Developer: Might and Delight / Publisher: Might and Delight / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $9.99 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Cartoon Violence]
From Braid to FEZ and everything in between, the 2D puzzle platformer has seen quite a renaissance of late, much thanks to the growth and wide acceptance of the digital download marketplace. What’s equally remarkable is how studios of all sizes have continued to find fresh approaches to this old genre. One latest such game is Pid, an obscenely charming and endearing platformer that is both inviting in its presentation and also challenging to a fault.
Pid’s story realizes the fear of anyone who has ridden transit systems for long distances: the possibility of falling asleep and missing your stop. This happens to the game’s protagonist, Kurt, a little boy who slept so long, he ended up on another planet. Thus begins the narrative for the rest of the game: the journey home. This premise is complemented by a subplot where Kurt is tasked with collecting stars. This is related to the planet’s dire situation, which is also where the game gets its name: planet in distress. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but with Pid’s storybook charm, it’s easy to play along and enjoy the adventure.
Like the majority of classic platformers, Pid excels in wasting little time in letting the player know how the game universe operates. The core mechanic involves inventive use of columnal gravity wells and Kurt is given access to these early in the game.
Pid is chocked full of demanding challenges, from obtuse ones to dexterously demanding ones. Not only do you have to consider how the gravity wells affect how you travel through the levels, but you also have to think about how inanimate objects and NPCs are affected. The initial brain teasers will make you feel silly for not solving them sooner but these trials will help you understand how this world works, making the later puzzles equally solvable yet still challenging.
It should be noted that the collision detection isn’t perfect, which can be significant in a game that requires as much precision as Pid does. Thankfully, none of these issues are painfully frustrating and can be remedied with a checkpoint restart in the worst cases.
Not surprisingly, each new level introduces a series of often hostile variables layered on top of already established mechanics and level designs. These include guided rockets and robots that hunt down lost boys like Kurt. Beyond gravity-based tools, Kurt will be able to defend himself with a series of unlockable tools, mostly offensive and defensive bombs. On top of these, there’s a function-based color system to the world of Pid. Red enemies and objects are affected by Kurt’s gravity wells and projectiles, while blue versions are invulnerable to gravity manipulation. Pid’s pacing and the steady ascending ramp of difficulty makes the payoff in the last level all the more poignant, not that much different from experiencing the dreamlike final chapter of Sega’s NiGHTS for the first time.
VISUALS & AUDIO
There is a soothing soft filter look to Pid and it’s complemented by the remarkable choices of colors and the varying shades of those colors. The character designs, particularly the large enemies, have been conceived with a great deal of imagination, reminding me of the best design ideas from LittleBigPlanet. As a cohesive whole, the universe of Pid feels ethereal while still being one of those game worlds I’d want to visit, hostilities notwithstanding. Add to this the aforementioned platforming puzzle challenges and you have a game that’s reminiscent of Namco’s Klonoa. It speaks to the high quality of the art direction when the lower case, cursive, borderline-pretentious styling of Pid’s logo is the only complaint I have about the game’s visuals.
There are many well-made games where the soundtrack solidly complements the visuals, and then there’s Pid’s soundtrack, which is a perfect match to the game’s look. With its full, acoustic compositions, it’s an unusual game soundtrack. To call it ‘indie’ would be too narrow of a classification. Think of the music as analog versions of the tracks from FEZ, complete with music studio quality engineering and production. It’s not an easy feat, especially in a year that has already seen its share of remarkable compositions from Halo 4 to Journey.
With Kurt’s character design, the smoothness in his movements, and the challenges he faces, I couldn’t help but compare Pid to the award-winning Limbo. That said, Pid’s exceedingly inviting visual style is a marked contrast to the overbearing sense of dread and isolation in Playdead’s 2010 platformer.
As tough as Pid’s puzzles are, they’re not impossible, and feel rewarding once you’ve figured them out. And the game’s offbeat graphics and sound design makes for a welcome alternative in a holiday season packed with large production triple-AAA titles.
+ Remarkable sound and visuals
+ Great pacing
– Challenging puzzles are not for everyone
8.5 / 10