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They Bleed Pixels review (Steam)

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Author Topic: They Bleed Pixels review (Steam)  (Read 29 times)
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« on: August 11, 2013, 06:31:41 pm »

One of the best action platformers I have ever played. This game is on par with the absolute legends of the genre, and in some ways surpasses them.

Basically it's a platformer with melee combat, combos, and fairly long levels. You can double jump, wall jump, and turn around in mid air. The controls have a (very) slight bit of physics too them, but it's not really noticeable as they are extremely tight and precise, and give you all the control you need to navigate the game and escape from danger when you screw up.

You also have quite a few options for beating up enemies too. You have a dashing lunge attack and a standard punch, both of which can be blocked by enemies, and a charge kick attack you can use to break enemies guard when you see them blocking. You can air combo enemies from your charge attack, kick them into environmental hazards, and all sorts of fun stuff. You also have a slide move which knocks enemies down, and a dive attack from mid air which increases in strength the higher it hits from (it's quite satisfying to wall jump to reach greater height and land on enemies below with maximum velocity). By themselves, the games options for combos are a bit simplistic and limited, you'll often be doing the same air combo every time you catch a single enemy out in the open, but the fun comes in all the creative ways you can improvise with the environment and its traps to quickly and stylishly kill monsters. This is also one of the games greatest strengths: The beat em up combat just works so well with the platforming. Whether you're kicking a monster into a saw blade, or desperately trying to double jump back to safety after a monster punches you off a cliff, the game really does feel like it captures the best of both worlds.

The monsters themselves all fulfill a fundamental purpose and are utilized creatively throughout. You can find strategies to dispose of them efficiently, but the game never really lets you coast by on muscle memory alone, as enemies can often surprise you and put you in interesting situations you might not have expected.

The level design is also fantastic. With the wall jumping, and your normal jumps which take you pretty high and far, the stages have a huge sense of scale and feel labyrinthine as you move through them, up and down, left and right, covering seemingly huge distances all the while. At the same time, they never overstay their welcome, ending just as your starting to feel exhausted.

The challenge is perfect also. Almost every hazard is telegraphed fairly, so you never really feel like "Oh I died because I didn't memorize this". As long as you have a feel for the controls, you can achieve pretty much everything on your first attempt (minus maybe one room near the end of the game). Another strength is that the games levels and difficulty feel "tight" without being "restrictive". You don't have to play by a pixel perfect route through the stages (unless your speed running) and almost every challenge can actually be completed in multiple ways, but at the same time the game challenges you to always be engaged and paying attention. It really does feel just right. My only complaint is that there are times when you think you can survive a hit, but you can't as the saw blade or whatever sends you flying into another sawblade in a chain reaction of death, but still it's a minor complaint as these deaths are your fault if you fall into them anyway.

Aesthetically, the game has been touted by some as an H.P Lovecraft/Cthulhu Mythos homage. This isn't quite accurate, as though there are several stages homaging the Cthulhu Mythos, there are just as many homaging gothic horror in general. Each stage opens up with a quotation from a famous horror writer, and each background has a trippy theme (whether it be Dali-esque melty clocks, or a lovecraftian underwater monster city). All in all, it works pretty well with the games aforementioned sense of scale, as these environments gain a feeling of being larger then life and utterly vast. From a technical standpoint, the game isn't much to look at. The backgrounds are colorful, but all the environments and characters (with the exception of the heroine) are black and white. It's not really an issue since the game is pretty well animated and has a cool style, but it's still interesting to think of how beautiful the game would be if they had money for an art budget.

The music is...alright. I don't really like the chiptune dance music style, it got really repetitive for me. The only tracks I like are the first and last stage themes, which fit the mood quite well. Still though, I find myself playing with a custom soundtrack.

Above all one of the things I like most about the game is its flexibility to play it the way you enjoy. The checkpoint system lets you play each stage kind of like Super Meat Boy or some other such games, letting you respawn extremely quickly and not far from where you died. However, the game also rewards you for attempting to no death run each stage in its entirety, speed run stages, or play for combos like a modern hack and slash, and doing this feels like a completely different game (the game even has separate leaderboards for score vs speed). Playing it with checkpoints, it feels like a more exhausting Super Meat Boy, where the atmosphere and variety makes up for the fact that you can't quit and pick up stages as leisurely as you would in SMB. But playing it for a no death run the game feels incredibly exciting and compelling, and everything just comes together perfectly. Speed runs and score competition should also appeal to those who are into that sort of thing.

Really, the game is fantastic. In the games credits, the lead director/programmer/designer thanks the rest of the staff for tolerating his constant and obsessive tweaking of the level design, and after playing the game through for a second time aiming for no death clears, it really shows the effort and imagination he put into it.

Anyway, play this game, it's the best. Play it casually with infinite respawns, play it for excitement with the no death runs, play it for score and competition with the speed runs and combos, play it: It's a cool game.
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