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Posted by GG Goblin On July - 5 - 2018

Couch co-op puzzle solving on the Switch.

When the Nintendo Switch was first announced I, like many others, was sceptical. Would the whole hybrid handheld/home console thing prove popular, or would it go the same way as the Wii U? I was unsure, but one thing was certain from the very beginning – with the included two Joy-Cons, the Switch would be absolutely ideal for couch co-op games. Games with an included couch co-op option have been on the decline for a while, but as I think there is nothing better than sitting with a loved one and sharing a game experience, I held out hope that this new Nintendo machine would be the catalyst that brings back this type of gaming.

pode1 (Copy)

Well, jump forward and the Nintendo Switch has proved to be very popular indeed. However, couch co-op games are still far from plentiful, which is why I was very pleased to see Pode, a co-op puzzle game from developers Henchman & Goon, turn up on the Switch.

Pode is a lovely game, right from the beginning. Shooting stars are zipping across the sky above an unknown landscape, and one of them falls to the ground. This is Glo and Glo wants nothing more than to get back into the sky with his friends. Fortunately a nearby rock, called Bulder, is willing to help Glo and so they embark on this charming journey to get Glo home. The fact that all of this is conveyed without any words is quite mesmerising, and it is very easy to quickly fall in love with these two characters.

Glo and Bulder each have their very own, very different abilities that will help them to complete their journey. Glo, for example, is very light and able to walk across water, and even float a little. Bulder, being a rock, is much heavier and as such is able to press switches down. Each character has a selection of other abilities that are revealed as the players work through the game, keeping things fresh and preventing the players from getting too comfortable with the puzzle solving.

Among Bulder’s other abilities is the chance to make little rocky outcrops and crystals grow, but that is nothing compared to Glo’s ability to make flora grow within the levels. This ability itself transforms what could have been a very dull, cavey looking game into one that is bursting with colour. The levels burst with life and movement as Glo moves around, revealing not only potential solutions to whatever problem the pair may face in their journey, but also just how pretty the game looks.

pode2 (Copy)

While the game is lovely to look at and has a very laid back, almost relaxing, feel, the puzzles can have a real difficulty to them. The puzzles all revolve around cooperation between the two characters, and their use of the individual abilities. There were times playing the game when our progress ground to a halt for far longer than I would admit too, but the whole co-op nature where too minds are better than one more often than not led to solutions and prevented frustration from setting in. The puzzles tend to have only one solution, and the players will have to make sure they search every inch of each level in order to ensure they don’t miss anything.

Which is perhaps the biggest issue in the game. The camera will move with the characters, but it is not possible for the player to move the camera, sometimes making it difficult to see everything in a level. There was even one instance where I actually got lost behind the scenery and took a while to finally reappear. It’s only a little problem, just making it a little trickier to spot everything needed to solve a puzzle, but  a little bit of camera control would have solved this.

It’s only a little fly in the ointment because otherwise Pode is a great little game designed to be played by two players sitting next to each other. However, Pode is not exclusively co-op as a single player is able to play alone, switching between the two characters on the fly as they need to. But this is not what the game was designed for, and the increased difficulty when it comes to the light platforming or even the puzzle solving does make the experience much more frustrating.

pode3 (Copy)

Pode is a charming experience to be shared. The puzzles are tricky, but the gameplay is relaxed and easy to enjoy with a friend. The visuals are great and Bulder and Glo are packed with character. While it is possible to play alone, Pode is far more enjoyable in couch co-op, so if you have a Switch and a friend who likes puzzles, pick up Pode and get that fallen star back in the sky.




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