Sometimes a game’s personality can come to define the game itself. Off the top of my head, I can think of Flower, Flow, Okami, and a few others that have presented such a unique tone and art style, that any sort of gameplay mechanic could have worked.
Pid comes very, VERY close to this status. I won’t deny that the style of Pid is extremely unique and charming, and this alone could have propelled this into “art game” status, but Pid also has the honor of presenting a fairly unique gameplay concept as well. In that sense, Pid accomplishes two things; being a beautiful, “artsy” game, and also an addictive, albeit very frustrating, puzzle platformer.
In Pid, you step into the shoes of a boy name Kurt. Kurt does what I always feared doing when I was taking public transit regularly: he falls asleep on his way home and wakes up on a strange, distant planet with a bunch of aliens hell bent on stopping him from returning home (ok, so maybe I didn’t fear that exact scenario, but I certainly feared falling asleep and waking up somewhere random that I wasn’t familiar with).
To get back to home, Kurt will need to rely on three things: 1) his anti-gravity orbs that can propel him in the opposite direction (if you throw the orb to the ground, Kurt goes up, throw it on the left wall, he goes right, etc.), 2) a variety of different weapons, and 3) your smarts.
It’s #3 that scared me the most. I’m not the best puzzle gamer, so I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to play through Pid…after all, no one wants to feel stupid after a play session. However, the challenges that Pid offers aren’t exactly the type that can make someone feel like an imbecile; rather, they force you to go through some trial and error, and you actually feel a nice sense of accomplishment after figuring a particular puzzle out.
For the most part, Pid plays like a typical 2D, side scrolling platformer. You run, jump across gaps and onto platforms, and avoid enemies. A word of advice; whatever you do , do not jump on top of an enemy like you would in Mario games. Ain’t gonna work here.
What sets this game apart and makes it a puzzle game are the aforementioned gravity orbs that Kurt wields. At any point, Kurt can deploy up to 2 orbs. Like I mentioned earlier, these orbs will stick to whatever surface you throw them at, producing an anti-gravity “tunnel” of sorts that extends off into the near distance. Stepping into the tunnel causes Kurt to float away in the opposite direction from the orb itself. You can float up, be pushed down, float from one side to another, and even float diagonally. Since two of these orbs can be used at one time, this brings quite a bit of strategy into the mix. I was in many situations, for example, where I threw an orb straight down, floated up, deployed another one to the left, transferred into the second, horizontal anti-gravity tunnel to avoid an enemy or some spikes, eliminated the first orb, and as I floated to the edge of the second, horizontal tunnel, redeployed the first orb in another location to continue avoiding enemies and spikes, and continue on my journey. It’s as frustrating as it sounds, and it’s making my eye twitch just thinking about it.
[quote_left]Kurt can use bombs, smoke bombs, firecrackers, and even vests that will enable him to take less damage. However, it’s in the weaponry where another puzzle element comes into play.[/quote_left]It’s a good type of frustration, however…one that should be the hallmark of a good puzzle game. Even though the game doesn’t really give you any hints at all regarding how to figure out many of the harder puzzles, it’s still the sort of thing you’ll want to try and figure out. Pid is hard, and the game isn’t ashamed of it.
In addition to the gravity orbs, Kurt also has a number of weapons at his disposal, though these are very limited in supply. Kurt can use bombs, smoke bombs, firecrackers, and even vests that will enable him to take less damage. However, it’s in the weaponry where another puzzle element comes into play.
The concept of red vs blue is taken into account in Pid. Red enemies can be affected by the gravity orbs. So if you’re faced with a red robot blocking your path, but there are spikes right above it, toss an orb on the ground, and watch as the robot steps into it and floats up into the spikes. Blue enemies can’t be affected by the orbs, but may be vulnerable to certain weapons.
This color discrimination also carries over to the weapons that the enemies fire, and also the environment itself. For example, since the color blue is useless against the gravity orbs, blue floors and walls will not accept a gravity orb. They simply won’t stick to blue surfaces. Certain transparent surfaces will disappear altogether if they come into contact with a gravity tunnel, leaving behind a wake of collectible stars. The environment is constantly shifting depending on how you approach it, and this makes Pid as much of a fast twitch game as it is a thinking man’s puzzle game.
[quote_right]Seriously, play Pid for yourself and marvel at all the different musical genres you’ll hear.[/quote_right]In the beginning of this review, I mentioned the style of this game putting in the same echelon as “art” games like Flower or Journey. The art style of Pid is something that I really enjoyed. While the characters and environments are presented in a fairly cartoonish manner, it’s more of a Golden Age of sci fi than it is Disney, if that makes any sense at all. There’s a nice hazy quality about the whole game, which gives it a dreamlike quality. A lot of the character designs, especially the enemies, are simply unique. They aren’t very elaborate like a Transformer might be, but simplistic…usually nothing more than a few piece of geometry. They way they move about gives them each a very unique personality.
The music is perhaps my favorite thing about Pid’s style. It’s one thing to have a soundtrack comprised mostly of one style of music. A lot of sci fi games give you a heavy, pulsating electronica soundtrack, whereas many fantasy game will give you an epic, symphonic score. In Pid, you get a little bit of everything…and when I say everything, I mean almost EVERYTHING that you can think of. Seriously, play Pid for yourself and marvel at all the different musical genres you’ll hear.
If you’re looking for a game with a beautiful, unique art style, try Pid. If you’re looking for a fun platformer, try Pid. If you’re looking for a pretty hardcore puzzle game, try Pid. Yes, the game is frustratingly hard, but those willing to sink some time into mastering the game will be rewarded with an awesome experience.