Release Date: June 21st 2018
Price as of Article: £22.49 GBP $24.99 USD
Game code provided by Henchman & Goon for review
With all the big announcements and hyped up releases happening this past week, it may be easy to forget or lose sight of some of the little gems that have or will be gracing the eShop. What with huge juggernauts like Fortnite or the ultimate indie darling Hollow Knight popping up on your Switch’s, you may be forgiven for not noticing a game like Pode.
With a very simple story, the game kicks off with a cutscene of shooting stars falling from the evening sky. One such star lands on the ground next to a cute little rock. No doubt feeling a little unhappy about the landing and wanting to return to the sky, the rock volunteers to guide the star up a mountain that leads back to the sky.
It’s a minimalistic story which you would expect for this type of game, there’s no dialogue or anything, everything is told visually which I like. After the initial start up the story does tail off for the gameplay to take over heavily which is a shame but still, it’s a nice tale of a new loving friendship which is charming.
Pode is primarily a 2-player couch co-op puzzle adventure game. As stated, the game follows two strangers: a rock and a falling star. Together, these two little dudes must co-operate by taking advantage of each others abilities. Your little rock guy has the ability to interact with rock based things and squeeze through nicely square tunnels. The fallen star is similar but can use light to create life, usually sprouting trees and such. As you progress it gets slightly more advance with other abilities such as the falling star’s teleportation and the rock’s eating and spitting mechanic. You’ll experience that the rock will sink in water and the star will daintily float. It’s a small pool of talents and quirks but they are excellently exploited to make some inventive puzzles.
Together, both characters need to make it to the exit of each “room” presented to the player. These are generally short and self contained, each their own little mini-puzzle. There are kind of “worlds” present in Pode, each with a handful of connected rooms with a theme, whether it be water, wind, ice and such. It’s all really interwoven well which I can appreciate. It feels like one whole game world and hides the fact it’s actually highly segmented. It’s very good design from the developers.
Unlike many games of this co-op nature, but perfectly playable by oneself, is that unlike most modern efforts, the single player switches between the two with a press of the X button. It’s not one of those where each analogue stick is dedicated to one character, which I’m grateful for as that’s not a style I particularly like. Sure, this way does feel more stilted and archaic but it’s far more comfortable as an experience.
Playing by yourself is fine. I played through the introduction stages by myself before being joined by my wife and, even though she’s very inexperienced with video games in general, we had a lot of cute fun with Pode. It’s definitely better with another person. I feel the relaxed nature of Pode can bring people together, being a game ripe for bonding sessions. Young people, inexperienced gamers or veterans can come together to enjoy the cute little puzzle game.
Even when playing with another person you can switch characters with the same button, this is very useful if you’re playing with someone of lesser skill who isn’t up to the task required. You can switch between characters, allowing them to handle the easy thing while you do something more difficult.
The beginning of the game is very welcoming to new players. There’s no tutorial as such, but it’s woven nicely in to the early stages. It really eases you in to showcase that this is really a very relaxing game at heart. You do eventually increase your capabilities which in turn makes things slightly more complicated but it’s still fairly relaxed compared to other games. There’s little to no threat aside from falling off cliffs with little consequence as our two little heroes bounce right back up. In that sense it’s not a difficult game but the difficulty can ramp up with some of the puzzles. I and my wife were often scratching our heads at what to do, especially in regards to late puzzles in each section. Up until these points for each “world” it’s pretty simple, you generally get a grasp of what you have to do, it’s just successfully putting it into practice. These last puzzles for each world just come across as really obtuse, almost to blindingly guessing levels of obscure where if you press enough buttons or combinations, you’ll stumble across the solution. For me, this is the weakest aspect of the game by a long stretch. It’s not balanced correctly for some of the puzzles.
In the audio department you have a very simple, almost sombre sounding affair. The music composition is very nice if a little too sorrowful with its distinctive cello and slow pace. I enjoyed it but I would have liked something a bit more dainty and hopeful perhaps. It’s not really a major complaint though since it’s well put together and probably fits the game and theme much better than I’d like to admit, but listening to it didn’t make me feel happy. It reminded me of something like the soundtrack to Braid. If you’ve heard that soundtrack you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Visuals & Performance
Visually Pode has a very pleasing art style. Apparently inspired by Norwegian culture, the very blocky structures with lots of hazy glows really sticking out. It’s distinct for sure and I think it looks lovely. Sure, it’s not pushing the Switch’s visual capabilities as models and texture are fairly basic, but that’s not important with a nice, pleasant art style like this.
What I did find impressive for an indie game such as this, were the cutscene animations. There’re some really nice quality cutscenes made for this game as I mentioned in the story section. They are lovingly animated which definitely sends the production value of the game much higher than many of its rivals.
Performance wise it runs okay for the most part, but there are times were frames are dropped here and there to a noticeable level, but not something that got in the way of the enjoyment or experience. Obviously a simple looking game like this really shouldn’t drop frames at all so hopefully it will be smoothed out with a patch. So yeah, nothing major but noticeable.
One minor point about the performance are the frequent loads and their lengths. There’s always a loading screen between stages and they do feel a little overly long and did take me out of the experience somewhat. I would have liked it a lot more had this been tightened up a little. I know load times are unavoidable, but a way of masking them or speeding them up would have been nice.
Pode comes in at £22.49 or $24.99 which is no doubt on the expensive side. When it comes to your hard earned cash it’s definitely a tough one since you can get some decent bang for your buck on the eShop in this price range. If you’re into charming couch co-op puzzle adventure games then you really can’t go wrong with Pode, it’s solid for the money with excellent production values. It may not be the longest game in the world, maybe about 7-8 hours if I had to guess at how long it took, but that’s about the same level as most games of this kind and price range. Still, a sale may be more appropriate if you’re still on the fence.
Great game for bonding time
Some later puzzles are randomly obscure