Couch co-op has sometimes become a forgotten part of the gaming world, lost among a sea of online, competitive multiplayer games. Pode, from developer Henchman & Goon, bucks the trend and offers up a peaceful, cooperative experience for those who find it. Initially released on the Nintendo Switch, the game has now found a home on the PS4.
Pode focuses on Glo, a fallen star, and the rock Bulder, bringing life back to and reshaping a barren world while on a quest to return Glo to the sky. At its core, Pode is very much focused on cooperative play, with each of the two characters controllable by a separate couch buddy, but it’s also viable for the single player. In solo mode, the player simply switches between Glo and Bulder.
Pode isn’t an intense experience. Rather than the drama seen in other co-op games like A Way Out, Pode is much more relaxed in its approach, giving players the time and space needed to get through the game. It’s a wise choice of pacing in general, and fits well with its puzzle-centric gameplay.
This low stakes atmosphere creates a very nice vibe for the game in general. The spotlight is left on two adorable main characters, and both Glo and Bulder provide a fair bit of feeling between them. Capable of sharing emotion through expression and noise - a little like Portal 2’s cooperative mode – gives both a big chunk of individuality, and Pode is also a little reminiscent of indie hit Thomas Was Alone in the way it creates an emotional attachment for what are, ostensibly, shapes.
Glo and Bulder aren’t just different from a character standpoint, but also from a mechanical one. Glo brings plants to life through its warm glow, lights the way through dark places, and is essentially more mobile. Meanwhile, Bulder causes rock formations to grow, can move through tunnels, use switches, and can even move rocks around in areas to help progress.
The game world of Pode is fairly impressive, too. Inspired by Henchman & Goon's Norwegian culture, Glo and Bulder’s interactions bring the game world to life in an interesting way. Flowers and plants grow and messages are lit up on walls as the duo progress, making the landscape feel full in a way that the player can never truly comprehend.
This abstract nature leaves Pode feeling a lot like PS3 co-op darling Journey, albeit with a more playful manner. From its atmosphere through to its slow, methodical pace, those who enjoyed Thatgamecompany’s offering might find something to like with Pode too, although it doesn’t quite match that level of jaw-dropping artistic endeavour. However, the overall similarity suits Pode very well.
When it comes to its challenge, Pode is never going to reach The Witness levels of infuriating opaqueness either, and is much the better for it. Most of the puzzles in the game are relatively straightforward, and with a bit of logical thinking most players will reach the conclusion. Once again, having a second player here will make it more enjoyable, particularly when it comes to chatting through potential solutions.
Not everything works about Pode, though. The game has cultivated this slow setup, but at times it can feel a little on the sluggish side, less so with its overall pace but instead exacerbated by the slow movement speed of the characters. Equally, the game’s camera setup might leave those wanting a bit more flexibility feeling a little frustrated. Although most of the time players will have a good overview of each stage, its rigidity does mean that sometimes it’s hard to quite work out the depth required for certain jumps, and this is something that maybe could have seen a major overhaul from the Switch version.
Although Pode does offer up a single player mode, it’s fair to say that the game is a lot better in local co-op. That’s not to say that the single player version doesn’t work, as in fact it uses a character switch mechanic that is similar to Another Sight, where players hop between Glo and Bulder. It’s not ideal, though, and it does make the game’s occasional pacing problems feel a little more obvious.
With a friend, though, Pode is a joy. It’s a game that thrives on cooperation between players, particularly with the different skills of its two main characters, and even more so as the trickier puzzles take hold. It still requires patience, but as with many games having another participant increases the engagement levels.
At its core, Pode is a fun puzzle platformer with some neat ideas. If players have a friend to sit down with, it’s a blast to run through, from its gameplay through to its cute design and great soundtrack. Solo play is still decent if a little awkward, but even then it’s easy to get lost in its charm.
Pode is available now for PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.