’s one of my favourite endings to a game that I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, and I had a huge stupid grin on my dumb face the whole time. It also flits between art styles, and I just need people to see the end for themselves, but it’s fantastic.
It doesn’t even stop there though, as completing the main story mode unlocks endless mode, where you can truly test your skills. Better yet, for achieving great scores, you also unlock medals, a really tough set of achievements that branch across every mode. Trying to complete the game with less than four jumps sounds like a nightmare, as does nabbing an average of 20 fruits per chain with only two jumps in endless mode. You’re going to have to be a savant to grab all of these folks.
Luckily the final little thing to explain is the puzzle mode, a series of levels that unlock as you progress through the game and the worlds that those levels unlock. As you have a very specific set of jumps, and a particular set of fruits alongside other parameters, solving these puzzles requires absolute precision and quick thinking, but they also give you all the skills you need to truly excel at the game. It’s a brilliant addition and a welcome break after a frustrating run, as I found out when I got hit by an enemy, and it wiped out a particularly juicy 30-fruit run.
Poinpy is one of my biggest surprises of the year, and I can’t recommend it enough. A few niggles aside, it’s a joyous and just deeply fun game I’ll be recommending for a while. If I had to think of something, I’d say that I’d quite like to unlock different skins or themes like in Downwell, but truly, that’s me being held at gunpoint to think of anything else I’d improve. Free with any Netflix account, you’ve got no excuse not to try Poinpy, and I seriously recommend you do. It’s the most addictive game to grip me this year, and a brilliant reminder of what a great mobile game can and should be.
With such expertly crafted and satisfying gameplay that it feels like it was made in a lab by Heisenberg, Poinpy is just ridiculously fun to play, offers a huge amount of ways to customise your personal gameplay, and gives you a treasure chest of fun things to discover along the way. Of course, no game is perfect, but if you asked me to point out the best mobile game of the year right now, I’d probably tell you to play Poinpy.