Developer: Henchman & Goon
Publisher: Henchman & Goon
Genre: Co-op Puzzle Platformer
Platform: PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: Nintendo Switch – 21/06/2018 PS4 – 19/02/2019
Price: £22.49 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
What the Developers say
Pode is a co-op puzzle exploration game about a rock and a fallen star working together to solve ancient puzzles in a stunning environment inspired by Norwegian art and culture.
Exploration. Discover a beautiful and ancient cave system and uncover its secrets to reach your goal.
Puzzles. Solve puzzles, riddles and mysteries. Combine the two character’s special abilities to overcome obstacles.
Co-op or single player. Share the experience with a friend, or enjoy playing it by yourself.
Unique art style. Enjoy a world inspired by Norwegian art and nature
If there is a video game which exists that details a narrative of true friendship without the inclusion of dialogue more beautifully than Pode, then I am yet to play it. Throughout the entire experience, the last thing I desired was a tragedy to befall Pode’s dual protagonists Bulder and Glo as their wishes to remain together was reflected in mine. However, from this, an issue unfortunately arises.
While it is true that one can derive great pleasure and satisfaction from solving the game’s many puzzles solo, a great deal of tedium can also arise from having to control two characters. Therefore, this game is best enjoyed with a close friend on hand to take control where a solo player should not have to.
Regardless of whether you are playing individually or cooperatively, there is plenty to appeal to all. The dream-like, relaxing musical tones lovingly meld with the charmingly adorable lead characters and the game’s unique art style to construct an experience players will not soon forget. I know for sure that I will not.
Looks and Sounds
What is it about Pode’s art style that is guaranteed to have players grinning from ear to ear? Well, the literal star of the show and their trusty companion play a large role.
Firstly, their colourful, cartoon-like designs provide players with a visual treat as this differs greatly from the dirty browns ever-present in many AAA titles. Secondly, these designs allow the developer to inform players of the inner workings of these character’s minds without dialogue. The reason being that Bulder and Glo must move more expressively due to their stylised facial makeup not allowing the same subtlety afforded to human faces.
Henchman and Goon have also demonstrated equal amounts of care and attention towards the game’s sound design. Listening to the myriad echoes that boom throughout the mysterious caves players inhabit, immerses them in the world of the game. It reinforces that, similar to Bulder and Glo, all they have is their friend by their side. However, should a player attempt the adventure solo, this effect will be doubled as they shall only be able to seek solace within themselves.
Remaining in the realm of the aural, the music on display in Pode is nothing short of fantastic. Its ambient tones border on therapeutic and its continuing presence serves to remind players that they are not truly alone. However, there exists only a minute distinction between tracks. Consequently, the music in the game quickly becomes repetitive. Despite this, it remains whimsically atmospheric until the end.
Equally atmospheric is Pode’s lighting engine. I derive immense pleasure from correctly administered lighting, and Pode is a shining example of this. Both the baked-in and dynamic lighting effects add tremendously to the game’s dream-like atmosphere as mentioned earlier. They achieve this by casting soft shadows, emitting a heavenly hue and combining a kaleidoscopic array of colours. However, the dynamic lighting impresses most of all due to its prime role in gameplay.
Gameplay and Replayability
It has been commonly discussed in this review that Pode features no dialogue. Therefore, you may be wondering, how is one able to solve puzzles without a companion NPC quite literally pointing out the solution?
As a matter, many of the puzzle solutions are cryptically etched into various stone slates. However, the vast majority can only be revealed by the radiant beams of Glo’s light. This encourages players to explore their surroundings fully and think outside the proverbial box to achieve their cerebral victory, and thus, a higher level of satisfaction is granted.
On occasion though, Glo’s light alone will not suffice. Instead, players must combine Bulder and Glo’s abilities too, in the most literal sense, reveal the path to success. This is the perfect example of gameplay informing the narrative. To reinforce an earlier point, Bulder and Glo only have each other. Consequently, their friendship blossoms. When these two characters hold hands (a heart-melting little detail) and combine their respective abilities to carry them closer to their overarching goal of escape, it is enough to bring a joyful tear to one’s eye.
Unfortunately, this carries me closer to an overarching issue I have with this title. I played it in solitude and, while I was capable of beating it with little problem, I could not help but feel that a second player was an absolute necessity.
In solo play, each character must be swapped between and moved individually throughout the entire game. It is true that you can tether along your faithful companion, bit since they rarely follow close enough behind, doing so will risk separation from your companion mentioned above. In turn, this would incur tiresome backtracking to retrieve them. The inclusion of a second player would eliminate this tedium as each player need only be concerned for the character they control.
Pode is a beautiful, heart-warming tale of friendship that is reflected both on screen and off. It is an exemplary figure of storytelling done in a way only video games can.
The cartoon-like character designs allow for wonderfully expressive characters that make dialogue wholly obsolete. The ambient tones that make up the game’s score put the player at ease and remind them that loneliness shall hold no victory over them.
In equal measure, the dynamic lighting in the game adds to the atmosphere with its dream-like use of shadows and colouring. Also, as the use of light serves as one of the only methods to uncover puzzle solutions, it is as essential to the gameplay as it is to the atmosphere. This very gameplay is fun even when playing solo, but a second player would be advantageous to remove much of the tedium present in the game.
In the end, this game taught me a vital lesson. Love and friendship are the two most important things in this life. Therefore, allow me to impart some wise words. Grab a friend, play this game, and then see what awaits you both in this endlessly alluring world that we inhabit.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Pode on the PlayStation Store at the following link, https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP5397-CUSA14851_00-PODEGAMEPS400000 and the Nintendo eShop at the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Pode-1389790.html#Gallery