Pode, translated from Portuguese to English, means “You can.” These two little words truly encompass what this game is about. Pode is developed/published by Henchman & Goon and is based on an unusual concept. There’s a little bit of platforming sprinkled on layers of puzzle solving, with tranquil ambiance as the main ingredient.
Pode opens with a brief cutscene to let us know that a fallen star (Glo) has landed on a strange planet and a friendly little rock (Bulder) wants to help his new friend return home. To accomplish this, they must take each other’s hand and traverse the caverns of a towering mountain (Mount Fjellheim) using their special abilities. The names of the characters and the mountain I only learned by going to the official website of Pode. Glo, as the fallen star, breathes life into the dark caves, causing exotic plants to flourish over the course of a few seconds. Bulder, as the little rock, causes crystals to spring forth from the floor and the walls. All of the puzzles focus on combining these abilities to cross over chasms and reach the door or opening the cave wall to the next room. The overall positive vibes from Pode is incredible. Even when I was completely stumped on a puzzle, it was impossible to become angry at this game. I never felt discouraged, and never thought about rage quitting.
The 3D animation is delightfully warm. Bulder and Glo are able to hold hands while walking into the next area, which is just the icing on the cake of this adorable game. The music accentuates the serenity of the caverns, especially since they are void of any monsters. The only cause for concern is missing a jump and falling off into nothingness, in which the character will just float back to the top. The combination of graphics and sound effects help us understand the difference in weight between the two characters. Bulder has heavy footsteps when he walks and even falls fast when he jumps, while Glo makes no sound at all and falls slowly. The graphics are fluid, but I noticed an issue that often complicated the gameplay both in console and handheld mode. At first, the glitch didn’t cause a big problem. The two characters would be walking along and suddenly the video froze, and when it picked up they had jumped ahead in the same direction. This glitch made using Bulder’s and Glo’s abilities extremely frustrating, especially if it happened at the wrong time, which it did on a few occasions.
Pode offers a simultaneous co-op mode, which simply makes sense with the theme of the game being friendship. This mode allows us to play with one other person. Instead of player one having to do all the work, player two can move around at the same time, and the players can switch between playing as Glo and Bulder. The controls were easy to master since there are few commands and combinations available. The two characters can jump, use their abilities that create an aura around them, and sometimes blend these together for puzzle solving. Bulder’s one other ability is to carry rocks, or even Glo, in their mouth, and in doing so Glo can teleport Bulder to a designated spot. All that leaves is for us to make sure we communicate well with one another or else be left struggling to solve a puzzle and proceed.
Simply walking around, hand-in-hand, while holding R to use life granting power that grows crystals and plants into artistically intricate and stunning designs in the bare caverns was enjoyable all on its own. Unfortunately, without any story to lure me back, I found picking it up again for any length of time was a chore instead of a pleasure. During a difficult puzzle, I found myself wishing I had an incentive to persevere. Pode reminds me of a simple theme used in charming television shows for children younger than two years of age. For where I see the developer’s ambitions in this game, they reached their destination, but it is not the kind of game everyone will want to play.