Out of this world, literally
Ever since I played Limbo back in 2010 I have been in love with indie games. While they do not possess the raw graphic prowess of AAA releases, the massive development teams, or major studios backing them, they often make up for it with interesting and unique gameplay, easy pick-up-and-play levels, and a price point that will not be too upsetting if you pick up a stinker. That being the case, Might and Delight’s new indie platformer Pid seemed to be right up my alley.
In the beginning, Pid seemed to be the estranged lovechild of Limbo’s fantastically eerie mood and the interesting and diverse design tone of the movie Robots. The opening provides virtually no context for. There are a few still images that suggest something about a bus sending a child to space, but it is left vague on purpose, which added a positive sense of intrigue. The main character, a young boy named Kurt, is stuck on an alien planet inhabited by a wide array of robots, and he just wants to get home. Unfortunately, the game never really gave me a reason to care if Kurt got home in one piece.
Luckily Kurt is not completely helpless, as he picks up device that drives the core gameplay of the title: an orb with the ability to alter gravity by placing up to two simultaneous gravity wells. Wherever these wells are placed will become the equivalent of “up,” pushing objects and characters away from it. Laying a well on the floor will allow Kurt to “fall” up to high, previously unreachable areas, while placing one on a wall will boost Kurt away. Using these wells together becomes the key to success as the game progresses, where Kurt needs to navigate his way past various obstacles and enemies. However, these wells also effect a number of other environmental objects and enemies themselves, opening up additional options. Only objects or beings colored blue are immune to the effects of this artificial gravity. Additional tools in the game include health vests and explosives with various effects. Juggling gravity wells and bombs is fun, but controls occasionally take away from the experience. Sometimes movements feel sluggish, which is a problem in a game based on making jumps precisely calculated for time and distance.
When all of these elements are working together, the game’s puzzles are a treat to complete. They often require a good amount of thought and planning, and always left me with a great sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, sometimes the game is too difficult. I realize that one of the worst things a puzzle game can be is too easy, and everyone has a different threshold for difficulty, but Pid occasionally walks the wrong side of the line between hard and stilly. For example, I probably spent over an hour on the first boss. It took me this long because I simply could not do what was required, despite knowing full well what to do. Luckily, it is not a consistent problem, only popping up now and again, and it did not mar my overall enjoyment.
Sights and sounds of an alien world
For me, gameplay and story trump all else in games. However after my time with Pid, neither of those things stuck with me. Instead it was the beautiful look and feel of the world. The art style creates a feel that is at the same time familiar, comforting, and absolutely creepy. The same can be said for many of the mechanical inhabitants that are either trying to help or stop Kurt from getting home. It is hard to describe, but it sure is fantastic.
The audio design is also worth mentioning. The score shifts to just about every genre under the sun, completely changing the tone of any given moment. Relaxing jazz may be followed by farcical circus tunes followed by more traditional bombastic moment, and it all works fantastically.
So close, but no cigar
Pid does a lot well, but also falls short in a few key areas, resulting in a game that, while fun, ultimately fails to live up to its potential. As a mere expression of art, of conveying mood through beautiful tone, sound, and visuals, the experience is a great success. You will be hard pressed to find a world brought to life better through so little. As a game however, the title stumbles with controls that are a bit loose and frustrating difficulty spikes. While there are certainly more complete indie platformers out there such as Deadlight or Mark of the Ninja, if you are looking for something new to drop a few dollars on, there are certainly worse ways to go.
Beautiful art style, excellent sound design, some great puzzles.
Harsh difficulty spikes, occasionally loose controls.