Pid takes place in a dreamscape. Not a fantasy land or a netherrealm, you understand, but a dreamscape. It’s whimsical and fantastical, but its fantasy is always anchored to the mundane. Its enemies trundle along like cheap children’s toys, while its robotic inhabitants look like carved wooden dolls. It sends the young boy Kurt on a magical journey, yet it’s a quest that doubles up as a tour of the perfectly ordinary, with junk-filled attics, libraries, and restaurant dining rooms playing host to its platforming trials.
But it’s not just this blending of the commonplace and the uncanny that makes Pid so evocative of dreams: there’s a dreamlike aspect to its motion, too. Kurt’s no sloth, but there’s still a languid, floating air to jumps and movement, while the game’s central mechanic sees the boy gently suspended in mid-air and carried along beams of light. The player chooses where to set these beams, two of which can be active at any time, and navigating Pid’s world is about figuring out when and where to place them.
Platforming makes the most elegant use of the mechanic. Pid’s wall jump equivalent, for instance, sees you using the height and temporary suspension gained from one light beam to affix another a few feet higher up, leapfrogging from beam to beam until you’ve scaled the passage. Puzzles, meanwhile, are fairly simple, asking you do things like catch blocks in beams and use them to decompress switches affixed to the ceiling. Spike-covered and beam-resistant surfaces complicate matters, while tools such as bombs can also be caught in the beams’ current.
Enemies can be caught the same way, assuming they haven’t already killed you. Behind the pastel-shaded, softly lit surface of Pid is a surprisingly cruel game, one of courses packed with enemies and projectiles where one-hit kills (two, if you happen to have a power-up) are standard. Boss encounters can be even more aggravating, demanding that you flawlessly execute the required steps while under fire from batteries of missiles. For the most, part checkpointing is generous, although one or two restart points are still irksomely placed.
This precise, punishing side sits awkwardly with Pid’s vague-feeling movement. You will die, and when it happens you won’t be quite sure who blame. Kurt’s floaty jump sends him sailing into the projectiles’ paths at the slightest nudge, while moving in and out of beams is an unreliable process – acceptable outside of combat, but infuriating when under attack. If you’re going to throw such gauntlets at the player, you need tighter controls than this.
The cold heart beneath the cuddly surface fits the dark tone of the game, which beneath all the whimsy tells a melancholy story. Even so, players drawn in by Pid’s dreamy visuals might end up feeling betrayed.
PC version tested.