Six summaries again this time, and it took a little longer than I wanted, but all six summaries are fairly long and detailed so I think I used the time well. Five of these six games are not the best known titles and have some issues, but all five are interesting each in their own way. The other… is the massively popular game Terraria, so most people surely know of it, and anyone with any idea of my taste in games can probably understand why it’s probably my least favorite 2d platformer I have covered so far for this list.
Tobari and the Night of the Curious Moon (2012 Japan release, though the worldwide Steam release was in 2015) – 1 player, saves, gamepad supported. Tobari and the Night of the Curious Moon is an anime-styled platformer from Desunoya, a Japanese indie developer. You play as Tobari, a schoolgirl magic-user at an anime girls’ high school which has some odd, and magical, things going on. As the name suggests, night has suddenly fallen on this school even though it is daytime, and you need to figure out what is going on and why. Along the way Tobari will encounter various people from the school trying to slow her down, but this is not a particularly serious game, so it is as much comedy as drama. The gameplay is the main focus here, though, not the story, and that’s just how it should be. In terms of gameplay, Tobari is a conventional platformer with a somewhat Kirby-styled design, a moderate challenge, an overworld map of levels that unlock as you go, levels with secrets and hidden exits to find that unlock side things on the map, and more. There is definitely fun to be had here, but unfortunately the game also has extremely floaty controls that significantly hold the game back.
The controls and gameplay here are simple. As in many platformers you attack with your currently-equipped spell, or your magical staff, with one button and jump with another. Your attack is unique and jump is horribly floaty, but you kind of get used to it over time. Beyond that, you also have a ‘walk’ button to move slowly. You can have two different spells at a time, and there is also a button to switch to the other spell, and another one to drop the currently equipped spell item. There is no limit to how often you can use a spell here, though a few do have recharge time. As in a Kirby game, many different spells are available in most any level, and you have to choose which spells you want to take with you, either for combat or for level traversal. Now, when you do not have a spell equipped in a slot, you attack with that close-range staff mentioned earlier. It works well, and if you hit certain enemies with the staff they drop a magic item which will fill that spell slot with that spell. You can only attack with the staff if an empty slot is currently equipped, however; otherwise that spell replaces it. This is somewhat similar to Kirby, but can be annoying at times when you forget that you have a non-combat spell equipped and get hit. You can also jump on enemies’ heads to damage them, unless they have spiked or electric defenses of course, but you can only get magic powerups to drop if you hit enemies with your staff, so be sure to avoid jumping on any foe you want a power from, it won’t drop! Additionally, landing on them properly can be difficult with these controls, so your staff or magic are better options. You can take three hits per life by default, and there are health-refilling hearts scattered around the levels, fortunately. Levels also have checkpoints, though if you run out of lives and get Game Over you will need to restart the level.
The magic system is the core of the game. Otherwise the gameplay system is conventional stuff, but I like playing as a mage with multiple spells in a platformer, that isn’t something that happens nearly often enough! Each spell is significantly different as well. There aren’t a huge number of them, but there are enough for a good amount of variety, including a fireball, a broom which jets you straight forward a good distance, a double jump which can be tricky to use since you have to jump the first time with your regular jump button and then the second time with the attack button, lightning which hits things a bit in front of you at any elevation, a weird ball-magic form you can end up in that makes the controls even more frustrating, and more. Unlike in Kirby games though, you cannot take powers from one stage to the next; instead, you start each level with just your default attack. This is good because you know that all areas in a stage can be reached with the powers available in that stage, if you just figure out how. And there are things to collect here, most notably money. Each stage also has a hidden moon symbol item to find, if you want. There are shops in levels and, if you unlock them by finding hidden exits in stages, the overworld where you can buy things. Shops in levels sell powers, health extensions, and sometimes checkpoints. These are cheap, but temporary, as as usual you lose all of it when you finish the stage. Overworld shops sell saves, some other powerups, extra lives, and such. It all works, and it’s easy to get lots of money in this game either by grinding in levels or just through regular play, so the temporary nature of most purchases is fine.
Level designs in Tobari nad the Night of the Curious Moon are solid, if standard, fare. This is a tile-based game with a fairly generic doujin-game look, as the sprite art is nice, but environments are extremely basic things mostly just made of plain blocks, and backgrounds are forgettably generic. The music is fine. Levels scroll in all four directions and are moderate in length, so the game keeps the pace moving at a good clip. Despite the controls this game is only average in challenge at most unless you want to get everything, and I’m fine with that.Also the challenge does go up as you progress of course. There are also occasional boss fights. They’re traditional hit-the-big-baddie affairs, but bosses do thankfully have on-screen health bars, so you don’t need to guess how much damage you need to do. Things like timer switches also have on-screen bars showing how long they will last, which is great. The side areas full of money and harder-to-find hidden moon icons or occasional secret exits make you want to revisit stages to look for areas you missed the first time, too, if you don’t quit because of the controls that is. Some of those secret areas are harder to reach than they should be, since landing precision jumps onto moving enemies is both difficult with how floaty the controls are, and high-stakes, since dead enemies in this game stay dead until you restart the level, so if you jump on an enemy but miss the jump, you’ll need to quit and restart to get another shot at that. I usually prefer having enemies stay dead, but here it’s actually annoying sometimes; maybe certain foes should have respawned, while the others stay dead. Ah well.
Overall, I want to like Tobari and the Night of the Curious Moon, but it has issues. On the good side, the female protagonist, magic system, Kirby influences from one of my favorite platformer franchises, and some of the level designs are pretty good. I also like that this game is moderate in challenge, instead of the crushing difficulties of so many retro-style platformers. However, the extremely floaty controls make any precision difficult, and I’m not sure if I will stick with this game to the end. You will often have to restart levels because you accidentally jumped on an enemy you meant to attack with your staff, or because you missed a jump and fell in a pit yet again, and such. The plain graphics, sprites aside, could be better as well. Still, I like this game despite its flaws, and there is enough good here that the game is definitely worth a look, particularly for anime or Kirby fans. It’s above average and can be fun.
Taimumari (2015) – 1 player, saves, gamepad supported (xinput only). Taimumari is another difficult retro-styled indie platformer with anime-esque pixel-art graphics, though unlike the above title this game is Western. Though this is a somewhat obscure title with a mixed reception, I found it surprisingly good! Inspired more than anything by Mega Man but with some original touches, Taimumari is tough bug good. This is a low-budget game with some flaws and a sometimes quite frustrating difficulty level, but if you like classic-styled platformers there is some good fun to be had here. In this Western anime-styled game, you play as a female mage with animal ears who has to save her world from villains who are going to destroy it by messing with the time stream. The story tries for something a little different, but it’s not all that complex, and some seems poorly translated into English as well. The game also tries for some sex appeal in its promo pictures and such which is not reflective of the game itself, which has tiny little sprites and no actual ingame content like that promo pic; was it really necessary? Ah well.
Fortunately, the gameplay is better than the presentation. Taimumari has both challenging platform jumping and melee or ranged combat, so there is some variety here. The heroine has a melee-ranged sword for her main attack, and you can also double jump and do an air dash, Mega Man X-style. Additionally you can slide down and jump off of walls, though oddly there is no visual representation of that in the game. You also have a magic meter, and can use a defenseive shield spell with one button, or one of several attack spells with another. You can switch between offensive magic spells with a separate button, and will find more in the levels as you play. Each spell is a bit different, so get them all! They can use the meter up quickly, but it does recharge fairly quickly. You have a health meter as well, and that does not refill unless you find one of the scattered health-refill pickups. You also have limited lives, and if you run out you will need to restart the current level from the beginning again. This is definitely a punishment because again, while Taimumari is a somewhat short game, with only four levels and then a final sequence of Wily’s Tower-like stages, it is also very challenging. The controls are responsive and mostly work well. Usually hits and deaths feel deserved, and for the most part I like the way this game controls. The double jump and dash give you good maneuverability, as you can travel across a lot of screen without touching the ground. Wall jumps allow you to extend this even farther. You will take unfair hits every once in a while and your hitbox can be large, but just stay away from threats and you should avoid damage… though that can be much easier said than done, as enemies in this game like to shoot large amounts of stuff at you that will be tricky to dodge. There are also some cruel instant-death-spike-trap mazes to navigate. Still, it plays well. The controls in general feel fine but average, in that ‘probably made in Game Maker or such’ way. On that note, the wall-jump thing is oddly implemented; instead of a normal wall-jump where you have to be sliding down the wall to jump off of it or something like that, this game just resets your invisible double-jump ‘meter’ whenever you’re within a tile of a wall or platform, I think. You can also press over to slow your descent, but you don’t need to do that to jump. This is more generous than most double jump systems, but it can get weird at times, and just being able to infinitely jump when next to a wall looks odd since there is no visual cue.
On the note of the levels, Taimumari has some pretty good level designs. This is a traditional classic-style game, with linear, left-to-right stages you will need to navigate through that are loaded with enemies to slice up and pits to jump over. Along the way, though, the game keeps mixing things up and throwing new challenges at you. I like the games’ varied level designs, as you will face everything from wind blowing you around over death pits and tricky enemy placements that may be tough to kill before they shoot at you, to straight platform-action segments where you run along and slash baddies. The game does rely perhaps a little too heavily on instant-death spikes at times, and be sure to never touch any part of a spike because you will die instantly, but for the most part the level designs here are strong.
The game has fairly basic graphics and sound. This is a fairly plain-looking game with basic tile-based sprite graphics. Excepting bosses sprites are tiny, and they are not particularly detailed for the most part. The backgrounds look nice, and I do like some of the sprites, but visually this game is a quite average indie effort. Additionally, animation is lacking; while you have a wall-slide and can jump off walls at will, there is no visual representation of either of those, so you just need to know that if you’re falling by a wall, pressing over towards the wall slows down your fall, again with no ‘slide’ animation or anything, and you can jump as well. I’m sure it’d be trickier to do, but I really wish the game had a wall-slide animation, it’d help. Otherwise animations are basic and minimal. Still, otherwise visually the game looks fine, and there is a decent amount of variety between levels, as each of the six stages has a very different look and some exclusive enemies as well. The sound is the expected chiptune stuff you expect from this kind of game. It’s decent to good, sometimes bland and sometimes catchy. No issues there. This is a hard game for sure and it has some very frustrating parts at times, and the graphics have limitations and the presentation is clearly very low-budget, but Taimumari is a good, classic-styled platformer with solid controls, gameplay, and stages. It’s worth a look for the right price, if you want a lesser-known difficult retro-styled platformer to play.
Team Indie (2014) – 1 player, saves, gamepad supported (xinput only). Team Indie, from Brightside Games, is a nice-looking puzzle-platformer with a time mechanic starring an original cat character, but also featuring the stars of ten indie games, from fairly popular characters such as Commander Video from the Bit.Trip series and Tim from Braid to lesser ones like Jitters from The Great Jitters: Pudding Panic. That may sound gimmicky, but the game actually has a good concept for using all these characters, as you go through each stage using multiple characters that you switch between at certain points. This is a nonviolent platformer with jumping and puzzle elements. It has new ideas, particularly in the puzzles, and while it isn’t an amazing game it is fun.
Team Indie has simple controls which mostly work well, rare glitches aside, but each character controls differently so I’m not going to list all eleven. The game uses two main action buttons and the d-pad for movement. There are also buttons that stay the same, one to rewind to the previous characters’ level segment and another to pause. The main character is a cat called Marvin, and you must reach level exits as Marvin to complete them so you spend the most time as him. Levels are made up of collections of floating platforms in traditonal videogame style, with scattered collectables, character-switch icons, and switches which enable things. There are also some enemies to avoid, though pits are the main threat. In each level you start out as Marvin, but switch to guest characters when you touch their character switch icon. Each icon is used once you touch it, you you need to figure out the right order to use them in.
At this point you learn this games’ design: all of the characters in a segment move at the same time, once you have done that section of the level as a character. So, in one puzzle for instance you need to play as Jitter, a slime who can make platforms in the air, in order to make platforms that let the other characters cross gaps, then cross those gaps as Commander Video, who cannot stop moving forward as per his auto-runner game but can slide, in order to slide through a gap to get some powerups and hit a switch that will allow Marvin to cross and get up to the exit. Once you finish as each character and hit a Marvin switch again, you’ll see that character moving on the route you took while you play as Marvin or the next guest character. If you hit an enemy, fall in a pit, or hit the rewind button, however, you will return to the start point of the current characters’ run. If you hit rewind again you will go back to the last character before that, so if you messed things up badly you can rewind more than one segment. So, there are two elements to the puzzles in this game, first figuring out what order to use the characters in based on what character-switch icons are available, and then figuring out what to do. It’s a fun challenge, though some of the later characters do sometimes have glitchy control issues, and you will often need to rewind a segment or two to get things just right. The game is fun to play and makes me want to find all the collectibles, though, so it’s a fun game, when you’re not stuck on something that is of course. There are over 50 levels in this game, and it saves how much of the stuff you have gotten in each level, so there is a fair amount to do here, particularly if you want to collect everything.
Visually, Team Indie is a pretty nice-looking game with a good cartoony style, nice sprite art, and detailed environments and backgrounds that remind me a bit of Rayman Legends, just lower budget. There are only a couple of environment types, but they look good so it works. The character sprites each look like their representative character, but redone in the cartoony style of this game, and the sprites all look pretty good and are nicely animated. The music is also good, though the graphics are probably better. Overall, Team Indie is good. Not all ten of the licensed guest characters are equally easy to use and once you learn all the characters the puzzles get somewhat predictable, but for the most part this is a fun game that is just challenging enough to be fun, but not keep you stuck for a long time. I like the graphics, puzzles, and character-switching mechanic. You do end up going through the same areas over and over, but it’s different each time since each character has different abilities, and each segment is short enough to not last too long. Team Indie is fun to play and can be addictive as you try to collect everything, and it’s worth a try if you find it for the right price.
Terraria (2011) – 1 player local, 1-6+ player online multiplayer, saves, gamepad supported (xinput only). Terraria is a 2d sandbox crafting game, a kind of game I have never seen any appeal in whatsoever, myself. The game is basically Minecraft in side-scrolling 2d, but maybe with more of a focus on multiplayer. You play a character who explores a randomly-generated side-scrolling world, and dig, collect stuff, and use that stuff to craft it together into other stuff as you build things and try to not die repeatedly. The problem is, I absolutely hate crafting and do not like randomly-generated level designs in most cases. Naturally, as a result, I have little interest in Minecraft, 2d or 3d. So, while I’ve had this game for some time, I’ve never played it because I’ve always been sure I would greatly dislike it if I tried the game. And indeed, trying it now, I don’t like it much at all. I can kind of see why people who like crafting might see something in this kind of game, but there is nothing here for me, I find it terrible.
But backing up a bit, Terraria starts with you creating a character and world. There are a few customization options, but not a lot. You can set your colors though for each piece, which is nice. Worlds are randomly generated, and there is no actual apparent goal here, you are just tossed into a world and sent off to die over and over and over, pretty much, until you give up or start building things. You can reconfigure the controls, but the defaults are clumsy on keyboard and mouse or gamepad. You can jump, attack, open the menu, use a grappling hook if you have one, and access quick-item slots, or switch between the selected item if you’re using a gamepad. With a pad controlling your character is okay, though the controls are kind of clumsy. Menu navigation is awful with a pad, though, as you have to flip between the various panes of items, equip slots, and menus with buttons, and you can’t pause in menus, so you can and will be killed just because you were stuck in a menu; awful! With keyboard and mouse character control isn’t as good, but menus are much easier… except for one major flaw: the game doesn’t lock the mouse to the bounds of the screen! For anyone like me with multiple monitors this is an absolutely crippling flaw, as one little move outside of the edge and a click minimizes or de-selects the game window. And since the game doesn’t let you pause, yes, this too will lead to deaths for sure thanks to bad programming, and that’s not okay. Beyond that though the graphics and music are pretty good. The music is good and fits the game well, first. Visually Terraria’s character and enemy sprites are tiny but look nice, and the tile-based environment look great for tile-based design. The game has lighting effects as well, and a day-night cycle, all of which look good. You absolutely need light at night, from torches, fires, or what have you, because otherwise you can see nothing.
While that may be accurate though, and good art direction, from a gameplay standpoint that leads into one of this games’ biggest problems: it has a very, VERY high learning curve, and teaches you next to nothing about what you are supposed to be doing. It’s also apparently balanced much more for multiplayer than single player, so on your own this game is difficult. It just throws you out there, and you’ll start dying over and over and over in notime, since getting to the point where you won’t be constantly swarmed by monsters takes more patience than I have for these stupid crafting games. You’ll need to build a house to get to that point, I presume, but collecting resources from chopping down trees, digging holes in the ground, and such, and picking up the stuff that drops afterwards gets boring very quickly, and is not my idea of fun at all. In the little time I spent with this game, the parts that were kind of fun were exploring the world and filling in parts of the map, but that isn’t what you are supposed to be doing so as much as I love exploring out maps, it got unsatisfying quickly as I died repeatedly from falling into caves, being overrun by enemies, or what have you. When you die you go back to the start point, which gets frustrating.
But as for what you are supposed to be doing, collect and craft, sorry, I don’t care about them. The game does do a few things to help out, though: you start with basic items to fight, cut, and dig with, and the game does give you recipes so you don’t need to guess at the way items can be crafted together. That’s great and is better than some crafting systems, but even so the basic loop of digging/cutting stuff to combine together into other things you can then build with is not something I want to spend my time doing. I like building plenty; I loved Legos as a kid, SimCity 2000 is one of the all-time greats, and such, but this is a different kind of thing thanks to the collection-and-crafting-centric design. Even if it just had building and no crafting I’d probably still dislike this for its unfocused design, as in platformers I usually prefer a more directed experience over a too-open one, but it would be better.
So, after trying this game out, my opinion on crafting games has not changed: I hate crafting and do not find it fun. A very basic crafting system maybe can work, such as Guild Wars 1’s, but even with its crafting-recipe menu, Terraria is vastly more complex than that. Worse, its tediously boring collection-focused core gameplay does not interest me. I don’t want to “collect them all” in this kind of game, I’d want to explore the map, which gets you nowhere really here. Instead you need to chop through the terrain collecting stuff, and that is incredibly boring. The randomly generated worlds have no predesigned vistas to see either, just whatever it tossed together. Despite that Terraria does look pretty good, and the audio design is good as well, but the actual gameplay is a mixture of frustration and boredom more often than it is even kind of fun, the learning curve is high, and apparently you need to play multiplayer, something I have not done and don’t want to do, to have fun here. This absurdly successful game has sold 20 million copies apparently, so most people probably have it already, but while I can see how people could like it, I find this game completely terrible and the least fun game I’ve played so far in this list. I don’t think I want to ever play Terraria again. Also available on Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, 3DS, iOS, Wii U, Android, Windows Mobile, and Mac and Linux as well as PC on Steam.
Terrian Saga: KR-17 (2014) – 1 player (with online best-time leaderboards), saves, gamepad supported (xinput only). Terrian Saga: KR-17 is a 2d pixel-art platform-shooter from Wonderfling. The game calls itself a “32-bit-style” platformer, and that is accurate, though incomplete. That may sound like most of this update, but this game is different: like MURI but better, the game is inspired by classic early to mid ’90s PC games, in this case Commander Keen in specific as far as the level designs go, though the gameplay is its own thing. Unlike MURI, this is no clone. This is one of the most authentically ’90s-styled ones of these pixel-art platformers; this game feels like it could be an indie DOS game from 1994 or such, and that’s great. The game does have some issues, but it has more strengths. In this charming and fun title, you play as a Terrian military robot sent on a difficult mission to fight against your enemies. The story is just a basic setup for the gameplay, but it’s all you need. With a cute and ’90s-esque art style and pretty good art design, this game looks nice too.
The controls are straightforward, though the game does use more buttons than a real ’90s PC platformer probably would. You can jump and shoot as usual, and have a short-distance forward dash if you double-tap forwards. Your basic shot feels a little weak, but it’s enough. Additionally you have a Select/Read button, which is mapped either to a button or Down; a button for your jetpack, when you have it; to use the currently selected special weapon; a button on the pad to switch between those special weapons, which are grenades, a flamethrower, and two types of mines; and a button to use your homing missile companion. The homing missile is this games’ most unique element, as when you use it you then control the missile, and can fly it around the stage anywhere you want, until you run into something of course and explode. The game uses this for both combat and puzzles, which can be interesting. You have five hit points in this game, and at least early on there are plenty of health powerups, though things get harder as you go of course. You also have an energy meter. Your main gun can fire infinitely, but homing missiles and your special weapons both require energy to fire. It does not auto-refill, so you will need to find refill stations to fill up again. There are also many save points which you can continue from, and as this game has infinite lives from the last save point, you’ll never be sent back. This is a modern touch, but some classic Apogee platformers have infinite lives like this too, so it fits fine. The controls are responsive and feel pretty good, though I would strongly recommend a gamepad, either an X360 one or another one with a keyboard-to-joystick emulator, because this kind of game is much harder played on keyboard. The one control oddity is that you need to find a certain powerup to get the jetpack, and you keep it for the rest of the level, but sometimes you also can use the jetpack in the next stage while other times it is taken away, and the game does not tell you which it is; you’ll just need to hit the jetpack button on the next stage and see. It works.
Level designs are large and open rectangles, very much in the Commander Keen style, but with puzzle elements that not only have you finding keycards and hitting switches, but also involve using your homing missile companions as well. I like the level designs here, and figuring out where to go is fun stuff, as is hunting around for all the powerups and items which, as in the titles it was inspired by, are all over, sometimes in sight and other times in hidden corners. Sure you don’t need to get them, but trying to find at least some of the hidden stuff! The combat is not quite on par with the puzzle or exploration elements, as it’s fairly basic stuff where you run around and shoot enemies while trying to dodge their shots, but still this is a pretty fun game. The game keeps things interesting with a good amount of graphical variety as you go through the various areas in the game, and also with new puzzles and challenges as you progress. Sometimes it can be a little tricky to tell what is a platform and what is a background, or things can be hidden by a background, but this is rarely much of a problem and I really like the detailed graphics, so I don’t mind a few slightly confusing bits. Save points and weapon energy refill spots are all over, and all can be used as much as you want. The game also keeps track of how long each level is taking you to beat, and there are online best-time leaderboards on Steam to compete on too. Nice stuff. Some minor faults aside, for the most part this is a pretty good game with good level designs and gameplay.
The graphics are, again, pretty good too! The game has very detailed backgrounds, multiple layers of parallax scrolling, big sprites, nice animation on both your character and the enemies, and more. The in-game sprites and backgrounds all look great. As mentioned backgrounds sometimes do blend in with the foreground, but this is rarely distracting. There are a good number of different enemy robots to blow up, each with a different type of attack, and static obstacles such as spikes which damage you as well. For the cutscenes, the game, surely intentionally, has an amusing art style reminiscent of the somewhat weird look of Western anime-inspired cutscenes in games such as Turrican 2 or Mega Turrican. It fits the theme of this being a ’90s “32-bit” game. The music is chiptune-styled stuff as expected, and it’s good.
On the whole, Terrian Saga: KR-17 is a really good game. This game is perfect nostalgia bait for those of us like me who grew up on early to mid ’90s PC platformers, and this game feels like a new game like that, and that’s not something you see very often! The game looks great too, and sounds pretty good as well. There is a fair amount of game here to get through and exploring the levels, finding the secrets, and making your way to the end is lots of fun. With its occasionally confusing graphics, bland combat, and lack of notices telling you when your jetpack is going to be taken away the game does not quite match up to Apogee’s best releases, but this game is really fun and is better than most PC platformers. Terrian Saga: KR-17 deserves a lot more attention than it got, and is really cheap, too! I highly recommend this game, get it for sure.
They Bleed Pixels (2012) – 1 player, saves, gamepad supported. They Bleed Pixels is a very difficult pixel-art platformer from Spooky Squid Games. That may sound generic, but while it takes some inspiration from titles such as Super Meat Boy, this game has some pretty original ideas going on. Some of them work and others don’t, but They Bleed Pixels is an interesting title. I like a lot about it… except for the controls and incredibly frustrating, excessively high difficulty level. You play as a schoolgirl, just sent to a private boarding school sometime in the early 1900s. In the library there she finds a book, a dangerous book which turns her into a very Lovecraftian form, with a mostly normal body but huge red claw-like hands. Naturally she wants to go back to normal, but every attempt to abandon or destroy the book fails. The plot is simple and doesn’t go much beyond that, but still it’s a solid setup for a Lovecraftian-styled platformer which plays like one part Super Meat Boy homage, and one part beat ’em up-style action-platformer.
The first unique point here, and major issue, is about the controls. They Bleed Pixels uses only two buttons, but each button has many functions depending on how long you press it and whether you’re hitting a direction on the pad along with the button or not. For jumping, your jump height varies depending on how long you press the button down. Make sure to be perfect every time with this, or you will die. You also have a wall-slide, where if you are close to a wall and press towards it you slowly slide down it. You can then jump off of the wall. Attaching to walls can be frustrating sometimes when you are totally surrounded by spikes, but you’ll need to be perfect to survive. You also have a double jump, which works fine. For combat, if you tap the attack button you kick the enemy forward. If you hold it, you kick the enemy up. If you hit action plus a direction, you attack with your claws that way. If you hit action plus forward harder, you do a teleport-strike attack in that direction. If you hit attack in the air you attack in the direction you are facing. And if you hit attack plus down in the air you do a downward strike. If you attack enemies with a variety of attacks before killing them you will get a combo, and these increase your points and also how much meter killing them fills up. Those are most of the moves, though there may be a few more. You do have three hit points and attacks always do only one point each, but often being hit once means death, since many spike pits cannot be escaped from, sawblades send you flying across the stage in ways you’ll never recover from, and such. This game’s level designs demand absolute precision to not die, and between occasional control-response issues, how every button doing multiple things, and the games’ frustratingly large hitboxes, getting through the harder levels later in this game is a serious excercize in frustration as you die over and over and over because you weren’t quite perfect somewhere. There is an Easy mode available, but you cannot play the last level in Easy and you can’t switch between the two during play, so “Normal” is the only real choice.
Helping you out is one more interesting system: you create your own checkpoints. In this game, as you kill enemies and collect the few items scattered around the games’ entirely linear levels, a meter builds up. When the meter fills, if you stand still for a few seconds while on flat, non-slippery ground, you will create a checkpoint there. This sort of gives you control of where you continue, but as you progress you will find many segments that don’t give you any flat, non-slippery ground for long stretches, so at times you just want to make a checkpoint in the obvious safe spot you’ve been given, then try to get through the next stretch. You have infinite lives from the last checkpoint, so you can just keep trying, but after dying scores of times in some tough part later in the game my patience started to run out, and despite putting quite a while into this game several years ago, I still haven’t finished it. Levels in this game are a long, linear sequence of challenges, some platforming and some combat-based. Your main obstacles include saw blades, spikes, bottomless pits, annoying slippery sections of floor that you slide on, cannot wall-clime, and cannot create checkpoints on, and various types of blade traps. There are also many switches to hit, though watch out because many are traps… that you will have to set off anyway to proceed, of course. Enemies include basic guys which move back and forth and attack at you, little creatures with big swords, annoying ghosts which teleport back and forth to attack you on both sides, and a few more. The combat is decent fun, when the controls work right, and has some variety with your different attack types. It can be frustrating at times, but the platforming segments are where the serious difficulty lies.
Visually, They Bleed Pixels looks great. This is a faux-retro game with a very blade and spike-heavy setting and a somewhat monochromatic look that makes the red blood stand out on your grey, white, and black surroundings. All sprites are well-drawn and have big white borders around them. This is another tile-based game with small sprites, but this game has better art direction than some other such titles covered above. The good visual design is a strength here, even though there is somewhat limited graphical variety, as while backgrounds will vary as you go through the game, but the foreground graphics, enemy types, obstacles, and such, are the same throughout. Still, the game looks good despite that. The music fits the creepy tone of the game game well, also. And the game in general is a lot of fun for a while, as you work through these creepy worlds, killing baddies and working your way past the difficult traps and jumps that fill each level. But as you get deeper into the game, the way that too many functions have been crammed onto each button so it is far too easy to do the wrong thing while hitting the buttons what seems like exactly the way you are supposed to, the way that you must perfectly make every jump if you don’t want to die and often have to go through long sequences without being allowed a spot for a checkpoint which ensures that you will need to do hard sections over and over and over, the large hitboxes and the way you slowly slide down walls, and more combine to make the game incredibly frustrating and maybe not fun. Because it does so many other things right They Bleed Pixels is well worth a look, particularly for fans of very difficult games, but because of its flaws even some hard-platformers fans will lose patience with this one, unfortunately. Still, it’s a decent to good game overall even if most are unlikely to finish it.