The day Valve announced the availability of the television-friendly Big Picture Mode for Steam I hooked up my laptop to the PC, dug out my Bluetooth game controller, and began downloading Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.
I soon realised that download would take forever, and grabbed a 319 megabyte copy of Spooky Squid Games' beat-em up/platformer They Bleed Pixels. This was an incredibly good decision.
Big Picture Mode is a great opportunity for PC gamers that prefer the couch to kick the console habit and play the latest "AAA" titles, but more importantly it's a chance for the independent creators of gamepad-friendly games like They Bleed Pixels to rise to the fore. You can go make yourself a sandwich, read a book, or watch a season of TV on DVD while you download a big name title, or you can be up and running with a gem like this in minutes.
They Bleed Pixels is indeed a gem; a blood-red one that, if you look closely, is coloured with your own vital fluids. It's the story of a young girl with razor-sharp claws exploring the Lovecraftian world of her nightmares. It's therapeutic, the way she tears into her enemies using simple one-button controls, kicking, tearing and air-juggling them to pieces while navigating some truly devious platforming levels.
I particularly love the game's checkpoint system. Rather than set locations, you collect magical orbs as you make your way through each level. Once you gather enough you simply find yourself a safe place, stand still, and fwoosh — instant checkpoint. Gathering that final orb after a particularly intense series of jumps is like making a first down in football, only you're a little girl with her hands dripping with blood. I'd watch that.
They Bleed Pixels is an unforgiving platforming experience, punishing you for each misstep with a shower of pixelated gore. The controls are incredibly tight too, so you know that when you screw up, it was definitely you that screwed up.
They Bleed Pixels is the perfect way to introduce Steam to your television set. The retro graphics look gorgeous on my 46-inch Westinghouse, DJ Finish Him's creepy-cool soundtrack sounds amazing coming out of my sound bar (yes, I need to upgrade), and the punishment the game doles out is no less than I deserve for relegating wonderful experiences like this to the monitor screen for so long.
They Bleed Pixels — $US9.99 [Steam]