Title: The Bug Butcher
Version Tested: PC
Available on: PC
Developer: Awfully Nice Studios
Publisher: Awfully Nice Studios
Genre: Action, Arcade, Indie
Official Site: http://www.awfullynicestudios.com/games/
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Where to Buy: Steam
When I was a young’un, one of my favorite treats was a trip down the road to Pizza Hut. I loved the giant, red, plastic glasses full of Coke. I loved the greasy breadsticks and even greasier pizza. And I loved the sit-down arcade machine copy of Super Buster Bros. sitting in the corner. Known as Super Pang outside the United States, I pumped as many quarters into that machine as I could wheedle out of my parents. The Bug Butcher draws heavy inspiration from that title, but it is not just a nostalgic look to a great game of the past. It drops a shiny new coat of paint on the old formula, bringing an updated sense of speed and power to an old favorite. The Bug Butcher is easy to recommend for any fan of arcade-style action games, and especially for those who love leaderboard competitions with their friends.
In The Bug Butcher, the player takes control of Harry, an intergalactic exterminator with some serious firepower at his disposal. Your goal is to move through a research facility, shooting straight up as bugs gradually fill up the screen and attempt to kill you. It is a very simple premise that rewards quick decision making and demands risk achieving high score. The only real controls are fire, deploy a super weapon and dash. The dash ability is what truly makes the game fun, as it leads to insane combo scores, close escapes, and plenty of replay-worth moments.
The heart of scoring in The Bug Butcher lies in the combo meter, which increases every time you kill an enemy. It resets if you are hit or if you take too long to kill the next bug (four seconds on the default setting). In order to reach the top of the leaderboards, that combo needs to never reset from the beginning of the level to the end. Although the difficulty is not very high if you are merely trying to survive, the entire basis of the gameplay involves trying to max out the combo meter, increasing the amount of coins you earn for each kill you make. This leads to split-second strategic decisions: how much dashing should I do? When should I deploy my special weapons and pick up powerups? Which enemies should I focus down first? It’s a system driven entirely by how well you as a player want to do, and it rewards you for taking chances and thinking on your feet.
The excellent system mechanics would be a moot point if the game looked or played terribly. Luckily, this is far from the case. The graphics are nice, with excellent animation and a quirky, Castle Crashers-esque style. The soundtrack and effects accompanying your guns and the enemies are very well done. Finally, the controls are incredibly precise. Even though the action on the screen is rather chaotic, you always feel in control of your character and his weapons. Every time you die (and if you are aiming for high scores on the hardest difficulty, you will), you know it was not a glitch in the game or unfair AI that did you in. It was always a flaw in your decision making or execution, and this gives The Bug Butcher that addictive, “one more round” quality that all good arcade games should have.
Two man development team Awfully Nice Studios clearly have a good core mechanic and the skeleton to support it, and really the only negative thing to say about The Bug Butcher is that there is not enough of it. That and the awful menu navigation, but that’s a nitpicky detail. In the core arcade game, there are thirty levels across five different zones. Each zone changes up the gameplay a little bit, but ultimately it is just a different hazard to worry about. In addition to the arcade experience, there is also a mode that just tasks you with increasingly difficult waves of enemies and surviving as long as possible. This second mode can also be played with a second player, which adds a nice twist to the standard gameplay. This lack of too many bells and whistles is nice in a way, as it lets you focus on honing your skills and striving to increase your scores. At the same time, a game this fun practically demands more; I wish there were more dramatic twists to how the mechanics play out.
Overall, The Bug Butcher is a great pickup for people who like fast moving action games. The gameplay itself is very heavily inspired by a classic arcade series, but modernized and revamped just enough to let it stand out on its own. The addictive qualities of the game can lead to loss of sleep as you strive to beat your high scores. The menu navigation is a bit frustrating, although it is a negligible part of the game, and I wish there were a bit more to it, but you could do much worse than sitting down with this one.
- Gameplay: Precise controls and frantic, combo-based scoring. Not much variety, but executed well.
- Graphics: Cute and colorful. Good animation.
- Sound: The Cool soundtrack. Everything is distinctive.
- Presentation: Strange but fun arcade setup. Not much story to speak of. Menus could use some work.
- Fast paced, combo driven scoring works well
- Stylish presentation
- Precise controls
- Addictive and just plain fun
- Not much depth
- Solely score driven challenge
- Menu navigation is annoying