Since the release of Super Meat Boy (XBLA: Oct 20, 2010) we have seen a resurgence of games within the platforming genre. It’s no longer just the Super Marios or the Sonics, there is grassroots movement within the indie scene to bring back the glory days of the platforming goodness. Toss in some puzzles, ramp up the difficulty and it could be the next sure fire hit that sweeps us off our feet.
Pid takes the puzzle platforming genre in a different direction by mixing the pain and difficulty of Super Meat Boy into an interesting package. Might and Delight have come out swinging and made this, their first release, an innovative and charming title. I don’t mean swinging as in going for a home run, I mean swinging in the sense that they cause a normal sane person to bash their controller down on something really, really hard because there are platforming sections that have to be pixel perfect – more on that later.
Kurt, a small boy, ends up stranded on a bizarre planet on his way back from school after falling asleep on a space bus. A lot more that just traffic was snagged on the planet, as it is also filled with interesting characters and shady evil doers. If you have a cooperative partner, they will take on the role of ‘the kid’, who is there to help Kurt reach the city and ultimately his home. To get there, Kurt must use a gem that creates a gravity defying field of light to make his way through a castle to the city and back to his planet.
The story is very strange with a good number of “what the hell is going on” moments. Each successive level is a little stranger, with even weirder characters to discuss the current events with, until Kurt finds out he is the key to end all this madness. Things are explained as the game progresses, but you can’t help but be completely lost at the beginning. It’s not bad by any stretch, and it isn’t the usual generic story found in most platforming games – you know, boy loses girl, boy must save girl, boy finds out she is in another castle time and time again.
The graphics are very dreamlike, giving Pid all the charm in the world. The strange looking people and robots are amid a changing tapestry of backgrounds. Your adventure starts at a bus stop, moves to an attic, meanders through different rooms within a castle, then moves out into the city Kurt is looking to get to. Every background is a beautifully crafted, 3d rendered scene from a strange and eclectic planet.
The controls leave a bit to be desired though, especially in some of the more frustrating platforming sections. This goes for both single and cooperative play. In Super Meat Boy, it was understood that when a death happened the user was at fault due to how precisely the game controlled. With Pid, the response from the buttons is slightly laggy, perhaps even a bit sluggish, and can cause perfectly timed executions to be off just enough to frustrate the hell out of anyone. This also makes boss battles a bit more difficult than they have to be.
Dying is simply not an option, nor is it something that can be easily avoided. Death will come more times than not and it can be frustrating. Some puzzles can’t be solved unless you die, so you can figure out where you have to throw the gem to get around the obstacle , and with others death comes swiftly if the timing isn’t perfect down to the nearest pixel.
The number of loading screens the game has is another annoyance, especially with the number of times you end up dying. Each level is broken up into smaller bite-sized sections which have to go through a loading screen. Some of these bite-sized pieces can be a single screen, so expect to see the black loading screen early and often.
When my brain is firing on all cylinders, and I’m able to solve some of the more difficult puzzles, I do enjoy Pid. It’s just very upsetting that my enjoyment is limited to the amount of time before I end up getting frustrated. I feel the game shines more when you are playing with someone sat right next to you, in this case my wife. When the frustration started to overwhelm us, we found that killing each other was just as fun. “Oops, did I accidentally cancel my gem on you?” was a question asked many a time between the two of us.
If you like really hard puzzle platformers that have a lot of class and charm, go for it! Otherwise, you may want to save your 800 Microsoft Points (or 9.99 USD if you buy it for PSN or Steam) for something else.