Geodude! He’s such an iconic image for the series, and rightly so – these simple-yet-distinctive ideas are where the series is firing on all cylinders. He totally looks like a creature that would camouflage himself in a mountainside, and one that would readily punch your lights out if you tripped over him. He’s surprisingly buff-looking for something that lacks the bulk of a proper body – how does a creature of solid rock attain what are quite clearly biceps? Who knows! Maybe he’s literally carved out his own physique from stone like some Greco-Roman sculptor? The fact that this thing is literally a living rock – but still not purely Rock-type – is your clue that we’ll have very few purely Rock-type Pokémon. Instead, you’ll see Rock go hand-in-hand with Ground an awful lot – at least in the original 151.
Well, Geodude has let himself go a bit, and the results are monstrous in the best way. He’s been following the same Shaivist-deity bodybuilding manual as Machamp with those four arms, though he’s less muscular and more “solid mass”. He looks built expressly to build up wrecking-ball speed by throwing himself down mountain-sides as fast as possible and propelling himself along, complete with having apparently picked up debris on his body and having a flat, determined face so sunk into his body that he could roll right over it no problem. There’s even a rough and craggy feel to him, like he’s the kind of rock-monster that deliberately goes and has the sort of physical fun that gets him all banged up.
I’d say the design here is an unqualified success if the first thing you think of by looking at it is a singular trait, and one that you’re clued into without it having some sort of tool or tertiary feature. It’s what tells predators that touching a porcupine is a bad idea, that you’ll have to get clever to even damage a crab, and that bees and wasps should really just be left alone despite their size – it’s nice that even abstract Pokémon can follow the same sort of visual logic.
Alternate interpretation: write your own rock-and-roll pun in the space below, just throw a sticky note on your monitor or something.
Nice! Clever joke, ten points to you.
Where Graveler is built for rolling, Golem looks like it can’t do much of anything else. It’s got some hardened saurian features now (which luckily match the rest of his look surprisingly well), and has a nasty issue where his limbs are just too short and awkwardly-placed to have much utility. Seriously, its core body looks like a really sturdy shell and all, but he just seems like he can’t do much except waddle around – having to withdraw his head and limbs to get rolling means he can’t even control or propel himself the way Graveler does. He almost looks more like he should evolve from a stone-shelled turtle, whereas Graveler should become some sort of literal mountain troll. Some people surely think he looks cooler than his previous evolution; I just think he looks less functional, and like something of a visual departure from what makes Geodude and Graveler successful.
This whole line gets Alolan forms! Geodude’s fists have joined fingers, which makes him look like he might have protective mitts on, either for climbing or for punching things. Either way, the silvery body makes it appear harder even if it isn’t a proper Steel-type; rather, it’s Electric, which lets it gather iron sand together into some killer eyebrows and an unfortunate Tommy Pickles haircut. I’m actually a little annoyed that we’ve come to the Geodude line’s take on this first, since another Pokémon already the same idea both a full decade earlier and arguably better, but c’est la vie.
Graveler hasn’t changed too much, either, but he’s doing more with what he’s given. The iron filings manifesting themselves as a unibrow, mountain-man mutton chops, and arm hair is a very amusing and much more on-theme than Geodude’s weird choices, and Graveler has apparently picked up some gemstones or silicate or something while rolling down volcanic mountainsides. Fun additions that don’t feel overly-designed – he’s a great regional take on what is the rock-hiking Pokémon.
It’s nice that Golem has given up on pretending that his limbs are remotely useful, and instead he’s effectively used his electric bent to engineer himself into living artillery. Even shorter arms than how too-short the originals already were? Not a problem when you can K.O. a target from three acres over. His facial hair doesn’t really do it for me, though – I’m left grasping at straws for a look that they were going for other than “older fella”. And I refuse to entertain the series’ insistence that he has a beard; they have straight-up given a Pokémon a rug of magnetic chest hair here.
Golem is what you’d expect – powerful physical attacks, fantastic physical defense… but in turn keels over at special attacks and is slower than molasses going uphill in January. With crutches. He’s also double-weak to Water and Grass, the first and fourth most ubiquitous types in the entire series. Don’t get me wrong, he’s plenty strong – especially in the main games where you can plan ahead of time for entire dungeons that will feature the same elemental type throughout – but he’s got some real Achilles’ heels that you have to look out for. Alolan Golem has similar issues, but to a lesser extent that leaves him more flexible, if a mite less tanky than an old-school Golem.
Aside from Geodude popping up like weeds in mountainous areas, both in the wild and on hikers’ teams, he was one of the staples in the early advertisements for the series – presumably part of the same press-package lineup as Poliwhirl and Jigglypuff. He’s definitely one of the more visible creatures, and kind of acts as the de-facto face for the Rock type (alongside another notable one coming up pretty soon).
I kind of like that Geodude’s capacity to float was never given any concrete explanation – we’re left to believe that he can kinda just do it? And Graveler is even shown to have the same ability in Snap, folding his legs up and levitating just a bit. Alolan Geodude might make the magnetic-rock idea explicit, but the notion that Geodude also rolls down hills and embeds himself in the ground to sleep suggests that this is something he can voluntarily turn off? I like that the series goes into depths about, for example, the positioning of Poliwhirl‘s skeletal toes, but still leaves other little mysteries of fantasy-biology in here.
Another great example of something they’ve over-explained is Golem’s body. Oddly enough, despite how dense and heavy Golem looks (and is – 660+ pounds at about four-and-a-half feet tall), the core of his core seems to be some soft, volatile material that hardens when exposed to air? It’s said to shed its outer layer of boulders once a year, leaving a tender white flesh that then hardens into his new shell. While he’s got his outer layer on, he apparently deliberately detonates his own body to throw itself up cliffs, like a horrible form of rocket-jumping taken to its logical conclusion. The implication is that he can just pull himself together afterward from a pile of rocks and body parts? In that case, can a Golem only ever die of age and natural causes? What about other Pokémon who can use Explosion and Self-Destruct? This all just invites more questions upon which demand the developers prepare a dissertation!
It’s also a neat touch that each form in this line has some distinguishing feature that they develop with age – Geodude erodes into a smooth, polished version of himself, Graveler lets bits of his body chip off with time and wear, and Golem stops shedding and accumulates a moss that turns it green. All succinct and diverse ways of showing weathering effects on stone, all represented within a single little family. Lovely.
The Alolan forms have particularly interesting tics: Graveler doesn’t just pick up its dravite crystals like detritus, but rather finds them especially tasty (as opposed to traditional Graveler, which has a weakness for mossy rocks – it’s delightful that Graveler from different regions have their own favorite rock-snacks). The crystals then sift their way up to the surface of Graveler’s body, and I’d imagine absorb some of its body’s electricity along the way. So what we’re really looking at with Alolan Graveler is a rock covered in its own poop. Fascinating.
Geodude and Golem have a nice two-bit combo, though – Alolan Golem will happily use any sort of electrically-charged rock for its railgun, but his favorite fodder is Geodude, picking them up willing or not and firing them at whatever’s made him grumpy. That’s either abusing his own children or pulling off a specialized variation of the Colossus/Wolverine “fastball special”, depending on how charitable you feel and whether the Geodude volunteers at the time.
The whole Geodude line seems very middle-of-the-road for the first generation. It’s not leaping out at you, but it’s a slick design with some clever features, some of which are obvious and a few of which are squirreled away in the flavor text. Golem maybe loses the plot a bit, but on the whole these guys are rock-solid, har-dee-har-har. They’re on the line between Reserve and Must-Have – great, iconic standbys.
Any and all appreciation for Geodude, Graveler, and Golem is welcome in the comments!