There aren’t as many events geared for local couch co-op as there once were, as the entertainment zeitgeist tends to concentrate on esports and professional multiplayer games. Thankfully, independent developers such as Henchman & Goon have been pitching in to help keep this comparatively obscure genre alive with co-op games like Pode, which debuted on the Switch eShop before making its way to PS4 and Steam. In this review, I’ll discuss the plot, gameplay, visuals, and sound design of the game to help you determine if it’s worth checking out for yourself. There will be several variations in visuals and gameplay efficiency between the Nintendo Switch and PC versions of Pode, since this review is focused on the Nintendo Switch edition.
Pode relates a touching tale about a rock attempting to guide a shooting star back to its home after it has fallen from the sky. The rock and star interact by sweet noises and remarkably articulate body movements, despite the lack of spoken dialogue. Despite its overall lighthearted feel, the game has several tragic scenes, such as when the two become divided and must reunite. Not only the two main characters’ designs, but also the surroundings, show this continual change from warm relationship to cold isolation. The game begins in quiet, mysterious caves with no evidence of life; but, as the star’s energy expands, flowers and vines begin to bloom. Similarly, the rock will create beautiful, bright-colored crystal pillars and diamond trails that shoot out of the earth, and you can have all characters reach out and hold hands, which is particularly cute. Few games, in my view, nail the idea of environmental storytelling, so I loved Pode’s characters and setting’s high level of interactivity. Throughout the game, you’ll see how the rock and star’s friendship develops as the two get together and closer until they’re inseparable.
Breakdown of the Gameplay
Pode is a multiplayer puzzle-platformer, but it can also be played solo with one player alternating between all characters. As I previously said, the rock and star has a number of unique abilities that enable him or her to influence the world. The rock is hard, and it will cause crystals to expand, condense into a smaller stone, and swallow particles before spitting them out. The star is made of energy, and it can produce life in the shape of trees and plants, as well as erect bridges and teleport its body. Throughout the game’s nearly 8-hour plot, these talents are tested and used in various ways, with several challenges involving a mixture of both characters’ abilities. If I had one complaint about Pode, it would be the game’s puzzles’ random difficulty spikes, particularly in the centre. Although there are visual clues in the world to help you solve the more difficult puzzles, I believe that some of the puzzle solutions do not fit the game’s in-universe logic or laws. As my partner and I ran into a roadblock, we tried every tactic we could think of; sometimes, we’d make an interesting breakthrough, but we mostly had to get help from a mentor.
Sound and graphics
Pode isn’t the most visually stunning title, but it manages to express a great deal of emotion by simplistic shapes and animations. It’s also a really colorful game that doesn’t shy away from experimenting with various colors and making great use of light and shadows. Most levels begin as drab gray caves, which provide the ideal backdrop for the rock and star’s terrain-altering powers. By the end, I’d lost count of how many lush secret gardens and peaceful grottos my husband and I had produced with only a single button each. Pode relies on its excellent score composed by Austin Wintory to help unfold its plot and lead you through the path of these two protagonists since it lacks any spoken dialogue. The music was soothing and unobtrusive, encouraging my partner and me to concentrate on the puzzles at hand. The game plays at a steady 30 frames per second and is viewed at 1080p when docked on the Switch, which I think is fine for a soothing puzzle game played at your own speed. However, there were a few times where my character clipped through things in the world, or the fixed camera became obstructed as my partner and I became farther apart.
The Final Decision
Although there are a plethora of co-op games that include hours of entertainment, few can match Pode’s writing and gameplay style. By emphasizing player interactivity and environmental storytelling, developer Henchman & Goon has managed to turn an otherwise casual puzzle-platformer into an enchanting tale of love and friendship. My husband and I were enamored of our charming heroes by the end, and we set our controllers down with a feeling of excitement and comradery. I believe it is certainly worth playing with a mate, family member, or girlfriend, given the game’s low cost and low PC specifications.