When I was a kid, one of my favourite games to play was Alien Hominid for the GameCube. Partly because it was a fun, gory romp with cartoony graphics and a wonderful sense of humour, but also because it was an enhanced port of the Newgrounds original of the same name. Since that gameâs release, Iâve seen my fair share (both good and bad) of games with a similar idea. So when I first picked up The Bug Butcher, I had a mix of anticipation and dread.
Sadly, you canât destroy all the bugs in this game.
Developed by newcomers to the scene Awfully Nice Studios, The Bug Butcher is a sci-fi arcade shooter with a visual style, as previously mentioned, reminiscent of games like Alien Hominid. In it, you play as a gruff soldier who has to make his way through an outpost with the help of the oddly square scientists in each level. Using a variety of weapons and power-ups, itâs up to the player to destroy all the insects invading the base and killing everyone.
Of course, in order to slaughter the arthropods, you must shoot directly above you as they bounce all over the place, with some bugs having special abilities, or special attack patterns that the player needs to anticipate, lest they become squished underneath a gigantic pink space tick. Avoiding getting hit serves two purposes however. Aside from losing a life tank on hit, you also lose your kill combo multiplier, an important mechanic that lets you get more coins to upgrade weapons and powers.
Keeping in classic arcade tradition, the more bugs you kill in quick succession, the better your score at the end will be. Unlike other arcade style games of similar build, however, The Bug Butcher actually incentives obtaining a high score, as each level has four stars you can obtain, and each star grants you bonus cash to supplement the meagre droppings youâll get from smashing bug exoskeletons.
While imposing, the level designs are nothing compared to the enemies from time to time.
Aside from coins, killing bugs will also net you different power-up blobs and weapon pick upâs that range from âextremely usefulâ to âavoid at all costsâ. Pickups like Bulletstorm and Double Damage will help you clear out rooms with ease, but then certain weapon pickups such as the rocket launcher will make doing anything productive a chore. Rocket launcher aside though, most of the weapons are fun to use, with interesting visual effects and great situational variance.
Following this trend of useful variance, you also have a slightly smaller list of power-ups to activate. Ranging from classic invulnerability to spamming rockets that seek out each on-screen target, every power-up feels extremely fun when used.
Both the activated powers and dropped weapons do suffer from one slight problem however, namely in their random nature. You can spend money after each mission to upgrade the power and duration for each weapon and upgrade (aside from bulletstorm and double damage), but aside from feeling largely unnecessary due to the pickups already being immensely powerful, you probably wonât drop money into these temporary upgrades. As well, the activated power-up mechanic will feel a little bit frustrating, since some power-ups are infinitely more useful on different maps.
Speaking of maps, theyâre all fairly gorgeous all things considered. For such a cartoony looking game, each map in the facility is wonderfully designed to give off that Aliens vibe. From start to finish, youâll find yourself working through some finely crafted environments that become slightly more challenging the farther you progress in game. Though, as nice as the maps look, you can expect most of them to become pretty stale quickly. Each stage needs to be beaten five times, with the six stage of the level being an elevator section that never really changes much from the first time you encounter it.
The dialog between the Bug Butcher and the Scientist is fairly amusing throughout the game.
While you may get tired of the stage designs, monster designs will keep the player disturbingly intrigued throughout the entire game. With designs ranging from âGiant Pink Space Tickâ to âGigantic Orange Anus that Vomits Fireâ, youâll never find yourself bored with enemy variety. Although, most enemies will go down easily enough with only a few shots. Most of the tougher enemies seem to be mini-bosses that will only spawn one at a time, limiting the amount of challenge youâll receive to tough, but not too tough.
If you do get tired of fighting bugs that resemble human anatomy, however, The Bug Butcher does throw you two alternatives. Panic and Co-Op Panic thrust you into any main stage, where you need to fight off wave after wave of bugs while trying not to die.
Panic mode by itself is, functionally, fine. Itâs pretty much the same as playing a never ending version to any of the main game missions, with the added difficulty of only being able to select Medium or Hard difficulties. Co-Op panic mode, while I would like to imagine it working flawlessly, only amounted to some levels of frustration; my roommate and I being unable to efficiently share space on my laptopâs keyboard.
As fun at the game is though, it still has its fair share of problems plaguing it. Gameplay does become stale fairly quickly, and the game is riddled with some non-enemy bugs. Nothing too big, mind you, but I found my combo counter resetting from time to time without any actual impetus behind it, and I couldnât play the tutorial level due to a weird glitch; which caused my character to become stuck in a single frame of his firing animation, and became unmovable.
Overall though, The Bug Butcher is a great title. Itâs basic, but since it doesnât try to do too much with its basic premise, it ends up nailing all the basics. Balancing that with its tough, yet fair, level of challenge, its unique graphical style, and its fast paced gameplay, I could see anyone dropping the $8 The Bug Butcher asks for on Steam. Even if you only get a few hours of fun out of it, The Bug Butcher is definitely worth it.