Don’t bother unless you just want another tough platformer to conquer.
Beautiful aesthetics, wonderful music, and just about perfect controls are all you could hope for in a platformer save one very important factor and this eluded me for a while. I couldn’t figure out with so many great things going on in Pid why I hated it so very deeply. Eventually I realized that its well-crafted elements were completely overwhelmed by the boring, mediocre, and at times maddening level design. It’s a shame that the designers primarily focused on the window dressing bits instead of considering all the things you would actually be doing when you play. Pid struggles with knowing what sort of levels it wants to present, switching from puzzles to difficult platforming to stealth to long periods of just waiting around or running in a straight line. Each of these disparate level types (and more) are middling at best on their own and when combined are a complete drag. Pid’s wonderful presentation can’t save it from the tedium packed into every single minute of its tortuous length.
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, but even though I finished the game in about twelve hours, I feel like it took closer to forty. This emotional state is a big switch from my first impressions when I was completely smitten. The oversaturated bright environments with robot-esque denizens hanging around was sure nice to look at and showed a lot of potential. The young protagonist, Kurt, gains the ability to throw out two orbs that can lift or push him around -- which ought to create some compelling puzzles to wrestle with. Then you delve into the first few levels and see that they don’t have much in the way of puzzles nor do they have much in the way of notable platforming. Slowly, I started to wonder what kind of game this was. There was the occasional sticky spot that took a few moments of cogitation to pass, but mostly, I was jumping from left to right with the aid of the glowing, pushing projectiles in my hands.
Eventually you reach some levels that feel like genuine puzzles, and this is where the game was at its best. This lasts for about three or four screens and the memory of these fun times are quickly washed away with irritating boss battles and more ho-hum platforming. I think I reached my lowest point when after completing a maze level I was faced with another maze, but this one was completely dark. The only light source was a single glowing orb that you had to direct through the corridors with only your gravity beams. Each small jump up or down required multiple placements of gravity beams to slowly bring the light orb along to ensure that spikes and rolling enemies could be spotted. This was horrifically dull and I was about to pass out from the repetitive nature of it all and then I hit some spikes and had to start over. I think my character died a couple more times before completing that level, but my own soul had already left my corporeal self and the twitching mass of muscle still holding the controller was unable to muster any celebration at its accomplishment.
In addition to this sort of frustration, many of the later levels really ratchet up the platforming challenges. There are several auto-scrolling segments that are wicked hard and had me saying things that the little protagonist should never be exposed to. This could be OK if the rest of the game was of the same character, but it was all over the place. Most of the levels were pretty simple, with a few appearing difficult because of some really precarious jumps I was making – only to find out that I was just getting bonus items instead of plowing ahead to the right side of the screen like a good boy.
One other truly challenging section involved one of the worst sins of the genre. Very near the end of the game, a series of tricky jumps were made frustratingly difficult because of a strong wind blowing you off of platforms and stalling you mid-air. I thought this concept was done away with twenty years ago because it was so reviled, but apparently not. The saddest thing about this is that at the close of this staircase-climbing section is one of the most serene and wondrous moments of Pid. It reminded me of the enchantment I felt at the start of the game and was able to once again completely lose myself in the audio, the art, and the jumping about. It was a fleeting moment, and one that depresses me to think about because it emphasizes how Pid does so many things well, but ended up being largely unenjoyable.
Despite its delightful outward appearance, no amount of charm can overcome what lies beneath the exterior of Pid. When you start to actually play the game, you’ll come to realize that the well-defined art direction is a complete contrast to the scatter-brained, dull, and irritating level designs. If you’ve seen screenshots and heard the music of Pid, you know it’s a real beauty. Just don’t get dragged in by its alluring exteriors or you’re bound to meet extreme disappointment like I did.