by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Deep characters are great. Well written plots and intricate game mechanics are swell too. Yet, sometimes a game comes along and eschews quantity in favor of doing a few simple things really, really well. This is one of those games. Our story starts, as these things often do, with a random building under attack by bug monsters. Why? What’s at stake? These aren’t the important questions. All that matters is that you’re the titular Bug Butcher, and you’re the only person that can exterminate the issue. With only two game modes, four buttons, and a basically non-existent “story,” The Bug Butcher has become my favorite game of this young new year.
Ease Into Mayhem
Given how screen-fillingly bonkers the game gets within the first 15 minutes, something I appreciated was the efficiency with which the game's few but important mechanics were introduced. The general idea is simple. You’ll be stuck in a room, bug monsters enter from all sides in waves, and you need to take them out before the times reaches zero. Given that you can only move side to side, dash, and shoot straight upwards, positioning and timing are the names of the game. At first you’ll be asked to just shoot some generic bugs that float and bounce. Then weapon upgrades are introduced, followed by some new weapons like rockets, beam lasers, and more. New bug types behave differently and there are environmental elements that are added, keeping everything fresh from start to finish. After not much time at all there are so many things flying around the screen that you’ll wonder how you’re handling it, yet somehow you will be.
One of the reasons that everything works is that the game plays incredibly smoothly. Movement is crisp, tight, and reliable, which is the cornerstone to the twitch gameplay staying fair. I died a lot, yet at no point in my playtime did I ever felt like I died unfairly. I’d let out an audible, Vader-esque “Noooooo,” blame myself for making a stupid move or wasting a powerup at a stupid time, and immediately want to jump right back in. There were no rage-quits as far as the eye could see.
Better With a Friend
While the campaign is a fun romp, there’s a challenge mode that’s also a blast. Instead of progressing through levels, you’re thrown into the game with a timer and four lives and must keep killing to add more time while avoiding losing your health. I didn’t expect much substance here, but it’s where I ended up spending most of my time. The screen is absolute mayhem, but you’ll hit a “groove” of movement and destruction that is incredibly satisfying. Its also worth noting that the mayhem is absolutely beautiful. The graphics have a hand drawn look that are incredibly crisp and vibrantly colored. I’m absolutely in love with the bug designs, which are the perfect mix of horrendously ugly and adorably huggable. As fun as this challenge is, it’s even more fun with the ability to tackle it with a friend, which doubles the frantic fun and puts even more blasting on-screen. It's important to note that co-op is local only, so if you have a friend who wants to kill bugs as badly as you do they'll have to take a seat right beside to get in on the action.
As much as I like this game, which is hopefully clear by now, it’s one of my more challenging reviews to write because there just isn’t a ton to say. There’s only the two game modes. All you can do is move left, right, shoot straight up, and activate a few power ups. There’s no real story to analyze, maps to dissect, or unlocks to sift through. It has a very narrow focus, but it does everything within its scope very well with a high level of polish. The Bug Butcher is an addictive game for all the right reasons, and one that should be on everyone’s radar.
Good introduction to mechanics, solid controls, challenging but fair, beautiful artwork