Pode is a relaxing co-op puzzle platformer with adorable characters, colorful environments, and unique terrain-altering gameplay mechanics.
While it may suffer from the occasional camera issue or difficulty spike, environmental hints and player communication will get you through it.
The game is best recommended for those who enjoy working together, swooning over cute characters, and playing games at their own pace.
- Heartwarming story and characters
- Unique terrain-altering abilities
- Vibrant use of color all-throughout
- Relaxing soundtrack
- Puzzle difficulty spikes halfway through
- Characters sometimes clip through objects
- The fixed camera is easily obstructed
Thankfully, indie developers like Henchman & Goon have been pitching in to help keep this relatively niche genre alive with co-op driven games such as Pode, which first appeared on the Switch eShop before coming to PS4 and Steam.
In this review, I’ll share my thoughts about the game’s story, gameplay, graphics, and sound design in order to help you decide whether it’s worth checking out for yourself.
Since this review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of Pode, there will be some differences regarding graphics and gameplay performance compared to PC.
Table of ContentsShow
Story and Setting
Pode tells a heartwarming story about a rock trying to help a shooting star find its way back home after falling from the sky.
While there isn’t any voiced dialogue, the rock and star communicate through cute sounds and surprisingly expressive physical gestures.
Despite having an overall jovial tone, the game does have its sad moments, such as when the pair become separated and must find their way back.
This constant shift from warm friendship to cold isolation is reflected not only through the two main characters’ designs but the environments as well.
The starting levels are set in quiet, mysterious caves with no sign of life; however, as the star spreads its energy, flowers and vines begin to blossom.
Similarly, the rock can make gorgeous, bright-colored crystal pillars and gem trails shoot out of the ground, and most adorable of all, you can make both characters reach out and hold hands.
In my opinion, not many games nail the concept of environmental storytelling, so I really appreciated the high degree of interactivity between Pode’s characters and setting.
Over the course of the game, you get to witness the rock and star’s relationship evolve as the pair grow closer until they’re eventually inseparable.
Pode is best described as a cooperative puzzle-platformer, though it can still be played solo with one person switching between both characters.
As I mentioned earlier, the rock and star can affect the environment using a handful of abilities that are exclusive to that character.
The rock is heavy and can trigger crystals to grow, condense itself into a smaller stone, and hold objects in its stomach before spitting them back out.
The star is light and has the ability to create life in the form of trees and plants, but can also use its power to build bridges and teleport its body.
These abilities are explored and utilized in different ways throughout the game’s roughly 8-hour story, with many puzzles requiring a combination of both characters’ skills.
If I had one gripe with Pode, it would be the random difficulty spikes in its puzzles, especially in the middle portion of the game.
While there are visual hints in the environment to assist you with the more complicated puzzles, I feel like some puzzle solutions don’t quite follow the game’s in-universe logic or rules.
Whenever my partner and I hit a wall, we would try every strategy we could think of; occasionally, we would stumble upon an exciting discovery but usually ended up having to consult a guide.
Graphics and Sound
Pode isn’t the most graphically impressive game but manages to convey a lot of emotion using simple shapes and animations.
It’s also a very vibrant-looking game that’s not afraid to play around with different colors and makes excellent use of lights and shadows.
Most levels start out as dull gray caves that serve as the perfect canvas for the rock and star’s terrain altering abilities.
By the end, I had lost track of the number of lush underground gardens and tranquil grottos my partner and I had willed into existence with just a single button each.
Lacking any voiced dialogue, Pode relies on its fantastic score composed by Austin Wintory to help unravel its narrative and guide you along these two characters’ journey.
I found the music to be quite relaxing and non-distracting, allowing me and my partner to focus on the puzzles at hand.
Specs-wise, the game is displayed at 1080p while docked on the switch and runs at a consistent 30 frames per second, which I think is perfectly fine for a relaxing puzzle game played at your own pace.
However, I did have some instances where my character would clip through objects in the environment, or the fixed camera would become obstructed as my partner and I got farther away from each other.
The Final Verdict
While there are plenty of co-op games offering hours of enjoyment, not many can compete with the high quality of Pode’s writing and gameplay design.
Developer Henchman & Goon has managed to turn an otherwise casual puzzle-platformer into an enchanting tale of love and friendship by prioritizing player interactivity and environmental storytelling.
By the end, my partner and I had become enamored with our adorable protagonists and put down our controllers with a sense of joy and comradery.
Considering the game’s relatively low-cost and minimal PC requirements, I would say it’s definitely worth playing with a friend, family member, or partner.