Pode. What does that mean? A lot of puzzle games tend to have that one-word wonder titles going for it. But when it comes to Pode, it's a name that throws you a little off. And to be honest I was judging the game a tiny bit based on that. But as soon as I started playing, I relearned that lesson to never judge a game by it's name.
A magic star and rock have joined forces. They solve puzzles to get the star back on it's way home. Simple story, but it gives a primary motivation and keeps you going. As I continued on, and it seems weird to say this, but I really wanted to bring that little star home. It....it works.
We're on PS4 controls for a game originally made for the Switch. It's ported well, as most of the controls are intuitive. You can tell the basic moving around was made for a different sensitivity, but otherwise it's pretty seamless and easy enough.
Pode is in a world of very...animated graphics. It's colorful – even dark caves have lots of color. But the best way to put this is that it's like a realistic cartoon mixed with graphics a few years old just splashing with mood and color. The game says it has Norwegian influences, and you can tell. When the star brings light to grow plants, it comes out in this colorful yet minimalist art. It's not the most complex art, but it's beautiful and does the job.
Gameplay is pretty simple. As a star/rock, you bring light/plants/rocks/earth moving to areas to climb up ledges, or move crystals, or melt ice. Instead of basing it on your abilities, it's all surrounded by what you are, and in that regard it's pretty impressive. Like any puzzle game it's largely trial and error until you figure out how to go on, but it's much more natural in the way it happens. There's something refreshing about a game where it's not about things like shooting to move past puzzles, but rather be something you can't turn off to achieve it. In multiplayer, you need to figure out who moves where and when for the puzzle to flow up without something going wrong.
The sound and music are, in the best world, calming. The Scandinavian influences come into full play here, and we have a calm, minimalist beat going on. It's part fantasy, part minimalist, but it rally works and sets up the style and gameplay quite nicely. The sounds are pretty standard steps and 'growing noises' and things. It's all just really tied together.
The game was pretty solid when it came to frame rates. Much like Pikmin with many moving buddies on screen in a cartoon mystical land, it never slowed down. There were a few minor glitches here and there – sometimes a bit of light or something from a character would be left behind, but these were few and far between. Otherwise it ran like a dream.
Pode is a pretty good game if I have to be blunt about it. The puzzles are challenging, the art and style is unique, the music gives an aura of wonder, and it runs pretty well. It can get a bit cutesy at times, and there is a bit of wrangling when it comes to certain things. But overall Pode is a solid little game that goes beyond what you would want from a puzzle game.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.