Most of my gaming time these days, as a late forties nanny to my niece, revolves around pick up and play titles. The recently released PlayStation 4 co-op adventure/puzzler Pode has made me rethink my weekly schedule in the best of ways. Visually immerse, the humanistic scope of Pode sucked me in, and many more hours will be spent living in its universe.
The storyline centers on Bulder, a diminutive rock who is determined to help a falling star (appropriately named Glo) finds its way back home. Since Pode is an exploration puzzle game, the task is as clear as day – use your wits to advance the two friends forward until their goals have been met.
As each puzzle gets more complicated and intricate, the abilities of Bulder and Glo are revealed to the player. Bulder can build rock formations that allows movement from one place to the next while Glo’s light brings life to this seemingly barren and unforgiving landscape. The key is that they depend on each other for survival, as their inherent differences ends up strengthening their bond.
Although Pode’s heart and soul may be tied into the co-op experience, it doesn’t leave solo gamers in the dust. I’ve enjoyed most of my gaming in single player mode, and figuring out and balancing the respective skill sets of Bulder and Glo has been a complicated yet seamless experience.
Credit goes to indie developer Henchman & Goon for bringing a welcome level of restraint to the proceedings. They may be adorable looking, but Bulder and Glo are not cutesy type characters. They are focused on their mission, and there is little time to show off their charisma. With the addition of Journey composer Austin Wintory, the game’s score could have gone for an epic and sweeping aesthetic. With Pode, Wintory’s music organically grows and supports this intriguing tale.
Pode is inspired by Norwegian art and culture, two things I know absolutely nothing about. Yet in its own subtle way, Pode is an invitation for gamers to explore a world that, along with its puzzle solving, is about expanding one’s imagination. If you don’t believe me, maybe Captain Marvel will do the trick:
— Brie Larson (@brielarson) August 11, 2018
As a casual gamer, I usually resort to some farming app or platformer on my iPad to waste away what little time I have. Due to the intricacies of controlling two characters, Pode is perfect as a console game (it was released on the Nintendo Switch last year). It may be much easier to mash away on your tablet or phone when it comes to pick up and play titles, but Pode makes a great case for taking a few extra steps for a more satisfying experience.
I’m only four hours in with Pode, but odds are I’ll complete the game much sooner than later. My niece has a few more years to go before she becomes a gamer, but I’m guessing Pode won’t fade into the woodwork. Bulder and Glo know a thing or two about enlivening their world and working together, and maybe by then I’ll be an expert on Norwegian art. Whatever the case may be, Pode is an unforgettable puzzler that’s worth a shot on your PS4.
Rating: 9 out of 10