I’ve been a huge proponent of Pid ever since first seeing it in action at E3. With classic 2D platforming gameplay mixed with a unique method of locomotion, stark and interesting artwork, a jazzy soundtrack, and not least of all: some of the developers of all-time favorite Bionic Commando: Rearmed behind it, Pid had every opportunity to win my undying devotion. How sad then, that it fails to capitalize on all that potential. Kung Fu Strike may be the worst game I’ve played this year, but Pid is undoubtedly the most disappointing.
One of the things Pid does pretty well is craft a unique story and atmosphere. Yes, the introduction and ending are told by small and relatively unimpressive still pictures, but you’ll meet a lot of NPCs over the course of the game whose text-based dialogue fleshes out the narrative. The game’s world is populated by living robots who are often quite endearing despite their relatively minimal dialogue.
When a space bus drops dozing young school kid Ness, I mean Kurt off on a mysterious planet, he immediately sets about looking for a way to get home. But the buses haven’t picked anyone up from the planet in 300 years, since the king and queen vanished without a trace. As Kurt searches for clues and a path off-world, a mysterious assailant stalks him from the shadows.
The setup had me intrigued the whole way through, but the payoff, while fairly unusual, didn’t quite live up to my own lofty hopes. The most disappointing aspect for me was the absence of animated cut scenes like the one we saw in the ‘Hold-up Hustle’ trailer a few months ago. Why create such a great vignette and leave it out of the game itself? Also, the English translation of the story is rough in several spots, with run-on sentences aplenty and even confusion between its and it’s on one occasion.
When you first start the game, Kurt can only run and jump like any other platformer character. Before long, he picks up a mysterious gem that allows him to throw beams of light horizontally or downward. After they strike a surface, these beams will carry Kurt along like a stream of air, allowing him to cross distances he could never jump on his own. Only two beams can be onscreen at a time; the newest one always replaces the oldest one, and they disappear after a few seconds anyway.
Using the beams to scale seemingly unclimbable walls or safely navigate a path laden with spikes can be satisfying, though often it’s just challenging. The level design generally leans towards cruel rather than fun. Jumps that require pixel perfection are particularly infuriating, though late-game traps involving lasers also do much to annoy. Luckily Kurt has unlimited lives, the only setback of death being a return to the previous checkpoint. Said checkpoints are actually very liberal, though occasionally you’ll have to clear more than a single room before reaching the next one.
Another part of the challenge stems from how Kurt must deal with enemies. Certain enemies are affected by his beams of light and can be pushed into spikes – an amusing but rare occurrence. Kurt does at least discover two kinds of bombs along his journey which can be used to defeat most any type of sentry robot. But bombs are limited use and you can’t count on finding more after depleting your supply, so in many situations you’ll just have to play it conservative and avoid enemies. To make things worse, several sections of the game have endlessly respawning flying enemies to deal with. In these parts it often feels like you’re being killed because the designers disliked you, not that you did anything wrong.
Somebody forgot to playtest the Crook boss fight, and we players suffer for it.
In keeping with the generally frustrating nature of the game, most of the boss fights are lengthy and infuriating ordeals. I knew something was wrong when I reached the second boss, the Crook. It’s ironic that might & Delight chose to highlight that battle with its own trailer, because the fight’s design is severely undercooked. To damage the Crook, you have to get him to suck up the golden bombs he occasionally drops, all while avoiding jumping enemies, other bombs’ explosions, and bullets. Once he sucks up a golden bomb, you’re supposed to use a super jump item to reach a spring pad, which then bounces you over his head, which serves as his weak spot.