After a release for the Nintendo Switch last year, Pode by Henchman and Goon was just released for Playstation 4 – here’s our review of this charming little cooperative puzzler (that can also be played solo).
I don’t often get jealous about exclusives for the Switch – I’m way too many Mario and Zelda games behind to care about the latest one, but I’ll gladly admit that I felt like I was missing out when I saw Pode for the first time close to a year ago. With a beautiful art style that combined tons of charm with a great use of color and light, it immediately captured my attention. It also promised cooperative puzzle gameplay, which for me personally is one of the best uses of local coop as it encourages more than just playing together – actually having to communicate to overcome problems just feels like a way better shared experience than the average shooter or sports game. To me at least….
Pode lacks the intensity of other multiplayer titles, but more than makes up for it with its beautiful art style and pleasant gameplay. Pode’s a little like other puzzle platformers, but there is very little in the sense of danger and nothing at all that resembles combat. Instead, you play as a duo that’s comprised of a star and a rock, each with their own unique abilities. Complementing each other, you use these abilities to get to the end of each scene.
Pode can be played as a single player game as well (alternating between the two characters), but really shines in multiplayer. Speaking of shining – Pode’s little star character can literally light up the world around him, often reshaping it in subtle ways as he powers along. Having fallen from the sky, his ultimate goal is to get right up there in the sky again – and he buddies up with a rock to help him get there.
I’ve always enjoyed puzzlers with characters whose abilities force them to work together – going back all the way to Lemmings and Lost Vikings. In Pode, your star is light-footed and can walk on water or float up air currents, while the rock character is strong and heavy and can walk under water and carry objects in its mouth (which includes his star buddy). Abilities are gradually introduced during the campaign, which keeps the gameplay from becoming repetitive.
Puzzle design is generally well done, though there were a few instances of guesswork where it helped that we were playing together, coming up with wacky ideas rather than getting stuck. It’s not an excuse for so-so puzzle design, but it’s certainly less of an issue in a cooperative setting.
From what I’ve read, the Switch version had a tendency to run into performance troubles – at least at launch. On a PS4 Pro, perhaps not surprisingly, this was not an issue at all. As a result, Pode gets a glowing recommendation as a coop puzzler for anyone who’s interested in how couch coop should play. It’s not the hardest puzzler, but that lack of frustration translates into a near-perfect shared experience with a ton of visual charm.