There is a certain “sweet spot” when it comes to difficulty in video games. If the game developer can make the player fail a-dozen-or-two times before succeeding, the game ultimately delivers a grand sense of accomplishment without severely punishing the player for attempting the challenge in the first place. Lots of old video games were very close to this sweet spot, but succumbed to unrefined mechanics that subtly wasted the players time. And with more modern games becoming multiplayer-focused, or easier in order to compliment more cinematic campaign modes, there have been very few games that hit the difficulty sweet spot. Thankfully, They Bleed Pixels is one of the few games that aims for that sweet spot and successfully nails it.
As was stated, the combat is solely based on one button. While it is awkward at first, it does get easier to use as time goes on. Based on the state of the directional pad and the position of the character, the player will perform a different actions. A perfect example is the difference between kicking and stabbing. If the player is standing still, the character will kick an enemy. If the player is moving forward, they’ll end up stabbing enemies. Once mastered, this system provides flexibility to the combat and most importantly, it’s entertaining.
The second criticism is the checkpoint system. Instead of a standard system that involves getting to a certain place before the game autosaves that position, the game instead opts for a system it calls “Save Sigils.” An on-screen metre fills as points are acquired from killing enemies and the player can place a checkpoint where they desire once filled. Upon death, which happens quite often, you’ll immediately time-warp back to the last save sigil placed. While it’s a new system and one that does encourage strategic playing, it can also leave the player in unsatisfactory places at times. What also doesn’t help is that save sigils are set by placing the character into a neutral stance. While the transition from starting to cast a save sigil and starting to move is fairly quick, there were a few times where I died specifically because the game attempted to cast a save sigil while I was still in the process of clearing a room full of enemies.