Oh my god there's a hold hands button.

But, man, some games just sneak up on you. When I got handed the review assignment for Pode, it was the first I'd ever heard of the game. This is not an entirely unusual occurrence for me, but I mention it here because the fact that I had not heard of this game is, and I am only being slightly hyperbolic for effect, a god damned tragedy.

So, what's the game? Well, Pode is, at its heart, a puzzle-platformer with emphasis on the puzzle. The idea is pretty simple; you have these two little buddies. One's a cute round sun, and the other's a hefty cuboid stone box thing. Each of these pair have some different abilities, to solve different parts of the puzzle; the sun can slowfall to cross longer gaps, the rock can take things into its inner cavity and carry them around, that sort of thing. But the real thing that made me sit up and take notice, even though it's so small, is a power both of them share. And it's the fact that they both share it. 

If you hit ZR with the sun, it glows brighter, and any viable plantlife around it will start to grow and bloom into beautiful flowering things. Snow will melt, leaves will perk up, and so on. Now, this looks pretty fantastic when it happens, but I mean, we've seen this before, right?

It's the flipside that catches me. The rock puts out...I guess magnetic energy. But it doesn't "undo" the sun's beauty. It doesn't make the place colder. Instead, at viable places, the rock's energy will make crystalline structures grow, including these super cool stone flowers. Pillars of shimmering gemstone, gleaming panels underneath the duo's teeny little feet...

I know it's a bit of a cliche sentiment. But this simple idea that each of them makes the world better with their contribution, is...potent. And it gets even moreso when you get to that thing I mentioned before, the 'hold hands' mechanic. When both the sun and rock are right by eachother and they're both putting out their energy, that energy mixes, and it becomes bigger and stronger than it could be apart. The reactions happen faster and all together, ancient mechanisms kick back on, and these long still caves and structures start to feel alive.

And this is, I think, one of the things that really makes Pode stand strong. Its puzzle design is well executed, but 3D puzzle-platformers tend to have a bit of a rhythm, and it's not one that this game strays too far from. While you could look to story, the best beats there are really about the connection between this duo, and the beauty they bring to the world in their adventure.

So it all comes back to those core elements. To that simple idea of these two dear comrades doing something great. Even before you unlock holding hands, you have to exit a stage together...And when you do, the pair always hold hands, entering a new unknown side by side.

That's not to say the game doesn't have anything else going for it. I do want to be clear, the elements that are a bit standard are still well done. It's just...

Well, it's just that I don't see something like this as often as I'd like. I spend a lot of time reviewing games. And a lot of the games I review tend to be action games. Big, flashy, exciting things about fighting and warring. And that stuff's pretty great, don't get me wrong. I don't want to sound like I don't enjoy the actionier side.

But...Well...I just, I guess I needed this, is what it comes down to. I needed a simple sight of a very different pair, making things a little better simply by their connection to eachother. And I think I needed it, in whatever shape it was going to come, more than I realized.

Okay. Deep breath, step back a bit. Let's look at Pode as a game again, ask some mechanical questions and talk about shortcomings. What's not so great in a game that managed to get into my emotional core like this?

I can think of one big thing. The platforming has some rough spots. It has that feel where the edges of platforms are a little slippery, and the characters don't have quite enough grip, so it's real easy to tip off of a platform. On the nice solid ground, this isn't so bad, but I really noticed it in a stage all about traversing these huge leaves.

On the one hand, the fact that rooms are pretty dang safe, without a lot of ways to screw yourself or actually die, make this not a horrible problem. On the other, well, it can sometimes be more frustrating to have to redo a whole platforming bit from the ground, than to just have fully died.

And as delightful as the 'hold hands' mechanic really and truly is, it gets fussy with jumps, making it sometimes more difficult than it should be to keep the duo together. There have definitely been times where I had to just quit trying to traverse something together, and just do it one at a time instead.

But the thing is, when you boil it down...I kind of don't care about these. Something about this game hit me somewhere deep, and I can't even say how much of that's the game, and how much of it is the stuff going on in my life. But I can say that I have a powerful respect and appreciation for Pode, for being there when I needed it.

Maybe it'll be what you need, too.