I haven’t gotten this upset at a game in a long, long time.
In fact, I don’t know if I’ve EVER been this frustrated because of a game.
When I say that I’m upset at the game, I mean just that – the game itself makes me want to squeeze the controller into bits and pieces. I’ve been angry in games before, but usually the rage and frustration comes from other people I’m playing the game with (an inept or trolling teammate, or perhaps some rather vocal and childish opponents).
This is a different beast altogether. This goes beyond quitting the game in a huff and wanting to physically destroy something. This delves into that feeling that a lot of gamers have gone through where you are just sitting there growling at the screen and pouring all of your frustration out as a hatred for every pixel on the screen and process in the game and gadget in the controller or keyboard that is keeping you from doing what you want to do. You have the mental capabilities to complete the task. You have a plan for how to solve your dilemma. You know exactly what you have to do, but for some reason – whether it be a lack of coordination or some cheese from the game itself like a difficult obsticle or a horde of enemies or perhaps some task that requires you to do it PERFECTLY and, let’s face it, that ain’t happening – you just CAN’T SEEM TO F**KING DO IT AND EVERY SUBSEQUENT ATTEMPT MAKES THAT VEIN ON YOUR FOREHEAD GROW LARGER AND LARGER AND YOU JUST WANT TO BURN THE WORLD TO THE GROUND BECAUSE F**K EVERYTHING!!!
You know the feeling.
I will say that I’m glad that I stopped recording when I did because the game got exponentially more difficult after that point. As I was going through I had the idea to actually take screen captures while running through the stages. I’d like to share with you some images and stories of my hellish crawl through the rest of this game.
This whimsical little masterpiece came at the end of one of the stages in Chapter 2. There is a central platform that holds the exit door, but it is behind four locked plates. The switches for these plates are on four platforms to the diagonals of this main platform. Also, there are five or six of these ghastly flying witch-creatures hovering about the general vicinity that are ready to wreck your s**t. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem except for the fact that these banshees teleport behind you after every couple of hits, therefore making it easy to get yourself surrounded. Also trying to jump from platform to platform while flying enemies block your path and knock you down into a pit of spikes is a bit infuriating as well.
There was nothing particularly difficult about this specific section of the stage. But this is the beginning of a showcase of the Third Dream, in which the game begins to get buzzsaw-happy.
They’re f**king everywhere. They line the floors, ceilings, and walls. They hover in the air in terribly inconvenient places and phalanxes of them will follow behind you in certain sections so you will be forced to boost through enemies, switches and locked doors, slippery terrain, and other buzzsaws before this spinning metal-toothed death-wall catches you.
This happened a metric ass-ton number of times.
Then, if the insane amount of buzzsaws wasn’t enough, the game starts adding in moving platforms. Above we see how you start off a stage in Dream Three where the platforms are pressure-sensitive and will drop quickly onto the buzzsaws below if you don’t hurry your sweet lobster-clawed ass up.
Oh man. Here we see one of the many obstacles that I had to stumble through countless times in order to simply set a checkpoint on the other side. This often brought the game to a crawl as I had to set checkpoint after checkpoint immediately after every single death trap. This was a series of three chambers surrounded by chains of buzzsaws circling around the outer walls. Inside each chamber was a shambler and a little bomb-goblin guy. I could easily kill the shambler and the goblin, but once the bomb was armed it was nearly impossible to get that thing out of the chamber so that it didn’t blow up beside me. And I myself couldn’t escape because by that point the buzzsaw chain would have rotated into a position that would trap me inside. So all I could do was sit there and watch the bomb, hoping to leap out of the way in time to not take damage from the central blast, but also not let the outer blast launch me into the buzzsaws all around me.
As I said earlier, there were three of these chambers in a row. You only have three hearts of health in the game. So if I screwed up more than one of these rooms, I was dead. And what, you may ask, was my reward for getting through this section alive? What was waiting for me on the other side of my new checkpoint?
A CLIMB UP A CHAIN LACED WITH BUZZSAWS AND TINY FLYING CTHULHUS!!! OH, AND THE BUZZSAWS CHASED ME UP THE CHAIN ONCE I GOT PASSED A CERTAIN POINT! SON OF A BITCH!
Later on there’s a section where I had to slide down these stalactites and use the double-jump at the last second to get to the next stalactite. Underneath me were insta-death spikes and there were buzzsaws running around the walls, so I had to time all the jumps in a way that wouldn’t dismember me. Fun times.
After I got to the other side by going above the spikes, I had to run back the other way through the spikes to get a switch to a locked door. Along the way there were a few of the goblin-bomb guys, and if I tried to jump away from them to keep from taking damage I would just impale myself on the spikes. But if I stuck around them they could send me flying upwards, in which case I would become impaled on spikes anyway. This whole sequence of over-under to get to the switch had to be done in one shot – no possibility of setting a checkpoint once I landed from the above before I trudged through the below.
After completing that section, there was the final dreary little stage of the Third Dream. This stage loooved to throw precise jumps at me, much like the one above.
Also this jump.
Aaand this jump, too. The five buzzsaws moved up and down, so I had to time the jump so they wouldn’t come crashing back down onto me. And of course, right after that jump was a shambler which knocked me back into the toothy death pit the first time I made it through. What a douchebag.
The Fourth Dream consisted of three fire-themed stages which – while difficult – looked really cool. This first stage had tons of dragons, demons, and skulls made out of the platforms.
This hallway. Oh man. This hallway can stay in hell as far as I’m concerned. The floor is covered with that goop that kept me in constant motion, there are shamblers in the way, and the forked spikes that raise and lower instantly killed me if a single hair was caught underneath it.
Later on I stumbled into a chasm where I had to slide down one wall, then jump across to the other side in order to avoid the buzzsaws placed in the middle of the shaft. Oh! – also there were two buzzsaws that followed me down from the top shaft as an incentive to keep me moving along. Yippee.
The last push through this first stage in the Fourth Dream was an ascending elevator platform flanked by moving buzzsaws.
After pushing through several waves of buzzsaws, I emerged from a forest of bloody spikes to a series of occupied platforms.
After dispatching the monsters around this final zone, there was a set of switches that I had to flip in order to get to the exit. And thus ended the first of three stages in this final dream.
The second stage was set against a background of pipes and furnaces that resembled the lit windows of a segmented metropolis. The stage itself was confined to many corridors and tunnels in order to mimic the setting behind it. This stage honestly wasn’t too bad, which was a nice change of pace. Only one stage to go in this final dream. I am almost to the end! Bring on the final stage!
The third and final stage in the Fourth Dream was mechanically-themed. Set against a backdrop of a network of gears and engines, the cog-shaped platforms and walls that I had to maneuver through just seemed really cool.
There was much more symmetry in the areas of this last stage, as well as more timed and patterned obstacles. That didn’t make it any less difficult to get through, though.
Here is a hallway that sent buzzsaws towards you at regularly timed intervals. At the end of their run they would dip into the floor and cycle back to the beginning, creating a conveyor belt-like obstacle to get through by hanging onto the wall in the many notched safe areas, dropping down after a buzzsaw passed, and rushing to the next safe area.
Eventually, I came across a section that required me to climb up the outside walls of several platform cogs placed along a shaft. As I climbed, buzzsaws from the opposite wall would move across the shaft in an effort to pin me to the wall I was clinging to. I had to double-jump out and up to quickly hop from one spoke of the cog to the next in order to get past the wave of buzzsaws. After reaching the top of one of the cogs I would have to take a giant leap up and across the shaft to the other side to start the process again with a new set of buzzsaws.
After reaching the top of that shaft, there was a long hallway covered in the slick goop that I had seen all over several walls and floors beforehand. Running full speed into this hallway sent me careening down a path that required me to duck under low ceilings and jump over raised bumps at the right times. Screwing up even one of these ducks or hops would make me either lose momentum or send me flying back from where I came from, which (of course) was now blocked by a wall of buzzsaws chasing after me.
But everything in this stage up to this point had been a lazy Sunday nap with a kitten compared to the insanity and fury that I was about to encounter.
F**k. That. S**t.
This F**KING room sapped an entire 30 minutes from me. This complex pattern of shifting buzzsaws blocking the five (yes – f**king five!) switches necessary to advance was my own personal hell for quite a large chunk of time. I have no idea how many times I died in this room – probably over a hundred. At the beginning I tried going through all helter skelter, but that only ended in dismemberment and shame. I eventually started dodging about and watching for patterns in the movement of the walls of blades cycling through the air. Slowly but surely I created a path to follow and began attempting to hit all the switches in the room without becoming a crimson mist.
Time after time I failed, and time after time my jaw locked down tighter and tighter, my fingers slammed against the buttons harder and harder, and after every death I would let out a louder and longer growl. Eventually I was screaming at the screen, becoming angry at the possessed little girl that I was controlling. It wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t getting through the room, it was her fault. I was doing everything perfectly, but she just wouldn’t do what I told her to do. “You like that?! Do you enjoy not jumping when I tell you to jump and then falling to your gory death through rows of hot, spinning metal teeth?! DO YOU??!!”
I became livid. I was getting out of my chair and pacing the room quickly between respawns. I had spiraled into an uncontrollable and illogical fury. I could have set the controller down. I could have turned the whole thing off and come back to this section at a later point. Hell – I could’ve called it quits right there and never picked up the game again.
But I didn’t. I pressed on. Every time I got closer and closer. I eventually got all five switches open, dropped down into the room below me – the final room in this stage, mind you – and immediately was sent to a pokey death at the floor thanks to tiny platforms with circling buzzsaws, ghastly flying ghouls, and tiny cthulhu babies.
I respawned and pushed through the room crowded with blades and switches once more, and this time I was ready for what lay beneath me. I failed again and again at surviving the second room, but navigating the first room became second nature. I didn’t even think about where to go or when to jump or duck. In such a small span of time it had all become automatic.
I eventually survived in the last room long enough for the four blades blocking the exit to move up and away, allowing me to jump across to the right and complete the stage and the Fourth Dream.
I was almost out of it. The End was nigh.
My score card for the last stage. Yes – that last stage took me almost an hour to complete. I died 161 times on that stage alone, most of which were in that horrific next-to-last room. But I came this far, and I sure as s**t wouldn’t give up now.
After waking, I found my character outside in some sort of summoning or sacrificial circle on the lawn of the boarding school, the headmaster standing over me with that wretched book that had damned me to so many nightmares in one hand and a pronged blade in the other.
As he read his selected incantation, I looked around. What were these foul creatures? Were these my classmates, deformed by our headmaster into shadowy beasts of horror?
Welp… only one way to fix this. STABBY STAB STAB!
And what better way to start the final depraved descent into madness than some lyrics from Bjork. I mean, really.
Right out the gate this stage starts kicking my butt. There are enemies, buzzsaws, and spikes all over the place! This shaft especially vexed me. It’s similar to other obstacles that I’d seen in previous stages, but everything was just ramped up to eleven. There were more buzzsaws on the walls, smaller spaces to jump through, a longer distance to travel before getting to a resting place, and the buzzsaws that chased behind me moved a bit quicker. This game just took everything that caused me pain and suffering in previous stages – sections that I had to run over and over and over again – and made everything about it WORSE! Just… wow.
There were six or seven different sections in the stage to overcome. At the end of each section was a page to collect (if I could reach it before a timed mechanism clamped down on it), as well as a door to the next zone. These doors were also rigged to release after a certain amount of time, and they invariably were placed underneath me so I would be dropped into the next zone to immediately start fighting through the waves of enemies and traps before me.
Each section also had juuust the right amount of enemies, hearts, or a combination thereof to grant me a full bar so I could set a checkpoint at the end of each section. That is, if I got to the end of the section in time (with a full bar) in order to stand still and go through the “creating checkpoint” animation. Oftentimes it came down to the wire, and it was about 50/50 that I would set the checkpoint or be dropped into the next layer of hell with no anchor to jump back to. Well… other than the previous checkpoint I had set, which was now two zones behind me. Yippee.
One of the most excruciatingly annoying sections of the stage to go through was this one: I started at the bottom of a wide pit. Below me was a chain of wall-to-wall buzzsaws that would slowly ascend after the door opened. Above me were tons of slippery platforms that had more buzzsaws circling around their perimeters. AND – to top it all off – there was a cloud of these ballistic chibi-cthulhus chasing me and lunging at me throughout my entire perilous climb.
I died in this room more times than I care to admit or care to care about. Moving along….
Oh god. This area.
Allow me to start at the beginning of this area and work my way up to where this picture was taken.
This zone started at the bottom of a long chasm that had a rising platform for you to use as a vessel to the top. Along the ground around me was a forest of long insta-death spikes that would end me if I fell from my chariot-to-the-sun. The first section consisted of dodging moving walls of buzzsaws. Not too bad. Thanks to the double-jump feature, this was quite an easy task.
Next came a few places where there was a section of the wall that was not covered in slippery goop, and above me was a thin platform covered on all sides by small spikes and attached to one of the walls. To get past it, I simply had to wait until I was almost to the spikes on the underside, jump either to the left or the right, then either use the second jump to land on the platform after it had risen through the spikes, or cling to an open spot on a wall and wait for the platform to surface. Once again, no biggie.
Then… then, I got to this f**kfest. The chasm narrows at this point in the climb and the walls become lined with spikes. Along the way there are teeny-tiny platforms with spikes underneath them (which wrecked my bacon several times as I was pinned against them like Emilio Estevez in “Mission: Impossible”) which each hold a shambler. There are about ten of these platforms in this section, and then there’s the door to the next zone.
This part of the zone obliterated my spirit, crushed my soul, devoured my hope, and crapped out my resolve! I cannot begin to explain to you the utter rage and resentment I had – AND STILL HAVE – for this section. I tried plowing through this toothy throat two different ways: riding on the platform and SPARTA!-kicking all of the shamblers off, or waiting for the platform to pass and jumping up from one node to the next. The first option immediately flew out the window because the platform is pretty much the same width as the chasm, so it picked up EVERY shambler and made it damn near impossible to kick even one of them off. So with several uninvited guests now cruising along with me to the top of Mount F**k-it-all, I had to try to keep them away from me while trying to kill them (which requires two different attacks, mind you) while dodging their attacks while dodging spiked islands as they passed by me while not jumping and impaling myself on the wall of pokiness.
Needless to say, that strategy failed horribly. Every. Time.
So, on to Plan B – jumping into the side room on the right (which housed a collectible page, so… woohoo), waiting for the platform to go ahead of me and pick up all of the shamblers, then let the platform reach the top and have all the shamblers phase through it out the bottom where they fall back down and either land back on a floating island or fall to their deaths.
This plan worked a helluva lot better. It still took several tries to get through it, but it allowed me to go at my own pace instead of that of the moving platform, it allowed me to fight the shamblers one at a time instead of all at once, it allowed me to kick them off into the spikes below or beside me, and it usually killed about half of the enemies without my intervention since they would fall all the way down to the bottom and become shambler-kabobs.
Now, all that being said, every time I died (which happened a great deal in this section) I would have to start the whole zone over again from the very bottom. The early parts were simple as I was just dodging buzzsaws and spikes, and I got the rhythm of that half of the climb down quickly and easily. But I eventually became so tense and flustered from dying again and again in the last section of the climb that I would then skewer myself against the easily-avoidable death traps at the beginning.
This is the one and only time in the game where I had to walk away. I was so wound up and livid that I couldn’t get past the easy parts of the section, so there was no way I’d be able to keep a focused, level head through the difficult last part. I just saved the game, shut it down, and walked out of the room.
The next day, I booted the game up again and started right back where I had left off. I eventually (miraculously!) made it to the top…
ONLY TO BE KILLED AS A TRAP DOOR SPRUNG SHUT AND CLEAVED ME IN HALF!!!
So, I again started from the bottom of the shaft, and again I made it to the top, but this time I got past the trap door without being cut right in two. I even a full meter and enough time to set a checkpoint (and I thank the entire pantheon of gods for that).
Once I made it up the last little bit of chasm I arrived in a gladiatorial arena. Wave after wave of monsters was dropped on me, and the only way out was to kick every ass soundly back to hell. After giving the beasts and specters a good walloping, the gate to the right opened up to a familiar orientation: a series of stalactites where I had to double-jump from one to the other, all while dodging the buzzsaws that occupied the platforms and keeping from falling into the punji pit below.
Even though this was a familiar set-up to me, the game decided to throw one last trick at me in this final push – specters. Yep. I had to participate in near-aerial combat with one last batch of ghostly bitches as I crossed this parade of blades. Oh boy.
When I finally made it across the the chasm, I found the switch that would allow me to pass through the locked gate back in the arena.
After kicking the switch and setting a checkpoint, I rode the ever-so-conveniently-placed platform back to the arena. FINALLY, this game is being a little nice to me.
I fought my way to the left of the arena and dismantled another series of nightmarish creatures. Then came the final section of this stage and the game itself…
As I ascended the last elevator shaft on last platform, I dreaded what I would find at the top. What atrocity would I have to fight? What big “final boss” would I face? Or worse – what last puzzle or platform challenge would I have to suffer through? It was time to find out.
Huh. I’m now locked in a small cage with a huge heart. What awful powers does it possess?!
Well… it’s not doing anything. Guess I’ll stab it a bunch.
… Alright. I’m actually kinda cool with that. (Once again, huuuge death count.)
And that was the end of “They Bleed Pixels”. Or, rather, that was the end of the main campaign. There are three other stages made by other developers that you can play through as well. One is “All Hallow’s Eve”, in which you travel through a Halloween-themed stage and kill monsters in specified ways to collect candy (100 pieces in all).
I didn’t play that stage for very long. I was kinda strung out on challenges and had no patience left to attempt to kick monsters into specific pits or buzzsaws or whatever.
Another available stage was “Seraphs Bleed Star Dust”. This stage was such a different experience compared to the main game. The music was super chill, the background was a cool night sky filled with stars and planets, some of the enemies were re-skinned to be simply balls of light darting around, the protagonist was a white shadow, and instead of collecting blood I collected dream fragments.
It was just… nice.
I wound up completing that stage and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The last stage was……. wellll……
Let’s just say it was very special.
Now then, AAAAAAALL this being said – after all the over-dramatic bitching and frustration and hatred that this game spawned in me – I actually enjoyed this game.
… Don’t look at me like that. I’m being serious.
It was the first really challenging game I’ve played in a long time, but I enjoyed the challenge that it presented. There were a few rooms where I thought “Well this is some cheap s**t right here!”, but I got through it eventually, proving that it was difficult but not impossible. Rarely any of the jumps or fights required absolute perfection, and a few of the puzzles allowed for multiple paths to success.
The atmosphere and backgrounds for the stages were cool and effectively mirrored the different elements that the book (and thereby the girl’s dreams) was surrounded by. The music was enjoyable without becoming annoying. The level design was sadistic, but obviously was well-thought-out and flowed well.
It was just a fun game.
Now, am I going to go back and try to get all the achievements?
But I feel great even going through the game the one time, because on several stages I got a rank “A” (rank “S” is the highest). And that was just fumbling through it on the first try. Feels good, man.
Also, what I said earlier about the different elements affecting the stages – it didn’t really hit me until I started the Fourth Dream that the settings for the stages were mimicking what the girl was doing to the book to try to get rid of it. After the first dream she buries the book, then she tries to sink it in a nearby river, then she tries to incinerate it in the school’s furnace. And with that, the book was affected by its surroundings, which you can see in the background of the stages in the different dreams:
That’s pretty neat-o.
So yeah, while this game made me rage harder than I have at anything in a long, long time, I had a lot of fun and actually feel a sense of accomplishment having beaten it.
If you’re a fan of side-scrolling platformers and/or games that challenge your skills and reaction times, you should definitely check this game out!