They Bleed Pixels is a 2D Action/Platformer in where we take control of a young orphan girl that finds a mysterious book which slowly begins to transform her into a monster. She is then transported to a world within the book in where there are other monsters all wanting to kill you. Being a monster now, the girl is just as capable of brutally murdering them as they are at harming her. You have a basic attack, a dash attack and a kick that sends enemies flying through the air. You’ll rarely just be button mashing as this game is more about using the hazards in the environment to your advantage rather than actual combat with your foes. Killing them in stylish ways will earn you more points which in turn will fill up your checkpoint meter that will allow you to place a checkpoint at a safe place of your choosing by simply standing still for a few seconds when the meter is full.
The real threat to you will be the environments as this nightmare world is filled to the brim with pointy objects like spike and floating saw blades. Usually you are able to take three hits before death from whatever harms you unless you fall on a spike and are impaled. Saw blades will be your worst foes as their hit-boxes are rather large and being scraped by one will send you bouncing all around the place like if you were a pinball, annoyingly enough. Starting up the game you have the options of picking either Normal or Novice difficulty. Novice difficulty makes the game far easier as well as removes the leader-boards, most of the games collectibles and the final mission of the game won’t be accessible in this mode. Normal is far more difficult than it implies and I was happy just being able to get through a level, much less worry about collecting any of the secret pages or other collectibles set in hard to reach locations.
They Bleed Pixels is an extremely hard game and even if it only continues 11 missions in the story mode it will take you longer than you may expect as you cover the stage in your blood as you die repeatedly. There are no lives or anything of the sort so you are free to try as much as you like and with the addition of being able to set checkpoints wherever you please you’d think it would be a simple task but nothing can be further from the truth. Setting checkpoints requires quite a large area for it to be considered as a safe place to set it, though even immovable saw-blades can deem an area unsafe causing you to pinpoint just the right angle which seems a bit unnecessary. You can exit the game at any time and the next time you choose that level you can load up on the last checkpoint that you set meaning that you can rage quit a level without losing any progress but the leader-boards will be disabled now.
As you fight and maim your way across the level blood will be spraying everywhere from your defeated foes. The blood in this game is plentiful and will splatter across the environments in a satisfying fashion. Unfortunately the combat system itself is rather abysmal. All the attacks are tied to one button for some reason and accidentally triggering the dash attack was the lead cause of my death throughout. Even then it just doesn’t feel right as it is difficult to connect your attacks and when you stay your ground it is impossible to harm them as you default to harmless kicks which can be problematic when there are no hazards to toss them to or when you are fighting a more powerful foe. Other than the basic enemies with stretchable limbs you will also be facing ghosts which can obviously phase through the environments, flying foes that will hurl themselves toward you and a short fella that jumps around with a giant blade. There is a lot of variety within the enemies which is no doubt a good thing but with the combat system in this game it is just a painfully awkward to face them.
In a game that requires pinpoint precision and has everything placed in a way to kill you stopping to fumble about with an enemy really breaks the flow. After finishing three levels you are rewarded with a cut-scene that reveals more of the story as well as gives you a key in which you can unlock some fan art in the extras menu. The story is there just for the sake of it and doesn’t really add or detract from the game. In the extras menu you will find 150 badges that challenge you to do certain things and will take quite a while to complete if you are into that kind of thing, a decent amount of really nice fan art to unlock and five extra levels to play through. These levels are quite different visually from the normal campaign ones and are pretty well done.
Music is pretty solid across the board though I personally found none of it to be particularly memorable. Graphics are pretty simple with all the environments just being black blocks but having a different background each level so it doesn’t get stale. The camera is just right and you never feel cheated due to something you didn’t see coming. All in all it is a good game that is sure to challenge even the most hardened of gamers. It will constantly have you wanting to punch something but it is fair enough that it will keep you playing for “one more try”. While the combat part of They Bleed Pixels is sub-par, kicking an enemy into a saw-blade and watching the blood physics work their magic is impressive enough to make it less of a hassle. If you are looking to grow some gray hairs or brag about your gaming skills this would be an excellent title to do so.