Title: The Bug Butcher
Developer: Awfully Nice Studios
Publisher: Awfully Nice Studios
Genre: Indie Arcade 2D Shooter
Available On: Windows, Linux, MacOS, Switch, Android, iOS, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Official Site: http://www.awfullynicestudios.com/games/
Release Date: November 8th, 2018 for the Switch version (Initial Release Date: January 19, 2016)
I don’t suppose you are familiar with Super Pang? Whilst hardly a cult classic of its generation, Super Pang released on SNES has gained a fair affinity amongst a certain niche of retro gaming fans. It’s well made yet simplistic gameplay allowed for an enjoyable experience, even with its early 90s limitations taken into account. I personally know it better for its North American parody title of Super Buster Bros, an obvious take on Nintendo’s hugely successful platformer series. Honestly, I don’t think Super Pang is exactly an icon of its generation but apparently, the guys over at Awfully Nice Studios beg to differ. They’ve cooked up The Bug Butcher, a Super Pang inspired successor. It’s been 29 years since the original Super Pang released so let’s see exactly how far we’ve come.
The Bug Butcher started life as a mobile game on both Android and iOS. There are certainly still signs of its origins in the Switch port with the overall user interface not feeling optimal for a home console, even if it is technically a portable hybrid. Disappointingly, despite not adding all that much in comparison to their mobile versions, The Bug Butcher on Switch and Steam will set you back $7.99. That’s twice the price of the mobile version. Still, at 8 bucks, it’s not necessarily a terrible price but its something to consider when choosing what version of the game you may want.
Much like the original Super Pang, The Bug Butcher is a 2D arcade vertical shooter where you have to destroy targets that bounce across the screen whilst dodging them. The challenge comes from balancing the lateral movement of Harry, the protagonist, with the timing of shots to eliminate enemies. As someone who went back to play the original Super Pang for comparison sake for this review, I’m happy to say The Bug Butcher feels far superior to play. Movement is fluid and the wide array of powerups and weapons available all feel unique enough to stand out from one another. Any deaths you suffer are most likely your own fault with the game itself never feeling especially unfair. There are plenty of warnings as to where enemies are going to spawn from and enemy attack patterns can be learned fairly quickly.
The negative side to this overall good and fair game design is that The Bug Butcher can feel a little easy at times. Once you have the general feel of the game down and you’ve figured out what the enemies have to offer, there’s not all that much more to it. I found myself being able to comfortably tackle hard levels, the highest difficulty in the game, after just a few hours of playing. I am a little concerned that there may not be a huge skill ceiling present and this might limit replayability. Fortunately, considering how cheap it is in the first place, I think I can let it off for this.
Content-wise, The Bug Butcher is lacking a little for a game in this day and age. Whilst Super Pang may have felt full of things to do in 1990, it doesn’t hold up all that well today. Its spiritual successor feels much the same with the current variety of game modes and options just not offering enough three decades later. There’s only the main story missions, a wave-based arcade mode called Panic, and a somewhat meaningless co-op mode. Both the co-op and single-player Panic modes kept me entertained for a little while but I quickly found myself wanting more than just a generic wave based 2D shooter. They’re fine for trips on the train or just to have some casual fun with a friend but the core of the game comes with its Arcade Story Mode.
The story itself is hardly an emotionally moving tale but it is a relatively funny and chill adventure nonetheless. If you think of the Behemoth Games indie classics like Castle Crashers and Battleblock Theater, I kind of get those vibes from The Bug Butcher. It’s not as good to be brutally honest but the dialogue does offer similar kinds of humor and fun that are always welcome. Progression is focused on both moving through the levels whilst upgrading your primary fire, powerups, and perks for your suit. The weapon upgrades aren’t all that interesting and are more a means to just get through some of the trickier, later game stages. The perk upgrades, however, are cool enough with movement buffs, invulnerability shields and more up for grabs. These actually change the way you play the game so I thought they were better executed than the generic damage per second upgrades most of the weapons got. The story levels suffer from reused assets and a lack of unique stage locations, which can feel a little lazy in places.
Power-ups are purchased through coins that you collect from defeating enemies in stages. It’s not hard to max out Harry with all his available power-ups but it will take a fair bit of time to farm the required coins. If you just play through the story naturally you will eventually end up with most, if not all the upgrades available without going out of your way to get them. The story is paced nicely in that regard. The length of the game really comes down to how much you want to get out of it. The story alone will probably only take between 2 and 3 hours but a completionist run can be anywhere between 7 and 9. Whilst not short for its price, The Bug Butcher is by no means a long game either.
Verdict: The Bug Butcher is a very average game that offers a fair amount for a respectable price. Whilst doing nothing significant, it doesn’t do all that much wrong either. A decent spiritual successor to Super Pang but not much more. I’d definitely consider the mobile versions before the home console versions as I think it’s limited playtime offerings fit better for an on the go experience. For those that do actually use their Switch out and about, there is likely still sufficient reasons for you to pick this up, especially if you value the larger screen to play on. Awfully Nice Studios can be happy enough with the final product they’ve managed to deliver but personally, I would have liked to have seen a little more. Long story short, it’s alright.
- Gameplay feels very smooth and responsive.
- Death is never the game's fault. Failure feels fair and it's rewarding to improve.
- Strong variety of weapons and power-ups to use.
- Relatively funny and strong dialogue albeit somewhat sparse.
- A decent spiritual successor to Super Pang, not much else though.
- Lacks a decent skill ceiling, gets too easy, too quickly.
- Could have done with a little more content and things to do.
- Switch version is a tiny bit too pricey considering the mobile versions are half the price.
I’m a passionate games critic who has been writing actively since 2015. I have a particular interest in both racing games and JRPGs as well as a love for Overwatch and its eSports scene. I consider gaming and writing my two big passions in life. So much so that I’m currently studying a one of a kind degree that covers both in one! My goal in life is simply to become a renowned critic who is respected for his opinions.