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Video Game / They Bleed Pixels

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Body Horror has never been so cute.
They Bleed Pixels is a 2012 indie platformer by Spooky Squid Games for PC. Arriving at the Lafcadio Academy for Troubled Young Ladies, an unnamed young girl finds a mysterious book that constantly drips blood. It brings her strange dreams of other times and places, and of another self with purple skin and claws instead of hands—and with each dream, the line between herself and the monster thins...

They Bleed Pixels combines Super Meat Boy's tough-as-nails style of retro platforming with a one-button combat combo system, all wrapped in visuals inspired by Lovecraft's work. A Macintosh and Linux port of the game was released at the launch of the Crimson Update in 2015, in addition to being rewritten on a new engine with extra content, leaderboards, and more blood.

This video game provides examples of::

  • 100% Completion: There are a hundred and twenty six achievements (or rather "Blood Badges") in this game!
    • Beat all the chapters.
    • Kill all the enemies in all the chapters.
    • Collect all the pages in all the chapters.
    • Speedrun all the chapters.
    • Get an S rank in all the chapters (covers 2 achievements per chapter, since A rank also gets an achievement.)
    • Complete all chapters without dying, and just one chapter without taking damage.
    • Get a 60-hit combo (covers six achievements, one for every 10 hits.)
    • And various other achievements, like "set off a chain reaction involving five different Bomb Imps."
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  • Action Bomb: Bomb Imps. They're very fragile, but there's no way to destroy a bomb other than to wait for it to explode, and they do double damage at close range. (Thankfully, you can kick them into the nearest crowd of enemies. Or bat them when in mid-air, which the game calls the "Exploding Palm Technique".)
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: Expect to spend a lot of the late-game running from sawblades. Hell, the first half of The Final Dream: The End is almost entirely composed of these sequences.
    • Rise to the Challenge: Sometimes these sections come vertically, most notably in the beginning of The Fourth Dream: Chapter 3.
  • Alien Blood: Oddly, all the monsters spout fountains of normal red blood, but the (sort of) human protagonist bleeds white.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: The Final Dream: The End is basically a long series of death courses that reuses a number of specific challenges and sequences from earlier chapters, usually with an Advancing Wall of Doom added if there wasn't one before.
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  • Arc Symbol: A stylized claw, which appears on the Book Of Claws itself, the shape of the Headmaster's knife, several places in and around the Academy, on every Save Sigil, and countless times in the background scenery and the shape of various levels.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Book of Claws. Apparently, the Student Library has many books like it.
  • Awesomeness Meter: The game has a combo meter that builds on how creatively you slay your enemies, and resets if you don't do damage for a short time.
  • Black Bead Eyes: All human or human-ish characters have them, most prominently with the protagonist.
  • Blade Brake: The protagonist uses her claws to cling to walls.
  • Bleak Level: The First Dream: Prologue and The Third Dream: Chapter 3 are much gloomier and less colourful than most other chapters, the former being set on some kind of dark purple plain littered with giant bones and ruins, the latter over an ocean at night in a rainstorm.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The Crimson Update ups the blood count substantially
  • Bloody Bowels of Hell: The Final Dream: The End.
  • Body Horror: Every time the girl wakes up, her hands are further transformed into the demonic claws she fights with in her dreams — purple, tipped with sharp nails, and drenched with blood.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Its headmaster is an evil magus trying to turn his students into Cute Monster Girl servants, for one.
  • Build Like an Egyptian: Egyptian-looking pyramids and obelisks can be seen in the background of The First Dream: Prologue.
  • Cat Smile: After she finishes transforming, the girl has this expression on her face.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: No matter how hard the girl tries, nothing can get rid of or destroy the Book of Claws.
  • Clock Tower: The Fourth Dream: Chapter 3.
  • Cute Monster Girl:
    • The protagonist when transformed.
    • As well as some of the other transformed girls.
  • The Corruption: The Book of Claws seems to cause this rather than The Virus.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: All the platforms are plain black, all the hazards and traps are grey or white with the occasional red bloodstain, and all the enemies are mostly black, white, and shades of grey except for their yellow eyes. This contrasts greatly with the somewhat more colourful protagonist, the red blood spilling everywhere, the purple Save Sigils, and the colourful and highly detailed backgrounds.
  • Double Jump: The protagonist is capable of jumping in mid-air, allowing her to reach high places and maneuver around intricate obstacles.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: The Crimson Update adds a Novice difficulty with shorter and easier levels, but comes at the expense of removing pages, not tracking high scores or best time, restricting which badges can be unlocked, and locking players out of the final level.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The headmaster's dead, but the books are still around.
  • Eternal Engine: The Fourth Dream: Chapter 2 and to a lesser extent Chapter 3.
  • Evil Is Visceral: The final level appears to be organic and the Post-Final Boss is a giant heart.
  • Flash Step:
    • One of the protagonist's combat maneuvers, also useful for crossing spike pits. It can be done unlimited times when flashing between enemies, but it requires a short recharge if it doesn't hit anything that bleeds.
    • Ghosts also teleport in a manner similar to a Flash Step when hit. They rarely block attacks, so getting a good combo on a ghost means chasing it around and hitting it over and over. (Naturally, you eventually have to fight them while clinging to walls and unable to chase them without the risk of falling.)
  • Gameplay Grading: You're given a letter rank based on your performance in each level as well as a title that goes with it. From lowest to highest: D (for "Dreadful Dagon"), C (for "Common Cthulhu"), B (for "Basic Bokrug"), A (for "Awesome Azathoth"), and S (for "Squidtastic Shoggoth"). However getting high ranks requires near-perfect memorization of a level, as well as deliberately skipping over a lot of possible checkpoints.
  • Hailfire Peaks:
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: At the end of The Final Dream: The End, the level music fades out and is replaced by the sound of a heartbeat as you're taken up to the heart, and it gets faster the more you stab it.
  • Idiosyncratic Combo Levels: They're mostly words Lovecraft liked, such as "gibbous", "rugose", and "necrotic."
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Oh yes. Can happen to both you and your enemies.
  • Interface Spoiler: With the addition of Steam Trading Cards, The Headmaster can be seen long before he becomes relevant to the plot.
  • Ironic Hell: The backgrounds reflect what the heroine has most recently attempted to use to rid herself of the Book of Claws, such as the bottom of the ocean or a lake of fire.
  • Juggle Fu: The upwards strike is intended for this.
  • Jungle Japes: The Second Dream: Chapter 2.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Fourth Dream: Chapter 1 features this in the background, which is downplayed in Chapters 2 and 3.
  • The Lost Woods: The Second Dream. Chapter 1 is set on the forest floor and partially underground, Chapter 2 along the trunks of the trees, and Chapter 3 in the canopy with platforms shaped like branches.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Make no mistake — this is not a Cosmic Horror Story, or even that much of a horror game. You win, and manage to destroy the Book and the guy using it to make monstrous servants, after all, though it wasn't the only one of its kind.
  • Launcher Move: Tapping the attack button while standing still will kick enemies away from you, whereas holding down the button will send enemies upwards where they can be juggled or stabbed repeatedly in mid-air.
  • Mayincatec: Ruins in this aesthetic can be seen in the background of The Fourth Dream: Chapter 1.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Get used to seeing the protagonist impaled, shredded, and disintegrated. What's more, deaths that don't completely destroy her corpse will leave behind an after-image. Particularly challenging sections will quickly amass quite a collection of bodies lying around or hanging from spikes.
  • Meaningful Appearance: Cutscenes show the protagonist as wearing a little red bow in her hair. It's probably not coincidental that the pixel art seen in gameplay makes this look like devil horns.
  • Meta Multiplayer: The game features online leaderboards for high scores and fastest runs of each level, as well as watch replays from other players.
  • Mooks but No Bosses: Instead of bosses, the game ends each chapter with a gauntlet of regular enemies and platforming hazards, getting longer and more complicated further on (the earlier ones introduce a new type of enemy). There is technically the heart at the end of The Final Dream: The End, but it can't move, defend itself, or hurt you, there's no way to lose against it, and it dies in five hits. The real final challenge is the waves of enemies you face just before it.
  • Nintendo Hard: Expect to die several times per level until you get a good handle on the controls. They are VERY precise and overdoing ANY movement can lead to your death (no shortage of enemies, spikes, and other sharp objects in this game). Inertia is present and the floor is always a bit slippery even without ice. Also, not mashing goes against your natural instincts (there are only 2 buttons used other than the arrow keys), so mastering the character takes practice. The game supports and even suggests a controller be used, but the game is difficult enough for this trope to apply even if you do use one.
  • No Name Given: None of the characters are named, the only name seen on-screen is that of the school itself ("Lafcadio Academy for Troubled Young Ladies").
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: There's a reason the score counter is measured in "Pints."
  • Painting the Medium: Attacking the heart causes the screen to shake with each hit.
  • Palmtree Panic: The Third Dream: Chapter 3 is set on the coast by the sea, but at night.
  • Perpetual Frowner: As a human, the protagonist only smiles once, at the very end. However, she acquires a Cat Smile every time she transforms.
  • Piñata Enemy: It's relatively easy to string out a nine-hit combo off a single Shambler (ten if you finish by punting it into spikes.)
  • Pipe Maze: The Fourth Dream: Chapter 2.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: Present in The First Dream: Prologue, The Third Dream: Chapters 1 and 3, and The Fourth Dream: Chapter 1.
  • Save-Game Limits: Killing enemies and collecting orbs fills up your "Sigil Meter." When filled, you can empty it to place a Save Sigil on any flat, non-slippery surface with no nearby enemies, sawblades, or crushers. Alternatively, you earn double points for all kills performed and orbs collected with the meter filled. (Of course, you lose all those points if you die.)
  • Scoring Points: Some attacks builds the combo meter whereas other increases the multiplier. Figuring out how to effectively dispatch enemies is key for scoring more and more Pints. Additionally, filling your Sigil Meter and keeping it full will double the points you earn. At the end of the level, you're given bonus Pints based on your performance and certain criteria (such collecting every page in the level, not using a save sigil, or items collected).
  • Shout-Out: Lovecraft is particularly well-loved here, but there are references to everyone from Lafcadio Hearn to Philip Pullman.
  • Silence Is Golden: There's screaming, laughter, and a bout of Black Speech, but no one ever says an intelligible word.
  • Sinister Silhouettes: A figure in a bowler hat, wielding a claw-shaped knife, appears behind the protagonist at the end of every dream. The observant player will notice that there's a painting of a man in a bowler hat on a wall in the school.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Most chapters have a few slippery surfaces, but The Second Dream: Chapter 2 is absolutely covered in them.
  • Something Completely Different: The game contains unlockable "guest levels" created by different indie game developers. They include:
    • "Seraphs Bleed Stardust", based on Seraph by Alex Bethke.
    • "exp 0.666..." based on Exp. Magazine by Mathew Kumar.
    • "They Bleed Ponycorns", based on Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure by Ryan and Cassie Creighton. It must be seen to be believed.
    • And "All Hallow's Eve", a Halloween themed level that changes up the gameplay the most by making you kill enemies with traps in specific ways to receive candy.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The Fourth Dream: Chapter 3, probably one of the hardest, if not the hardest, chapter in the game is accompanied by an upbeat chiptune that sounds much more cheerful than most of the rest of the soundtrack.
  • Spikes of Doom: Everywhere.
  • Steampunk: The Fourth Dream: Chapter 2 has this aesthetic.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: One of the enemy types that shows up in The Second Dream - Chapter 2. They can teleport.
  • Supernatural Is Purple: The little girl's counterpart is purple.
  • Talk to The Claw: The protagonist does this to the headmaster at the end.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore:
    • The Book of Claws seems to be this, although we never see any of what's in it.
    • While the protagonist only interacts with the one, it's not the only one around. The student library's full of them, and they're evidently doing similar things to the other students.
  • Under the Sea: The Third Dream. Chapter 1 is set on the sea floor, 2 in the middle of the open ocean above the floor, hopping between jellyfish-shaped platforms and giant criss-crossing chains. Chapter 3 is instead set on the surface of the sea.
  • Underwater Ruins: The Third Dream: Chapter 1.
  • Vague Age: The protagonist looks very young in the game itself, and some of the concept art reflects this, but in other concept art, she appears to be a teenager.
  • Womb Level: The Final Dream: The End, though technically, it's a heart level.
  • World in the Sky: The backgrounds of all of The Fourth Dream feature chunks of land floating in the air with no ground or support in sight (The Second Dream: Chapters 2 and 3, The Third Dream: Chapter 2, and The Final Dream: The End are also suspended, but on trees, in water, and in a circulatory system respectively, rather than in air). You can see similar floating islands above the ground in the background of The First Dream: Prologue and above the ocean in The Third Dream: Chapter 3.
  • Wutai: The Second Dream: Chapter 3's background is full of paper lanterns hanging from the trees and has many floating platforms shaped like them. Similarly, The Third Dream: Chapter 3 has Shinto shrines in the background and some of them in the foreground as part of the platforms.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: These can occasionally be seen in the background of The Fourth Dream: Chapter 2.


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