Pid tells the story of young boy named Kurt. During his space-bus ride home from school he falls asleep and soon finds himself stranded on an unknown planet. After talking to a few of the old gentlemen waiting at the bus stop he realizes they’ve been waiting for a bus since they were Kurt’s age. Deciding that waiting is not the best idea, our hero forges on into the unknown lands of this exciting and moody world.
While the story is set up with a small cartoon-like cutscene done in the style of a child’s storybook, it gives us only the smallest look into what has happened, leaving most of the background for the player to come up with on their own. The friends and foes you meet along the way are colourful and interesting, sometimes even being clever or funny. The game does well to introduce many different characters into this new world, offering a little insight into the background of the game with every new one you stumble upon, but perhaps not quite enough.
The game’s visuals are a mix of atmospheric lighting and warm, muted colours which gives the feel of a being a small kid in a very strange land. The graphics are built on simple geometric shapes, giving it almost a storybook tone. The backgrounds blend nicely with foreground, which makes for a foreboding setting. Some may argue the visual style looks too simplistic, but I find myself enjoying the simplistic games as much as photorealistic, especially when the visuals work well to compliment the gameplay.
The audio of Pid is very much what you would expect to hear on a seemingly abandoned planet. Eerie open and empty sounds mixed with the soft hum of robotic movement; the sound effects are top notch. The music works great with the visuals and setting as well, with everything from large scores of deep rich sounds, to retro game tunes and soft jazz. Evolving with each set piece, the game’s music changes based of the areas you are currently exploring.
Pid’s gameplay is the basic platformer affair, with plenty of enemies to jump over, on, and around. The twist however, comes early in the game when Kurt finds a chest containing two placeable light beams. These beams can be thrown in various directions and once placed, provide a sort of gravity lift away from the source. This leads to many, many puzzles and obstacles revolving around the mechanic. Starting out with basic placements to hover over spike pits or gaps, the game evolves into more complex uses such as placing the gravity lifts on moving objects and mid-air changes in order to clear areas. I found this mechanic to be somewhat inventive and overall easy to manage. The controls worked well with the gameplay with most of my failures being of my own fault, rather than the game not responding.
The game also features a co-op mode, where player two takes control of another little space traveller. Each player then has power over one gravity lift each. This is restricted to local only which I found to be disappointing, but the co-op was fairly well done overall, but I should warn you; a misplaced gravity lift can surely turn a friendship sour almost instantly.
However, the game is not for the casual player; with most of the game being challenging, yet very beatable, there are big difficulty spikes during the boss fights. Staying true to the games of yesteryear, the boss battles are extremely difficult, and with only a checkpoint before the battles begin and a ‘one hit you’re out’ health system, you may find yourself fighting these bosses until your soul is nearly crushed. You can however, purchase upgrades such as a vest, using stars (the ‘gold coins’ of Pid) you collect along the way. This will allow you to take an extra hit of damage before you die, giving you a whopping two hit life-span. I found, however, keeping the vest with me until I reach the boss to be nearly impossible, always losing my prized purchase on a lesser enemy along the way.
A low point for me personally was the butler boss, or as I like to call him, the devil incarnate. As if having to smash piles of dishes using the gravity beams to attract his attention and then use those same beams to strike various spots on his body wasn’t enough, he then ups his attack and throws out smaller foes whose sole purpose in life is to make yours a living hell. I can’t count how many times it took me to fight this monster. I honestly believe that my mind may have blocked out the memory in order to avoid future mental breakdowns.
The other bosses fair no differently, making a game that was fairly balanced, become riddled with insanely high difficulty spikes for no apparent reason. The developers have announced that the PC version will contain “easier boss battles”, but no word for an update to the Xbox version.
Another problem I had with this game was the so-called ‘2013’ glitch, a save game glitch that corrupts any save data created while your console is set to the year 2013. Being that I’m not a time traveller, I was affected by this glitch, to say the least. Causing countless hours of lost gameplay, nothing breaks a gamer’s heart quite as much as losing a save file. Starting again and testing the problem, I was always greeted with the same outcome ‘save file corrupted’. After doing some Google searching, I found that the developers themselves had posted a work-around that consisted of changing your Xbox’s date to any year other than 2013. After disconnecting my console from Xbox LIVE and setting my year to 1955, the save system was now working. Sadly I was unable to use my previous saves which forced me to start from scratch. Although a patch is said to be in the works to fix this problem, players beware if you are planning to give the game a go.
Overall Pid is an artistic, visually and audibly beautiful game that offers a lengthy experience for the Xbox LIVE Arcade. The majority of the game has the fun, retro platforming we all know and love, but comes along with the extremely tough boss battles that haunt us in our dreams.
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