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Review: A huge, steaming pile of Pou

I'd seen Pou on the App Store many times before, with its creepy little poop monster (that's what he is, right?) smiling at me from the Top Paid Apps list. The first time I saw it there, I thought it was a mistake, given how simple the game -- and I'm using the term "game" as loosely as possible here -- seemed to be. An app like this might have gotten some attention in the App Store's early years, but today?

How? Why? I had to know, so I ponied up the US$1.99 and downloaded the thing. Now I get it. Now it makes sense. Now I understand why it's been on the top of the charts for months; It turns out you're all complete suckers.

If you've not experienced Pou yourself -- and no, I'm not telling you to download it, so don't even think about it -- it's basically a Tamagotchi for your iPhone. It's a little "alien" that poops and whines and needs your attention every once in a while to keep from keeling over and dying. Great.

Unfortunately, the app is almost laughably ugly, with blurry text and hideous icons all over the place. Despite being released in the Retina age, it looks like it was originally an iPhone 3G app that has been stretched to fit on a higher-resolution screen. I've only tested it on my iPhone 5s, and I absolutely cringe to think what it might look like on my iPad.

Aside from being ugly, the app doesn't explain absolutely anything about how it works. Your little brown pile of sadness poops all over himself within five seconds of starting the app (I wish I were kidding) and it's up to you to find the bathroom to clean him up. Where's the bathroom? Well, you end up finding out through trial and error that arrows on either side of the screen change what room you're in, and if your screen changes from red to blue, you're now in the bathroom. Silly me.

The only actual "playing" that occurs comes in the form of ultra-simple minigames like matching three colors or bouncing Pou off of platforms. The biggest compliment I can offer to the games is that they aren't broken. They're not fun past the first 35 seconds, but at least they are functional.

The app is absolutely obsessed with getting your email address. Click the settings menu and it'll ask you for your email address. If you cancel out, you'll still be in the settings menu, but it will ask for it every single time you click settings. Presumably this is so you can create an account and store friends (why it doesn't just use Game Center is beyond me), but you can't touch the settings without being asked.

I'm not exactly sure who is buying and enjoying this game. It seems too obtuse for anyone young enough to not care that it's downright hideous, but I have a feeling that's exactly the target demographic. However, the app isn't free, so that means the blame lies with the credit card holders.

The app reviews are equally puzzling, with people asking the developer to add more in-app purchases (what?), and writing head-scratching recommendations such as:

"I liked it but it was bad because it was so good i like the part that was bad and did not like the part that was good that is all I have to say on this mater but i would like to discus the terms of capitulation that happened while playing this game." - Cyrusiscool

Wow.

I guess I'm just disappointed. I thought we, as App Store shoppers, had moved on and left these types of apps behind. I assumed the days of fart apps had passed, but I was wrong. Pou is the gaming equivalent of a fart app, and it's one of the best selling games out there. I expected better.

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