The Nintendo Switch has become a fantastic console for gamers thanks to its vast selection of varied titles, and its satisfying portability ensuring we can take those beloved adventures with us on the go. One thing that doesn’t receive enough praise however are the many couch co-op titles that are also readily available, bringing such a unique experience to the handheld device. Can Pode, the latest puzzler with co-operative gameplay change all that?
If you’ve not yet heard of Pode – and I hadn’t before I played so don’t feel bad – it’s one of the latest indie puzzle adventures to arrive on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a rather simplistic title in which you take on the role of both a heavy rock named Bulder and a fallen star named Glo, as they aim to solve a selection of ancient puzzles in order to make it to the top of Mount Fjellheim.
As far as the story goes however, that’s pretty much all you’re left with for the majority of the game. There’s no explanation to be found as to why Bulder and Glo have been faced with the difficult journey of reaching the top of Mount Fjellheim, or how they go there in the first place, but that’s not an issue in Pode as it’s the gameplay that really makes the experience worth playing.
Pode is a game that can be played solo by switching characters, but with two unique characters to make the most of, playing with two players in a co-op experience is where it really shines. Each character comes with their own abilities, with Bulder able to eat and spit out different items, move heavy and obtrusive blocks, sink to the bottom of deep water, grow geodes, crack seed pods and use his weight on button-style puzzles that require a heavy object. Glo however can activate flower triggers and lifts, can walk on water, light up different symbols on the walls in some puzzles, can glide and can also grow flora. Whilst each of these abilities may sound rather specific, they all come into play throughout the many different puzzles, and it will take clever utilisation of each to make it to the top of the mountain.
For me, puzzle games are usually a personal rage inducer. I’m not really a fan of being stuck on one thing for too long and whilst I love a good challenge, it’s usually a challenge of reflexes in a racer or shooter. Pode is a rare exception to this though, and a big reason for that is thanks to the fact that there is no rush in what you do.
This is especially great to see given the beautiful art style that accompanies proceedings and the fact that every room in which each puzzle takes place is usually full of some kind of hidden secret or detail, that if unexplored would be easily missed.
As daunting as it may seem, Pode isn’t a brutal puzzler, and you won’t be climbing a physical mountain the entire time. Instead you’ll find a rather simplistic experience that takes place in various different rooms and would probably come under fire for being slightly dull were it not for the fantastic visuals, vibrant art work, cleverly designed rooms and the sensible and consistent pacing of how each of the characters abilities are introduced into the game. When it comes down to the puzzles, there isn’t really all that much that will have you scratching your head – at least not for veteran puzzlers – and it’s clear that it’s not here to trip players up or require you to pull out a pen and paper just to make sense of each puzzle. Simplicity doesn’t mean it’s a bad game though and Pode is a rather refreshing experience, allowing anyone to casually stroll through the game without any need to worry over how long they are taking.
For the most part, everything with Pode provides a smooth and rather wonderful experience, however, there are a couple of times in which the experience isn’t quite right. This revolved mostly around the later, much larger rooms, and especially when using Glo’s ability to sprout plant life around the room there are occasions in which the frame rate completely stutters to cause issue in navigation. This isn’t game breaking, but it would be nice to see the game running a little smoother given the experience throughout the rest of the game.
Overall though and Pode is a rather unique and refreshing experience that brings a light-hearted challenge for fans of puzzlers – all without taking itself too seriously. There’s a fantastic visual style that’s rather enlightening throughout, and with the option to play co-operatively or solo, this is one that can be enjoyed on your own or sat beside a friend. Whilst the price may seem a little steep, Pode is certainly one of the best co-op adventures available on Nintendo Switch.
Massive thanks to: Henchman&Goon
Release date: June 2018
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)