Introduction - They Bleed Pixels is a game that has been developed for about two years by, Spooky Squid Games Incorporated. This is the first time I have heard of this developer because it’s the first game that they have featured on steam. They also have freeware games on their website you can check out in a link I will provide. This is an action-platformer game that makes you watch your feet while fighting enemies which is a really fun combination. Before I begin, I would like to warn you that I had a problem with my game crashing. Luckily, you can easily troubleshoot your problems on the steam forums. For me, it was as simple as changing some file names.
Story - The story in this game is pretty simple. The cut scene comics tell the story of a little girl who goes to a private academy. There you are cursed by a book that turns you into a bloodthirsty demon with creepy red claws only at night. She tries to destroy the book that gave her the curse at day, but the book turns her back by night. The story lacks depth but at least it keeps you invested into finding out the ending of the game.
Gameplay - The gameplay reminds me a lot of super meat boy where your platforming revolves around wall jumps and not falling into spikes. Your moves involve kicks and stabs, you can either kick foes into spikes, use stabs for combos, or you can even kick your foes into the air to stab them death in mid-air. The combat system also features a combo system which rewards you for quickly dispatching foes using a variety of techniques and executions. Combos and finding books reward you points which increase your rank in the end. Getting an A rank nets you achievements and getting that best score to brag to your hipster indie friends. There is definitely a linear difficulty curve here. The longer you play and the more you progress, the more you find yourself dying more often. I was surprised when it took me 20 tries to get through a platforming section. Which reminds me of games such as "Super Meat Boy" and "I wanna be the guy". There is plenty challenge to be had here. You only get three hearts and the enemies can be tricky to deal with at times. The game is harsh when it comes to the platforming but makes up for it with checkpoints and unlimited respawns. The checkpoint system is actually my favorite feature in this game. The better combos you perform, the higher your checkpoint meter is filled. When you fill it up, you have two options; set up a checkpoint, which also fills up your health, so you don’t have go through the WHOLE stage again, or you cannot set up a checkpoint to get the 2x point bonus which improves your rank in the end. So more casual gamers will want to set up a check point every opportunity they get while hard core gamers can rough it out just for that high score. I use the term casual and hard core lightly because this game is hard.
Controls - The controls here are pretty solid. You have the jump button, the attack button and movement keys. I don’t like how the kick attack and the stab attack share the same key. You kick without holding down the direction and you stab if you hold the direction or you’re in mid air. The biggest challenge here is mastering the double jump because you are going to fall and die...a lot! The game also comes equipped with a completely optional tutorial which reveals new possible techniques as you go along. You do not actually gain moves as you progress; the tutorials you unlock inform you of ability if you haven’t already discovered it yet. Also, the game recommends you use a game pad, but the classic keyboard will do just fine
Graphics - I'm a sucker for pixel graphics, it brings nostalgia to me back from the S N E S days. The graphics do a very good job to keep you from thinking it’s a kid game. Dark scenery with bloody gore that9 Cthulu fans audiences will appreciate. When they were designing the graphics, they definitely did not forget about the background, although I feel like the theme of the background has no effect on the physical stage them. The water stage has no water; the fire stage has no fire hazards.
Sound - I am not a big critic when it comes to music, but I think this is as good as pixel music gets. It really adds to the dark atmosphere that the game succeeds at achieving. And the sound effects are also spot on.
Extra features - This game has 126 achievements, both in-game and on steam! Hard core achievement hoarders might appreciate the challenge of getting all the achievements. Getting in-game achievements earns you keys which allows you to unlock designer art. I think this is pointless because you can download the designer art in wall paper form on their website. This would’ve been better implemented if it unlocked secret content like character skins. Speaking of extra stages, you have access to 3 bonus stages (since the Halloween patch) to play through while you progress through the game. You can find extra challenge here or you can just rush through the extra-length stages if you're just playing for fun.
Final Verdict - This game combines plat former and combat elements in an excellent way. Sometimes it feels like its juggling between the two, but when they are combined it feels like imp presented a really good challenge. The downfall of this game is that the amount of gameplay and replay ability here all depends on your skill. A hardcore gamer will spend hours getting that perfect speed run or high score run while a casual game will beat it and probably never come back to it. Or worse enough, someone will find this game to hard and quit after the second or third chapter. I think this would’ve of been a popular game if it was released in the era of ghost in goblins. Hard, but not insanely difficult. This game will definitely appeal to someone who appreciates Super Meat Boy and Castlevania. The retail price of this game on steam is 10 bucks, to those who are curious; I would probably wait until next Halloween when it will probably go on sale again. If you are looking for a plat former challenge with an action kick, I definitely recommend picking it up. If you are afraid that you will find this game too hard, I would stay away until you are more skilled in the plat forming genre.
I give this game 9 out of 10.