The indie game market is saturated with 2D platformers. Ever since the runaway success of Braid, indie developers have been tripping over themselves to try and create the next big thing. Pid is the latest attempt – but does the puzzle platformer, from Swedish developer Might and Delight, add anything new to the medley?
Thankfully, yes. Pid avoids the trap of ‘been there done that’ platforming and manages to find a way to make the genre feel refreshingly original, while simultaneously servicing the glow of nostalgia that you expect from a retro-themed game.
In a perfect world we would introduce you to the game by explaining what Pid means, but, regrettably, we don't actually know. A quick search online might lead you to believe that this platformer (or its protagonist) is suffering from a Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – but while this may be a unique gameplay idea, sadly, it's not present in the title. We think, however, that it would probably be safe to say that the acronym contains the word planet, because, in Pid, you are a young schoolboy named Kurt whose space-bus crashes on a remote planet. And so, it's with a heavy-heart that we inform you that Pid probably stands for Planetary Integration... Something-beginning-with-D. [It's actually Planet in Distress - Ed.]
Kurt, the character you play as, just wants to get home. Unsurprisingly, it's up to you to make sure that he accomplishes his ambition – and so, you'll embark on a journey through oddly familiar environments: the living room, the basement, and the dining room. Throughout this journey you'll combine traditional platforming techniques with Pid’s game changer, a white gem which, when thrown, produces an antigravity tunnel. This blend of new and old leads to some immensely satisfying navigation. Making things even more interesting are the disingenuous red robots that litter the planet, all of whom want you dead. Don’t fret, though – there are some more agreeable robots, too!
These wonderful robots are one of the first noticeable features about Pid. They instantly win you over with their aura of charming yet desperate energy. But there is more to them than that. These good robots introduce you to the overarching narrative. When their king and queen abandoned them at the hands of the evil red robots, the remaining citizens were left to be governed by the dictatorship of the militant crimson cyborgs. Unfortunately, the well-natured machines lack the vitality of the red ones. At no point will they help you to destroy the enemy – but they do supply you with knowledge, guiding you through the planet towards your eventual escape.
Character interaction is not the only element of sophistication in Pid. Much of what separates the title from the crowd is its overall polish, which you don't get from many indie games. The art style here is elegant, with a mix of soft-focus visual effects and a pallet of muted colours. But despite the toy-inspired art and pitch perfect retro soundtrack, this is not an easy game.
The aforementioned white gems that Kurt finds can be used to create antigravity tunnels, much like the excursion tunnels from Portal 2. Unfortunately, Kurt seems to have a weak right arm, and will frequently drop the gem just a few feet in front of him. It's incredibly frustrating knowing the solution to a puzzle, but not being able to execute it.
Mercifully, the pacing is perfect. A beautiful landscape or a refreshingly new area often follows a difficult section. Sometimes you can even be side-tracked for a surprising amount of time, as you attempt to solve the puzzle in a secret area that you’ve found. There are countless hidden rooms – some big and some small, and we can guarantee that you won't find all of them in a single playthrough. For some reason, however, you're unable to replay your favourite levels unless you restart the game from the beginning. This is due to the absence of a level select menu. It's unclear whether this is an oversight or a sadistic method of forcing multiple replays.
Another unforgivable shortcoming is the huge difficulty spike towards the end of the campaign. In order to beat the final boss, you must successfully avoid all of the foe's unpredictable attacks and side-swiping missiles. This is a tall order, especially when failure will force you to restart the entire fight. Pid is at its best when you're thrown into a confined platforming section where enemies can be eliminated in a variety of different ways and death results in a five second setback. The boss fights go against the grain though, and are not fun or rewarding. Expect to give up and watch the ending online.
Pid has some truly amazing moments, but they are let down by difficulty spikes and lacklustre controls. The sections where the art style, level design, music, and gameplay slot together are fabulous, and it's worth playing the adventure to experience them for yourself – but don't expect the title to hold your attention like a burst of anti-gravitational light.