For someone who traditionally looks for insightful depth and meaning in his gaming experiences, I’ll admit that I also have a blast with games that offer almost no emotional content. Arcade games engage the mind with pure skill challenge and high-score style competition, though the
The exceptionally generically-named arcade shooter The Bug Butcher turns out to deliver that experience in spades. With energetic dubstep music, great enemy variety, and a host of weaponry, butchering bugs hasn’t been this fun in a long time.
Awfully Nice Studios combined feelings of a fast-paced Galaga or Space Invaders with the crazy, absurd humor of titles like Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers in The Bug Butcher. Playing as the wisecracking anti-hero, Harry, players use his rapid-fire energy cannon to slaughter hordes of bugs. Only catch: he only shoots up. Though bugs spawn from above, below, and the sides of Harry, they all bounce or fly during travel, leaving precise windows to knock them out of the sky. It’s a delicate dance of dodging and shooting in each level, but speed is of the essence: if time runs out, Harry dies instantly. Still, racking up kills while remaining unharmed increases the score multiplier, so balancing speed and precision is key.
Harry’s only kinda going it alone, though; the scientists he’s been hired to save also provide him powerups as the onslaught progresses. Double-damage and increased fire rate pickups spawn periodically, but the scientists will also provide Harry new guns like laser beams, miniguns, and electroshock cores that rip through multiple enemies. Harry also gets temporary powerups like room freezing and invincibility by inflicting damage to enemies, so there’s no shortage of damage enhancements to go around. Even with those bonuses, though, the game challenges via clever level and enemy design.
The Bug Butcher offers three play modes: a campaign with 30 levels set across five different locations, an endless single-player mode, and a local co-op which two players can play on the same keyboard if so desired. Each of the five campaign stages offers slight layout changes that make their new enemies more challenging: for instance, destructible ceilings can protect you from aerial attacks, but prevent you from killing enemies above you. In another level, laser beams drop from the ceiling periodically, restricting enemy movements to small columns that you have to move between to keep your kill count increasing.
And the enemies themselves are varied and challenging: from the headsucker that instantly kills you if it jumps on top of you, to the bloated baby carriers that drop to the ground and spawn babies with each hop, there’s a special approach to each type of enemy that makes them challenging, yet manageable. By the time you’re late in an endless mode or in a later campaign mode, though, all hell breaks loose and it’s a white-knuckle frag fest for survival.
All of this energy is supplemented by a great dubstep soundtrack and a light, but useful upgrade system. Even though there weren’t many tracks in the soundtrack, it never felt old and always added to the energy of combat. On top of that, every level provides a quality amount of coins with a solid performance; players use coin to upgrade Harry’s weaponry, powers, and special abilities like faster run speed or increased multiplier delay. It’s nothing to obsess over; maxing out the stats is fairly quick, and is necessary for those who really want to top the leaderboards.
Perhaps the game’s only crime is its generic-sounding name; had I not received the game for review, I’m not sure I’d have picked it up. Though there are small issues with the dialog, and it’s likely not going to change your world, The Bug Butcher is an action-packed shooter with great graphics, exciting combat, and definitely recommended if you’re looking for a quick-fix gaming session that’s light on the thought and heavy on the fun. Go ahead, butcher some bugs. You won’t regret it.