Pid Review (Xbox360)

Public transport is notoriously unreliable. Relying on a bus to turn up at all is often a gamble, and one turning up on time is a miracle. In Pid, the bus schedules will leave you more than just late for work - they haven't ran outside the city for 50 years, with boys growing into old men just waiting at the stop, leaving the hero of our adventure Kurt stranded with no way home.

Like any reliable 2D platforming protagonist, Kurt doesn't just sit at the bus stop and wait ad nauseum for a bus to arrive. Instead, he goes on his merry way, jumping, fighting, and crawling through whatever obstacles stand in his path. He's got more than just strong legs in his tool bag though, carrying a mystical artifact that allows him to shoot beams. These beams are why people are so determined to make his trip that much harder, and also what makes Pid unique from all the other small-boy featuring platformers out there.

Is that Jak-Jak from The Incredibles all grown up?

The beams have anti-gravitational properties, suspending Kurt in the air and pushing him in whatever direction they're pointing. Kurt can throw down two at a time, and they stick to surfaces - though not all surfaces are hospitable to the beams - allowing you to travel through levels, with each independent segment essentially presenting you with a puzzle and asking you to figure out where the beams need to go in order for you to get to the other side.

Beams also affect enemies, and as the game goes on, the puzzles become more complicated and task you to use them in smarter and more devious ways. Stick one to a spinning cube that'll push the evil robot-man into the deadly spikes behind him, or use a beam to destroy an energy cube, meaning the rocket-firing robot stood upon it falls to its doom. My personal favourite was sending a robot into the air and watching it get hit it by another's rocket: I'm not even sure that was the solution I was supposed to find, which is where Pid most succeeds.

You don't just feel like you're following a pre-ordained route through levels, even though you probably are. The creative solutions to avoiding traps and dodging enemies feel like they're of your own design, and every time you get beyond a section there's a real sense of accomplishment - sometimes it takes trial and error to get right, which can be frustrating, but if you're patient you can usually figure it out simply by scanning what's in front of you and having a little think.

You're also able to throw bombs to deal with enemies.

It doesn't waste much time explaining these concepts to you: instead it simply lets you play and discover them for yourself, throwing in a hint now and again. It means you go straight into the action. There's no dull tutorial or slow start, and the base mechanics are so simple yet clever that you never feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately on occasion it also ramps up the difficulty without warning, leading to frustrating segments where you'll die again and again, with Pid unforgiving as it throws one-hit deaths in your face.

This is most notable on boss fights. Bosses just don't really fit in, and seem to exist purely because it's the done thing to have an end of section boss in platform games. They are repetitive, and go through multiple stages, and most of them seem to abandon Pid's careful attention to design. No longer are you finding the right spots to throw a beam, instead lobbing one in the hope it points in the right direction and takes you to the boss' weak point, a result of awkward angles and fast-moving objects that aren't always entirely predictable

You also don't get any real practice in beforehand. Pid is challenging throughout, but each time you fight a boss it spikes to an intense degree, and after you've been instantly killed for an hour straight because you were stuck in your own beam or it guided you straight into a missile, you'll be more than a little bit fed up.

Waiting for a bus that's never coming.

And being fed up at any point during Pid is a shame, because it means you stop looking at its lovingly crafted world, and you stop appreciating the careful design that has gone into the puzzles throughout, and instead simply dread where the next difficulty spike is going to come from.

If it wasn't for these frustrating moments, Pid would be a lovely mix of puzzles and platforming, making you challenge and engage your brain. Missing the bus should be the most frustrating thing you experience, but unfortunately it's not, meaning Pid is just one stop short of something great.

Top Gaming Moment: Killing an enemy with his comrade's rocket that was meant for you.