Spooky Squid’s savage platformer is deceptively adorable, with its soft purple hues and cutesy-Cthulu monster designs. Attack one, however, and the gushing pints of pixelated blood should give you fair warning of its sadistic streak. They might bleed pixels, you see, but you will too.
Not since Super Meat Boy have we died so messily, needlessly and repetitiously. This is a pared down gauntlet. Enemy types are few and functional, while needless level furniture has been stripped away. It’s platforms and spikes mostly, judiciously arranged so that all but perfect jumps towards the former will see you plunging towards the latter.
But if the platforming half of They Bleed Pixels can be overly precise, especially in some maddening later stages, the combat finds more room for player expression. Mistakes are punished harshly, of course, but your character’s mixture of jabs and knockback-inducing kicks allows strings of attacks to be creatively strung together. Those kicks are crucial: sawblades and spikes cover every wall and ceiling, and you’re positively invited to bounce monsters into them and then bask in the messy results. Such showboating in encouraged – health restoring checkpoints (which you place yourself by standing still) are granted as a reward for collecting the gory matter emerging from your victims.
Control can be an issue at times – the one button combat system relying on the distinction between taps and holds makes it easy to muddle attacks – but challenge seekers will find plenty to get stuck into, impaled on and cut to shreds in this macabre, frenetic onslaught.