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Pid 'Challenge Room' DLC Impressions: Hnnnggghhh
My fingers, they are all sorts of broken
When it comes to personality, Pid has it in droves. Still, as much as I adored Pid from a stylistic point of view, there were several issues with the gameplay that made the title, well, oddly off-putting. Slow-paced, awkwardly punishing, with haphazard controls, and lets not even begin to talk about the game's bosses. The point I want to get to is that I never quite felt comfortable actually playing Pid, as much as I enjoyed the mood and scenery along the way.
My interest was piqued, however, when news broke of Pid's free DLC -- the Challenge Room. Basically, Pid launched a reasonable large content patch last week which introduced 72 unique puzzling levels. Broken into eight subsections with three difficulty tiers of three levels, each focuses on a single mechanic or equippable item which the player has to use to complete the level as fast as possible. Add in leaderboards that save and compare your scores with friends and the world at large, the Challenge room DLC is basically an entirely new game on its own.
I rushed into the DLC with gusto, figuring it would be the perfect way to retrain myself to the nuance and complexities of Pid. To an extent I was correct, in that some levels can be used as a tutorial of sorts. I was quickly reacquainted with flare jumps, bombs and the beams that allow Pid's protagonist to hover over obstacles. It was a short lived tutorial experience, however, as the Challenge Room DLC quickly ramped up in difficulty, wholly living up to its name.
Even the first levels of some subsections are frustrating at first. The bomb level, for example has a mixture of precise jumps and bomb drops, while at the same time dodging spiked moving platforms above and below you. The "Magic Box" levels, which is probably not the proper name for them, has you dropping beams in very specific places with very tight timeframes to make them count. One wrong placement in mid-air and there's no platform for you to land on. Restart!
Luckily no level is too long, at least early on, so while death is certainly a punishment it's still easy to jump back in and try again -- it's literally just the push of a button away. As such, Pid's Challenge Room DLC takes on a Super Meat Boy-esque style of encouraging players to try, try, and try again. This sort of attitude encouraging experimentation, as opposed to the campaign's comparable arrogance, is ideal for this sort of puzzle-platformer experience. Knowing that items can be used at will and that death only loses perhaps a few seconds of play is remarkably freeing.
It probably doesn't need to be said, but despite Pid's Challenge Room DLC being much more accessible and gratifying, it's still no Super Meat Boy. Just from a mechanical perspective Pid still suffers needlessly from its rather obtuse control scheme and slow pace. A majority of my deaths throughout the challenge rooms I was able to complete were due to my fingers being tied in knots. Mastering jumping, tossing beams, canceling beams, and using items while also managing directional movement requires a higher dexterity stat than I rolled, much to my chagrin.
My other disappointment, and again this is simply due to the nature of the Challenge Room DLC, is how little of the game's personality and style crosses over. I adored Pid's flavor and abhorred the slow-paced and punishing gameplay. While Challenge Room repackages the gameplay experience in a way I find much more palatable, what I really loved -- Pid's uniqueness -- is missing. Again, this is just a case of having my cake and eating it too, but I think it's worth noting. After playing Challenge Room I wanted to replay Pid, but then I recalled that I didn't really enjoy the playing of Pid, and wished the best parts of it could just be brought over into Challenge Room.
I also ran into a few odd bugs worth mentioning. For instance, my first try at the DLC miraculously had half the levels already unlocked, then my second try erased all my progress and I had to power through again. Then for some reason today my Pid game is completely uninstalled. Hopefully now, a week after launch, everything is running smoothly.
For those who have already purchased Pid, I'd highly recommend jumping into the Challenge Room DLC and giving a few levels a try. You might be surprised with what Might and Delight has put together. For new players, yeah, I'd say Pid just doubled in value and is certainly worth a look. In addition to the new content, the frustrating experience I had at launch has been reworked and patched to provide a more balanced and welcoming experience. Really though, I recommend Pid alone based purely on style and personality. The Challenge Room DLC only makes it all the sweeter.
Pid is currently available on PC, Mac and Xbox 360 via XBLA, and will be coming to PlayStation ... eventually. The free Challenge Room DLC is currently only available for PC and Mac, and should already be available when you download and install the game.
Follow Rory on Twitter @bluexy, or read his news, reviews and features every day here on Neoseeker.
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