Originally released in 2012 on PC, They Bleed Pixels is one tough platformer featuring a little demonic girl with meat skewers for hands. This isn’t just about avoid hazards and making difficult jumps, but They Bleed Pixels carries a heavy emphasis on combat. Using only two buttons, one for jump and one for attack, this action platformer does a lot with a little and isn’t for the faint of heart.
Even though there is only one button assigned for offensive attacks, there is a detailed combo system in place that really amps variety. Using a combination of taps, presses, and directional buttons, the player has access to a wealth of moves that looks like visual poetry when performed well. Enemies also dodge, block, and parry so players cannot button mash their way to victory. The end result is something that flows smoothly, feels rhythmic, but does require some practice. Platforming is the same way. Whether jumping, double jumping, dashing, wall jumping, or wall sliding, there is a subtle floatyness to everything that is purposely inaccurate. It definitely takes time to grasp and fully understand.
It is very important to highlight how difficult this game is. Other brutal platformers, like the tightly crafted stages of something like Super Meat Boy or the randomness of Spelunky, are difficult but dangle that carrot just enough to keep the player engaged with a “one more try” mentality. They Bleed Pixels takes a different approach as stages cannot be completed in mere seconds but many minutes. In comparison, it took me almost a half hour to complete level 1! Since stages are significantly longer in length, tenacity and full dedication is needed to complete each and every stage let along finish with a fast time and snagging all the optional collectables. Uniquely, there are no set checkpoints. Instead, the player can create a checkpoint wherever just as long as you have enough blood to do so. You see, with each kill, the player earns blood. Once the meter is full, this blood currency can be spent to create a checkpoint at almost any point. It is an interesting mechanic that noobs will try and cheese while speedrunners will optimize.
Not only are these stages lengthy, there are also a lot of them. Furthering the replay value, there are individual leaderboards for each stage, over 100 built-in badges (Achievements) to earn, and there are even a handful of bonus guest levels and comic illustrations from numerous artists. The motion comic of the gothic little girl who turns demonic is also timely with the Halloween release.
If you are into high-demanding action platformers, They Bleed Pixels will undoubtedly satisfy; knocking creatures into pits and spinning blades with spewing blood pixels never gets old. For more casual players, however, the stiff challenge and demand for high level play will be off putting. Personally, I am somewhere in the middle. I welcome the creative and thoughtful combo system of combat and impressed by the amount of content but my patience was tested even before reaching the end of the opening stage. Even if this difficult challenge isn’t for you, the personality and care put into this Switch port needs to be admired.
Also Try: Jump King
Don’t Forget About: Spelunky 2
Wait For It: Super Meat Boy Forever