Nobody ever thinks of the meteorites, falling from space down to Earth. In comes Pode, telling the story of a rock helping a meteorite return to space.
In Pode, from Henchman & Goon, you (and a partner in co op mode) must journey through a puzzling, cloud-piercing peak, and solve the puzzles to realise your power and return the star to the sky. Both characters are equipped with different abilities, meaning you have to work together to get through the levels.
The sentient rock (Bulder), which appears to be be in fact composed of several cracked rocks, has the ability to consume other objects and gain their powers! Meanwhile the star (Glo) can shine starlight out, making things float and illuminating etchings in the wall, as well as unlocking a teleportation skill a short while in. In addition each character can ‘grow’ objects with their ability, Glo making plants and all forms of fauna grow, making caves into veritable gardens, and Bulder making pretty geodes and crystals grow, giving you another goal besides solving the puzzles. And that goal is making everything pretty.
From my time playing Pode, the puzzling has been completely designed and set up so that it works perfectly. An oft repeated proverb is ‘less is more’ and Pode takes this to heart, with a limited number of actions and abilities making puzzles simple to comprehend but oftentimes very complex to parse and solve. Tutorials and clues are shown via Glo’s special ability, which helps draw the players in by requiring teamwork for even the simplest task, like putting a box in a wall-hole.
As well as eating objects, Bulder has the ability to spit them out again (*gasp*) with a fair bit of speed, which can be combined with Glo’s lighter weight to allow Glo to reach new heights and locations. This complements with Glo’s other ability, back and forth teleportation between Glo and the placeable ‘sphere’ of power that can be put down. The complete separation of gameplay styles and mechanics allows for Pode to create some of the best puzzle gameplay I’ve played in years.
While Pode is designed and marketed as a co-op adventure, the whole game can be played solo; with an option to switch between characters. Whilst playing co-op switching characters is also available, which could help with asymmetrically skilled players, which is quite neat. In keeping with the theme of cooperation, Bulder and Glo can hold hands, letting them use their powers together whilst also having the cutest walk ever.
The game play is structured into some form of level sets organised by ‘mines of moria’ style pictograms, most of the game is spent running around caves laid out around a large central cave, unlocking new levels by finishing earlier sets and getting new abilities. The interplay between Bulder and Glo is really cool, working together with a partner, using your abilities in tandem.
Going on an adventure with a friend is a treasured old trope, and Pode allows you to do that, solving puzzles and learning powers together, which is just super cute and overall adorable.
Pode is available now on the Nintendo Switch, other platforms are planned.