Pretty Infuriating, Dude
Pid is an interesting collection of opposites. Its vision is equally futuristic and nostalgic. Its music is electronic yet organic. And its gameplay hook is brilliant but woefully bungled.
The storyline is high concept in the classic sense. A young kid named Kurt is riding a magic school bus home after a long day of what I would love to assume is some kind of Gattaca-like astronaut elementary. He falls asleep and misses his stop, only to awake hours later stranded on some strange madhouse of a world. From there he eagerly explores his environment, collecting star chains (that can be used for currency to refill your supplies of items useful for your quest), stealthily avoiding enemies like a latter day Banzai Bro, and eventually using a magical crystal to bend the forces of gravity.
I wanted to like Pid. I really did. Unfortunately, it’s proven to be one of the most frustrating adventure/platformers that I’ve played in quite some time. And it’s a shame, too, as the game is overflowing with atmosphere and otherworldliness. The lovingly-crafted backdrops can be quite amazing, with heavy fog rolling along the bottom of savage terrain as half giant/half puppet creatures wait for buses that will never come against skies alien yet familiar — a familiarity floods the brain with waves of nostalgia at times. As I progressed (fighting against frustration) and underground caverns gave way to hauntingly beautiful villages with stranger things to come, I was reminded, visually, of such titles as Out of This World and Earthbound. The graphics seem like a perfect fusion of those two distinct styles, and the character design is absolutely wonderful.
The music is enchanting as well. Blips and bloops meet an organic symphony that is simultaneously soothing, and a harbinger of further weirdness to come. Sometimes the music (at least to my ears) sounded a fitting homage to the underground levels of the early Super Mario games. Again, nostalgia is strong with this game and in that regard works nicely. The odd tongue of the native creatures is a joy to hear as well.
It’s when we come to gameplay that this old house begins to cave in. A platformer lives and dies by how well your on-screen character is able to traverse his environment. Accuracy of control is absolute. Now, in Pid, our protagonist Kurt uses a form of gravity manipulation via his throwing of light orbs. When Kurt’s orbs hit the ground, a gravity defying wave of energy sprouts from the impact that lifts Kurt in the air for a few precious moments and hovers him in the direction of the flow. When chained together, these energy waves can be used to reach far off places, to directly manipulate objects in the environment, or to even lift enemies high into the sky towards their doom as they are impaled on the spike covered ceilings above. It’s a fine mechanic in theory, but its execution leaves much to be desired. Your throwing arc is not precise enough to get the energy flowing exactly where you need it to, and when you do in fact find the gravitational sweet spot, the flow doesn’t last long enough for you to take advantage of it.
That, coupled with the floaty controls, frequently sends your character into a loop of desperation as you fall farther and farther away from your goal. It’s frustrating, and not in that “eventually I will overcome” way; It’s more like, “hope I get lucky”. And in a game with such an inviting, stunningly beautiful visual narrative, these roadblocks grind the story to a halt.
A game can only go so far on its ability to visually and aurally stun. At the end of the day what brings the player back time and time again is the quality of the gameplay. If the player can’t fully trust a mechanic a game is based upon, they may lose faith in the entire experience. I wanted to love this game, but in the end I could only imagine the possibilities if things were done a little differently.