Back in June last year, the Nintendo Switch received a rather beautiful looking puzzle platformer in which you can either play solo or share your Joycons with another player and engage in some rather entertaining and thought-provoking puzzle solving. This game was called Pode, from developer Henchman & Goon. I remember seeing information on this game around launch and I was blown away by the visual quality and the attractiveness of the graphics on the handheld device. However, as someone who only had a PS4 at the time, I eagerly awaited its release on other platforms.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long as Pode is now available on the PlayStation 4. Having had the chance to finally play this hidden gem for myself, I can tell you now that it was worth the wait as this game is freaking gorgeous and so challenging, despite its cute appearance. Let’s take a deeper look at what to expect when you pick up Pode on either your Nintendo Switch or PlayStation 4…
One of the things I love about smaller indie developers is the fact that they put so much love and care into their creations, this is apparent within the story of Pode. The premise is rather simple, yet very emotional and sweet. The story is that there is a fallen star, called Glo, which has crashed into the Earth and has no idea how to get back into the sky. Bulder, a nearby sentient rock, sees Glo and offers to help them traverse their way through the ancient ruins and become reunited with their own kind back up in the sky.
However, it’s not as easy as walking them up a few flights of stairs and opening the door, our two protagonists must work together as they both use their unique skills to overcome all the puzzling predicaments they find themselves in. Inspired by Norwegian culture and simply bursting with charm and creativity, what could have been a simple puzzle game is perfectly presented as an emotional journey that is full of awe and wonder, as well as a few tears here and there.
Two heads are better than one
Pode is a game that has clearly been created around cooperative play. However, every single puzzle can also be completed solo as you alternate between the two protagonists. This is great for people like myself who wished to play it on my own, yet if you have a friend or family member who wants to join in, then simply hand them a controller and the experience easily becomes a little bit more exciting and social. The great thing about Pode is that both protagonists have their own purpose within the world, their own strengths and weaknesses, let’s look at them…
Glo, our bright fallen star who is stranded from her familiar surroundings, is the lightest of our daring duo (in more ways than one). They can float for a while after jumping, use their light to revive plants and flowers, bob along on the top of the water, and control flora-based platforms.
Bulder is as heavy as a rock, as they are literally a rock, so they are perfect for operating switches and weighing things down. If they enter the water then they will proceed to sink to the bottom but they won’t die as rocks don’t breath. Due to their strength, they can also pick up rocks with their Wall-e-style mouth and either place or throw them around the area. Also, just like how Glo can wake up the flowers and plants with their light, Bulder can wake up the rocks and earth-like structures in order to uncover hidden objects.
Okay, so the actions above are things our protagonists can do individually, but what about when you combine them? Well, the first thing you’ll realise you can do is you can give the other one a piggyback! In solo-mode, this is essential as you can move around much faster if you set the other one on your head and you simply move one character. However, you can also use this to allow you to jump higher or even get Glo to give Bulder a ride in water without sinking!
Another trait you’ll discover is the fact that Bulder is quite hungry and he’ll put anything in his mouth – be it rocks for a puzzle or our dear Glo. That’s right, pop Glo in your mouth and Bulder becomes a torch as he shoots the light out of his mouth in a more condensed fashion. Glo will also learn a second ability as you play the game, one which can be combined with Bulder to really help solve puzzles much faster, but I’ll let you discover that one for yourself!
However, the cutest ‘ability’ you have is to hold hands with one another (this seems to be a trend at the moment, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince also had you doing this). Simply hold down both L2 and R2 and our protagonists will run to each other and hold hands as you move them both around together. Not only is this really cute, but both plants and rocks are also revived as you walk around, thus making the process much faster if you’re playing on your own. This part of the game is absolutely stunning, you literally see the flowers and grass grow and the whole cave comes to life as you both casually walk around.
The crème de la crème of Pode is its puzzles. Working together with both protagonists, you much make your way through numerous stages within each ‘level’ as you aim to reach the end and find an acorn. The acorns help the central tree grow, thus getting you closer to the way out. The puzzle starts off nice and simple such as using Bulder to jump off Glo’s head and pick up a rock to operate a switch; they then get harder like walking around in pitch darkness trying not to fall off the path as you find hidden seeds to breathe life into with Glo’s light. If I said that the puzzles within the last three ‘levels’ of Pode were difficult, it would be an understatement.
Even though I found some of the puzzles to be very tricky, which resulted in me having to look up the solution for one of them as I had no idea, they aren’t impossible. With a bit of thought and a lot of patience, you can work out the logic behind all of the puzzles. If you need something, like a hint on what to do, just look around. More than likely there will be an image hidden on the wall or off to the side which gives you a hint. As there is no narrative within the game, it’s all down to the player to read the situation and come up with the solution based on what they can see.
There are over 50 collectables in Pode, which is quite a lot! Thankfully, you can easily see at a glance which chapters of each level still has something left to be found by looking at the chapter select when you push the touchpad. The things to look out for come in two varieties, Murals on the walls which are hidden images that Glo’s light unveils, and glow stones (I think that’s what they are) which are hidden within rock flowers that Bulder has to open. So, even the collectables require the use of both protagonists in order to uncover them all!
Whilst I was searching for help with one of the puzzles, I stumbled upon a video of someone playing Pode on the Switch. It appears that the further into the game you got, the worse the framerates appeared as the game seemed to struggle on Nintendo’s console. Although, that may have been patched later on. I’m happy to say that on the PS4 (I was on the PS4 Pro), the game ran perfectly with no slow down and no issues at all. This, combined with the simply gorgeous visuals, beautiful music, and cute character animations, makes the entire experience something I simply have to recommend everyone plays.
Each of the eight areas has its own visual style to an extent. They are all made up of the same types of rocks and flora, but the various colours which are used such as bright greens or vivid reds, along with water or black voids, really help to create enough variety to make them different from each other and exciting to play through. I especially liked, even though I was terrible at them, the levels in which there was no light – it was pure darkness other than the light which Glo gives off. These parts reminded me a lot of Candleman, another brilliant indie game from last year which a lot of people may not know about.
First 30 mins of Pode, no commentary:
Imaginative puzzles, intuitive solo/co-op gameplay, an emotional story, and stunning visuals, Pode has it all! I imagined I would have completed the game within an hour two, yet almost five hours later and I was just reaching the end, and that’s without collecting everything. Some of the puzzles are quite tricky, and one or two didn’t really make sense to me as it was a new mechanic it hadn’t explained before, but every puzzle is solvable if you put your mind to it. I also loved the fact that the game is clearly meant for cooperative play, yet it works flawlessly if you’re playing it on your own as well.
I’m incredibly excited that Pode made its way to the PlayStation 4 as it means more people will now get a chance to try it out and experience the creativity and magnificence of this amazing title.
- - Absolutely gorgeous visuals, especially when you're reviving the flora and rocks
- - Soothing and relaxing soundtrack which helps thicken the atmosphere
- - Emotional narrative-less story
- - Quite big for a puzzle game, clocking in at around 5 hours or so
- - The puzzles get quite creative and to the point where you have to literally think outside of the box!
- - No option for online co-op, only local
- - Some people may find the later puzzles quite hard as there isn't much help or hints in some of them