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Genre: Indie, Platformer
Publisher: Spooky Squid Games
Release Date: August 29, 2012

If you ever wanted to know what Mario 3 mixed with 300 hits of blotter acid and the necronomicon looked like, this is it. Released by Spooky Squid Games, They Bleed Pixels is a controller destroyer, and may very well leave you with an aneurysm. With that being said, it’s not only one of the hardest games I’ve ever played, but one of the best. This is what pixel art is supposed to look like and sets a standard for its genre. They Bleed Pixels is a gothic styled game with a cryptic feel, and is visual rush from the moment you begin.

Starting this game puts you in a nostalgic state, and is like pressing play on your favorite 90’s B film. At first I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but when the first cut scene of pixel animation began to play I was in awe. The cryptic visuals and dark feel, combined with the pixellated brutality would have been enough for the ESRB to rate this one Mature in 1992, but these days it’s exactly what indie gamers are looking for. The soundtrack goes perfect with gameplay and if you can catch the rhythm it’s an entirely different experience in itself. Morbidly enough before each level, the loading screen features different quotes from H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and other related people of the occult. All of this together puts They Bleed Pixels in another category of its own with its instant visual appeal and dark, haunting music.

You are a young girl arriving at what you are told is a boarding school, Lafcadio Academy for Troubled Young Ladies. Unprepared for the violent nightmares that plague your dreams and transport you to other worlds, you are sent onto a journey that will take you to hell and back. Worse yet, her dreams are intruding into her waking life, slowly altering her flesh into the demonic form of her night terrors. While in the library she notices a book on the top of one of the book shelf. When she goes closer she notices a drop of blood come down on her hand. Your goal is to destroy the mysterious blood-soaked book that appears to be the root of her troubles, collecting pages throughout the game. Will you be able to make it through, or will her transmutation from girl to clawed horror become complete?

The game consists of chapters and different dreams make up the levels within each of them. Instead of points you collect pints, which after collecting a certain amount filling your power bar allowing you to not only save but replenish your health at the same time. Super Meatboy-esq, your dead corpse is left behind as a reminder of your past failures and attempts to complete each seemingly impossible level. They Bleed Pixels focuses on close up melee, utilizing the monstrous claws given to you in the beginning of the game. Different button sequences make up each strike or move allowing for combo hits awarded by extra “pints.” At the end of each dream you are given a report card, sticking with the boarding school theme. You are ranked based on lives lost, how many pints of blood you have collected, highest combo and how many pages of the spell book you have found.

They Bleed Pixels has an extras section in the main menu that includes bonus levels that are unlocked by completing each dream. You also are given badges with a manifold of different things to accomplish similar to the achievement system on XBox360 or Steam. The extras section also includes an art gallery with several pictures by different artists that you are able to unlock by beating each chapter. And of course, just incase you didn’t get everything you could out of the cut scene when you first saw it, the extras also offers a video section.

Games like They Bleed Pixels are fun no matter what or when you play them. The attack on your senses is endless from the moment you begin to the moment you end. Everything comes together perfectly from the story line to gameplay to the intense soundtrack and pixel art. Possibly one of the hardest games released last year, as well as one of the best, They Bleed Pixels is another essential in any gamers library.

Graphics: 8/10
Playability: 7/10
Story: 7/10
Challenge: 9/10
Replay Value: 7/10

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