While the likes of Rogue-Lite and “Soulslike” games have emerged over the past few years, as well as the stupidly popular Battle Royale genre, the return of couch co-op games don’t get anywhere near as much attention, and yet they’re perhaps the most inclusive. Games such as A Way Out have certainly made an impact, but it’s the Nintendo Switch and its unique controller setup that has created the space for co-op adventures like Pode to flourish once more.
Speaking with Linn Søvig from Norweigan studio Henchman and Goon, she has a rather unique perspective on the matter. Linn didn’t grow up with games, but was rather introduced to the industry at 29 years old while writing her Master’s thesis.
“It was my advisor that said I couldn’t write my thesis, which was about freedom of speech in virtual worlds, without getting into games first. Then I joined a course about games and the first game we played was Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but the first game I got into and finished was American McGee’s Alice.”
Made by the relatively small team, Pode is a charming cooperative adventure first and foremost, with two players taking control of one character each, though you can play on your own with the two characters holding hands and using their powers together. Players take on the role of either a fallen star or a little rock that is helping the star get back home. The design is adorable to say the least, with one character able to grow plants while the other disrupts rocks to create paths.
Since the characters have asymmetric abilities, there’s an emphasis on each character helping the other one to navigate obstacles that they just can’t on their own. The rock is square shaped, so can fit through certain gaps, while the star can manipulate a platform to help its friend across a gap to open a doorway for the star to join it.
The key appeal for Pode in my eyes seems to be the platform it is on. While it doesn’t take any real advantage of the Switch beyond the use of Joy-Con, the very notion of every Switch owner being able to hand a controller over for pick up and play co-op means that younger kids could very well play with a parent. Its minimalistic approach combined with set roles for each player make it a very accessible game.
Asking what Linn thought sets Pode apart from the others, she explained that Pode was conceived “as a co-op game from the start” and was “influenced by Brothers [a Tale of Two Sons] and Journey.” She continued, “What we wanted to do is create a positive experience, where you get attached to the characters in a very parental way. We were adamant that the story is in the gameplay, and not having a lot of narrative.”
She was reluctant in saying more than this, as it seems like a big part of the game itself and its unique selling point. Either way, we don’t have very long to wait until Pode’s release on the Switch during the summer of 2018.