Review: Pode

Now on PS4 after an exclusive debut on Switch last summer, Pode is a darling puzzle game created for cooperative play but also perfectly designed to work as a single-player adventure. Alone or with a friend, players are put in control of a little rock named Bulder and the fallen star Glo as they make their way to the top of a mountain to help Glo return to the starry sky above. To reach the mount’s tippy-top, Bulder and Glo must travel through a series of cavernous rooms, unlocking seeds that help a tree grow higher within the mountain while opening access to the next set of two rooms. Each set of rooms consists of roughly five areas with puzzles to solve and collectibles to find along the way.

Pode‘s puzzle design revolves around the companionship and complementary abilities of its two star characters. Bulder’s rocky bulk can be used simply as a stepping stool for Glo to hop on or as a weight to trigger floor plates, which can shift platforms to give Glo better access to different locations. Holding R2 activates a radiant energy from Bulder, causing a beautiful tableau of rock and crystal formations to sprout up throughout each area. Bulder also has several other abilities, such as being able to pick up large rocks in its mouth and then carry them to use on trigger plates or in wall switches. 

Bulder can also carry Glo in its mouth for several other unique ability combinations. Holding down R2 while Glo is in Bulder’s mouth provides a flashlight-like beam to extend out and illuminate and activate different objects in the world. In the latter half of the game, Glo learns a new ability of creating a sphere of light, which then becomes a beacon to teleport back to. This sphere/beacon can teleport both Bulder and Glo while Glo is in Bulder’s stony maw. This clever mechanic is truly useful to get the heavy Bulder up to higher locations that wouldn’t normally be reached by simply jumping.

As a fallen star, Glo’s abilities are similar yet different from Bulder’s. Holding R2 activates a radiant aura which causes plant life to grow. Some plants that spawn have orbs which can be activated with Glo’s aura, allowing platforms of thick flowers to rise and fall (so that Bulder can reach higher areas). Holding R2 also enables Glo to float and glide when jumping from one platform to the next. The radiant aura also is useful for highlighting collectible runes that are found throughout each area.  Discovering these runes provides an etched story similar to ancient hieroglyphs.

As the game progresses, different types of environmental themes are presented. Some areas have water that can be raised or lowered, and naturally Bulder sinks while Glo floats above the water. Some plants can spawn lily pads that allow Bulder to ride on top while Glo uses its radiant light to push the pad across the water’s surface. Another truly distinct area is a low light cave where basically only Glo can be seen as the player explores. Fortunately the plants that grow light cast off a bit of a shine and even some of the crystals that spawn when Bulder moves through the level have a faint glowing hue. A beautiful paisley pattern grows in yet another area while a deep, rich red/magenta blossoms as Glo activates the plants in a different section.

The puzzles can be a bit challenging at times, but nothing that requires intensive twitch reflexes. I say this because I played through the entire game solo, and there were moments when I would have to quickly switch between Bulder and Glo while one or the other was jumping in midair. Couch co-op is perfect for a game like this because both players are able to easily discuss and talk out how to approach puzzles. I’m not exactly a big fan of online games, but having the option to join another player online to finish puzzles would have been fun. Unfortunately the game only supports local co-op.

In the meantime, switching between characters while playing alone is simply done by pressing Triangle. At other times, pressing R2 will allow both characters to move in unison, depending on any environment obstacles. More often than not I was able to grow most of the plants and crystals as I moved both characters at once during the initial walkthrough of a new area. Only after finding some of the hidden collectibles did I realize that I would need to switch back and forth between the two in order to utilize one skill over the other.

Even though I played by myself, I was thoroughly engrossed in the world and put into a calm state due to the beautiful music that plays throughout. Austin Wintory amazes yet again, the sounds of a haunting bell choir, rhythmic xylophone, or melancholic violin repeating and pulsing to life as Bulder and Glo puzzle their way up to the mountaintop. The music complements the puzzle design so beautifully, adding a wonderful layer of chill to the already relaxing gameplay.

The only thing I can honestly say I’m disappointed in–and I know it’s a dumb argument to make–is the fact that the game doesn’t have a platinum trophy. It just goes to show how inconsistent Sony is with requirements on what constitutes a game worthy of a platinum and one that doesn’t get one. Is Pode a ridiculously hard game that may warrant the reward of a Platinum? Perhaps not. But there are so many filler titles on PSN these days, that it’s a shame this game doesn’t include one when other, lesser titles have.

With plenty of variety in level design and its strong themes of friendship, Pode is a fantastic environmental puzzle game made all the more magical by the heartwarming connection that grows between Bulder and Glo as they work together to reach the summit of the mountain. Pode is the perfect escape from the glut of first-person shooters and more demanding action/adventure titles, complete with music worthy of listening to long after the game has ended.

BuyIt

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS4, also available on Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Henchman & Goon
Developer: Henchman & Goon
Release Date: PS4 – 2/19/2019, Switch – 6/21/2018
Genre: Adventure/Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2

Source: A PS4 code for Pode was provided to VGBlogger.com for review consideration.

Buy From: PlayStation Store and Nintendo Store for $24.99.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.