July 03, 2018
Pode - Review
Being honest, I never really paid much attention to Pode in the lead up to its release, I saw it in a Nintendo Direct and noted how interesting it looked, but that was about the extent of it, now that the game is out and I have been able to play it, I find myself in two minds about it.
The story of Pode is simple, a star, travelling across the night sky, until he smacks into the side of a mountain and falls to earth, he is soon discovered by a boulder, who decides to help him reach for the sky. The entire story is presented with little vignettes, without a single word being spoken, the result is a powerful story, two unlikely people/sentient rocks, coming together with only a simple reason as to why. While neither character speaks, they are still able to talk, with Star whistling and Boulder emitting a growling noise, they can let each other know things, it is also how you know who you are controlling, if you play solo.
You can play the game either fully solo, or with a friend with each of you taking control of one of the characters, no matter how you play, the experience is the same. As you start out, Boulder is the only one who can really do anything, thanks to the fact that he is made of stone, he can weigh down switches and such, but both characters have a cool ability. Star can glow and when he does, he emits a sphere of light, which when it comes in contact with seeds in the ground, can cause shrubs and more to start growing, turning barren caves, into lush environments. Boulder is not without his own little power, he can summon geodes and more to fill the screen, with some elements that are around, only opening for him, Star can then trigger a growth of sorts after then. But Star soon gets a power that changes things up, in a massive way.
After you clear the first two worlds, Star gets the ability to leave the light he emits in a single point, once done, you can then go about moving around free, but should you wish, you can summon yourself back to that point. If you have Boulder eat Star, something you need to do from time to time, you can bring Boulder to that point as well, perfect for when you have higher ledges that Boulder or Star can’t reach on their own. Combining all of the moves the two have, is really important as the later levels require you to really have the two of them working in sync, in order to solve the puzzles, look at you giant water puzzle, do that and things progress forward.
Where the game shines though, is in its presentation, not only is the game a beautiful thing to look at, the soundtrack by famed composer Austin Wintory, known for his work on games like Journey and The Banner Saga series and when you add both visuals and audio elements together, you get something really incredible. At any point you can just stop playing the game and no matter what you are looking at, it is possible that what you see, could hang in an art gallery around the world, because it looks so good. The score playing in the background, helps sell this effect, and with the minimal noises created by the two characters, the game is honestly, unlike anything else you will experience, I assure you.
There is a downside to Pode though, the gameplay is very basic and the game is short and when you add the two together, the ride it takes you on is over, way to quickly. Yes, there are items hidden in levels that you can find, but collecting them all, or more importantly, going back into previously cleared levels to try and find them, seems a little pointless. Some of the levels require you to combine skills that you might have forgotten about, or only just picked up, but the problem is the game never really explains any of the abilities either character has, it is only up to you to discover them. You get a few button prompts at the beginning of the game, but outside of that, the rest is on you and I can’t begin to count the amount of time, I spent staring at a giant gap that Star could float over, that Boulder could not, only to realise I needed to use the warp power of Star to complete it.
Pode is a game that highlights what makes video games great, the unique art style is grand, the score is suitably so, but it is the combination that elevates it, the only downside is its length and lack of explanation. If you are looking for something to play with a friend, or even a youngster, then Pode is a game you should not overlook.