I remember the pure excitement of renting, or buying, a new game that featured two player gameplay. A distant thought compared to today’s modern online gaming community, couch co-operative gameplay defined the nineties as you played with your friends who physically sat next to you. You would laugh and scream at one other, but that was the beauty of sharing those moments together. Henchman & Goon helps us relive those moments by presenting us with Pode, a peaceful experience that is inspired by Norwegian culture and captures the essence of beauty through their visual and music presentation while focusing on the importance of friendship and teamwork to overcome any obstacle that life throws at you.
Pode welcomes us to a rock named Bulder, who befriends a fallen star known as Glo, and embarks on a quest to help it return home. A complete stranger finds itself alone and unsure of its current predicament to be rescued by the actions of a helpful rock, showcasing the importance of friendship and cooperation. This journey will set the two along a path through Mount Fjellheim, rejuvenating the landscapes while solving puzzles.
The caverns you encounter are dark and near void of any life. The presence of Glo brings light to darkness and sparks immediate growth of the minimal vegetation within these areas, showcasing the visual beauty that has been crafted by Henchman & Goon. Bulder is also able to help beautify the environments as his presence expands various rocks, perfectly contrasting the work of Glo. The world is brought to life and transformed by every interaction and movement that occurs.
Pode can be enjoyed as a single-player, or co-operative experience. I was pleasantly surprised how well the single-player mode handles switching between the two characters as each is required to overcome specific challenges. Frustration was never a thought when controlling both characters, but couch co-op is definitely more enjoyable due to the reactions and pure enjoyment that is experienced with your partner. The only minor issues I had occurred when jumping across platforms as it is difficult to determine the landing. A minimal landing indicator would have been a welcoming addition.
Each character possesses its own abilities such as Glo lighting up various plants that create platforms, leaving a ball of light in specific locations, and even teleporting across the map. Bulder can eat objects to project them across gaps, including Glo. You will also use this ability in a joint effort with Glo’s teleportation skill to complete various puzzles. The difficulty increases as you progress, culminating in time-consuming puzzles at the conclusion of each area that require and trial and error approach. Though difficult, the sense of accomplishment upon completing these puzzles make you look forward to what awaits in the next area.
Pacing throughout Pode felt spot on as every level takes only a few minutes to complete. There are several impressive levels that showcase the talent and dedication of the development team such as maps that possess bodies of water, a multitude of switches, and even levels where the only light source available is that of Glo, guiding Bulder through the darkness to safety. There are many references throughout the experience that signify the importance of friendship and how you can rely on one another to overcome any hurdle that is situated along your path.
Pode offers a refreshing adventure that will keep you entertained for several hours. A significant highlight of Pode is the ability to enjoy it solo, or by playing with a friend through couch co-op, and still walking away with numerous memorable gameplay moments. Certain puzzles offer worthy challenges that may be too difficult for certain players, but the excitement of solving them outweighs any minimal levels of frustration that may arise. Replayability is also present for completionists through collecting fireflies and locating hidden images throughout the various levels. Pode is highly recommended as its enjoyable and charming gameplay is sure to put a smile on your face.
[A copy of the game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]