Poosh XL review: a thrilling race for survival

There’s something eclectic and exciting about games made by solo developers. I hate the word auteur; it implies a sense of control rather than artistic vision. Rather, I like the idea of one person cracking their knuckles and making what they can with the tools they have. You know, something with imagination! I admire solo pioneers from the early days of gaming, like Jeff Minter, Howard Scott Warshaw and Ed Logg (to name a few). They had (and still have) an uncompromising vision that was often left unchecked because their only aim was to make something fun yet sellable.

I think of this pioneering spirit every time I see one of Adam Nickerson’s games.

Nickerson got some attention a while back when he posted a thread on Twitter about how one of his games, Ding Dong XL, had made it onto a Nintendo platform. While that in itself is inherently cool, what really struck me is how he delved into his past and pointed out all the things that led to where he is today. Apropos of that thread, I’ve downloaded every game he’s made since, because they are all mechanically simple, visually engaging and addictive as hell. Along with original stuff like Orbt XL and Super Bit Blaster XL, he has dabbled with Atari’s IPs in the Recharged series – which conveniently circles me back to the pioneers I mentioned in the opening of this review.

Oh, that’s right – I’m writing a review!

Nickerson’s latest game, Poosh XL, was released recently and, in a shocking turn of events, he has made yet another satisfying one-button arcade game that triggers a ravenous ‘one more try’ appetite, and the related condition of ‘give me the controller so I can have a go at it’ jealousy.

Poosh XL has you semi-controlling a neon circle by gauging two things: the rotation of an arrow and the strength of a meter. It reminds me a bit of old-school golf games, only here you have to think quickly in order to move, because if you don’t, the constantly moving stages will wipe you out. That’s all well and good, but you also have obstacles to contend with that rotate, glide or just get in your way. It’s a race for survival. A nerve-wracking but entertaining race that elicits the feeling that you could always do better on the next run. Then you’re suddenly starting all over. And over. And over.

Games like Poosh XL tend to be the kind that I’ll play as a chaser to something bigger or as a quick hit of gaming, but the strength of its design has had me playing it over and over again rather than doing what I set out to do in the first place. Furthermore, there are specific challenges that function as both a knowledge check of your abilities and as a tutorial for slicker moves that you didn’t realize you could do. Rather than giving you unlockables at incremental scores, like in previous Nickerson games, rewards are locked behind challenges instead, which further incentivized me to try them.

There are plenty of developers out there who make arcade games like Poosh XL, but so few of them offer up the instant gratification of knowing what to do right away and finding the cadence that draws you in. I haven’t been disappointed by any of Adam Nickerson’s releases and Poosh XL might be his best yet.

Poosh XL was developed by Adamvision Studios, and it’s available on Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android and PC. We played the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: review code for Poosh XL was provided by Adamvision Studios. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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