Given that I’m EGM’s resident indie platformer aficionado (read: hipster), I figured Pid would be an absolute treat for me. I adored Braid, Fez, and Limbo. If I could put Jason Roher and Edmund McMillen in charge of the next Call of Duty game, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’m as close to the target audience for this game as it gets, and a cursory glance showed that it ticked off all the important boxes. Twee, minimalist art style? Check. Eclectic soundtrack? Check. Novel gameplay gimmick? One big, fat, gravity-defying check. And yet, as I worked my way through cutesy level after cutesy level, I couldn’t help but notice that I wasn’t having terribly much fun with any of it. Despite a promising start and an intriguing narrative, Pid never really congeals into anything memorable.
You play as Kurt, an 8-year-old boy who finds himself stranded on a distant planet populated by robots. After a bit of exposition and the requisite tutorial segments, you discover a mysterious artifact that allows you to mess with the gravity by creating beams that levitate whatever’s in their path, Kurt included. It’s an interesting gimmick, but the game never really expands on its full potential. Most of the game is spent doing the same handful of basic maneuvers over and over again—throwing beams on the ground to gain a bit of extra height for your jumps, tossing them on walls to push you horizontally, and doing both of the above with objects in the world. There are a few new mechanics that get introduced here and there to mix things up, but they never really combine into anything complex or particularly engaging, so the bulk of the game falls into a tedious cycle of repetition.
Though you can use the beams to pick up some of your enemies and gently toss them into environmental hazards, most of your efforts are concentrated on platforming and evasion rather than combat. All of your direct attacks come from single-use items like bombs and lasers that you can pick up from fallen foes or purchase from vending machines by spending the stars you collect throughout the levels.
That means the game can prove quite challenging at times—doubly so during the lengthy, checkpoint-free boss fights—but it fails to contribute anything to the Nintendo-hard revival thanks to one serious misstep. What makes games like Super Meat Boy and I Wanna Be The Guy so addictive in spite of their infuriating difficulty is the ability to get back into the action almost immediately. When you’re never waiting more than a second to regain control, dying becomes less of a punishment and more a part of the natural rhythm of the game.
Pid, on the other hand, forces you to endure a 5-second load every time you die, and some particularly tough segments also require you to skip through dialogue before you can actually give it another go. I’ve got no problem with the fact that the game is challenging—that’s actually a pet cause of mine these days—but I do have a problem when that challenge takes a toll on the already uneven pacing and makes the game more frustrating than it has any right to be.
The thing is, Pid isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. All of its major components are artfully constructed, and its most memorable moments are shining examples of puzzle platforming at its best. In the end, though, there just aren’t enough of them to justify the title’s 8-10-hour running time. If that handful of clever ideas were distilled into an experience that was half (or even a third) as long, Pid would easily nab a spot in the pantheon of indie greats. As delivered, it’s a middling game that sputters along in fits and spurts and well overstays its welcome.
SUMMARY: Pid feels like the indie game equivalent of paint-by-numbers. While it does an admirable job aping the style and atmosphere of titles like Braid, Limbo, and Machinarium, the entire experience winds up hollow, overlong, and ultimately forgettable thanks to awkward pacing and a gameplay gimmick that isn’t quite as versatile as it needs to be.
- THE GOOD: A meaty, challenging platformer…
- THE BAD: …that’s about 6 hours too long.
- THE UGLY: How close the game comes to being genuinely good.
Pid is available on XBLA, PSN, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on XBLA.