The Bug Butcher is a straight shooter. It doesn’t try to try to bog down its experience with story, unnecessary cutscenes, or tons of menus. Instead, it drops you right into the game, gives you a brief explanation of how to play, and sends you off on your merry way to kill bugs with a slew of guns. While you slay bugs and other gross enemies, you’ll be powering yourself up with new weapons and power-ups. Each level is a race against time as you try to eliminate waves before the next wave arrives. And if that isn’t enough to worry about, you’ll constantly be trying to beat your own high-score in the hopes of more stuff. If only it all lasted a tad bit longer.
Fans of classic arcade games will recognize The Bug Butcher for what it is, and that’s Galaga. Players move the character, the butcher of bugs, left and right and fire his gun straight up as he is inexplicably unable to shoot it horizontally. After a brief introduction you’re thrown into the game and expected to do one thing and one thing only, kill bugs. These bugs come in various shapes, sizes, and forms that really diversify the gameplay in interesting ways. Smaller bugs might bounce and ricochet off walls, bigger bugs come down with a sickening thud, and head suckers bring a one-shot kill type of drama to the mix.
You’re not alone against these bugs though; you’ve got plenty of guns at your disposal. The standard peashooter is effective and requires a rapid tapping of the fire button. As you kill more bugs other temporary weapons will drop such as a gatling gun, rocket launcher, and a giant laser. Also helping you take care of the nasty bugs are the fun power-ups that you build up as you kill bugs and get combos rolling. Once your power-up is ready, simply hit a button to freeze all of the enemies in ice blocks, run at super speed, or unleash a torrent of missiles.
The weapons and power-ups are random so some levels may seem easy or hard depending on the look of the draw. It’s that type of uncertainty that is a ding against The Bug Butcher. For a game with such a simple core mechanic, it felt unfair at times that certain levels took multiple tries to complete until I got the right weapon or power-up. That sense of randomness takes away from the mechanic being the star of the show.
Every bug and character looks great and animates beautifully. The Bug Butcher has a kind of cartoon-esque quality to it that reminded me of Saturday morning cartoons. Bugs split and splat with bright, jovial colors and the butcher himself runs from side to side while making silly quips as he goes. There’s a childish sense of humor to the whole game that comes through well in the little dialogue boxes that show up before each level. The scientists try to give the butcher warning but he’s more concerned with killing and guns. The variety of bugs lends itself well to the gameplay as well as their different looks and behaviors create a sense of differentiation rather than a simple pallet swap. At times, learning a new enemy’s movements is just as important as timing your dodges and shots.
The fact that there are constants in the bugs’ movements is extremely helpful. Bugs enter from certain spots on the map and most of them telegraph their movements in a way that feels fair yet challenging. For such an action-heavy game I never felt like I was being cheated or blocked by the game itself. My only real complaint is that the random drops can make or break certain levels and almost remove the purity of the game in a way.
The Bug Butcher takes an old, proven formula and brings it into the modern era. Many games have taken the Galaga style and slapped a fresh coat of paint on it, but The Bug Butcher does more than that. The game takes the formula we all know so well and adds a great look, some fun power-ups, and interesting enemies that keep the game fresh for its short duration. While The Bug Butcher won’t be amazing gamers with its unique premise anytime soon, it’s a game that is well worth playing for a handful of hours.