The Bug Butcher Review (PC)
The Bug Butcher is a 2D side scrolling shooter game by Awfully Nice Studios. It’s a cartoony and bug infested bullet hell that reminds me of Space Invaders and the like. You play the part of a pest control specialist who seems to use fewer of the gas related tools than your usual exterminator and more of the kaboom ratatat bang variety. However, when you’re dealing with bugs that are sometimes three or four times as big as you and are actively trying to ruin your day I suppose that a few shooty bangs are allowed…
As far as the story goes, you have been called in by a bunch of scientists who’s facility is full to bursting with homicidal creatures. After an amusing tutorial that has you shooting paper coffee cups out of the sky you are allowed into the facility. You move from room to room with 30 story levels in all, decimating the local fauna while your friendly scientist hacks the room’s decontamination system. Which acts as a nice little explanation for the countdown you face every level. As if the hordes of nasty creatures weren’t enough. There’s a fast pace to the combat that gets really manic at times (as you expect from any game of this variety) but the controls are nice and responsive so it’s all down to skill. You can only fire straight (ish sometimes) up so you never need to worry about aiming your gun, you just have to worry about not letting any of the critters land on your head. It can be controlled with either keyboard or an Xbox controller. I don’t own a PlayStation one so was unable to test it’s functionality however I would assume that it works just as well.
The enemy types are varied enough to keep it interesting and learning how each one moves around and what kind of attack it can unleash is paramount. New types of bug are introduced in each of the new levels with different movement mechanics and methods of attack. From the ones that simply bounce backwards and forwards across the level to ‘spiders’ that crawl along the ceiling and only eat the scientists.
As you kill the enemies they all drop coins, which are used to upgrade your weapons, and sometimes they drop one of two power ups: Faster shooting speed or double damage. These are not timed upgrades as you would normally see in games of this type but instead are almost like a clip for your gun in that they count down only when you are shooting. Given the fact that you can only shoot straight up I thought this was a nice touch as there were times (albeit for very short periods) when I wasn’t shooting as I maneuvered myself into position beneath an enemy in order to deliver the justice it so richly deserved. The fact that the pickup wasn’t degrading unless I was shooting made me feel like I wasn’t wasting it if I had to wait for the next wave of enemies to spawn in or for the last bug of the level to bounce towards me from the other side of the screen.
There’s also a power up meter in the bottom right of the screen (as shown in the screenshot here). This you ‘Power up’ by killing enemies in quick succession. The higher the combo the higher the score and the more of this bar you fill up.Once full it will activate one of 3 (or 4 in the arcade mode) random power ups that can be activated by a button press. These include an instant freeze grenade that freezes both all the enemies and your combo meter, a stim-pack like thing that makes you invulnerable and makes your gun shoot super fast for a few seconds and I’ll leave you to discover what the other two do… (hint… one involves rockets) .
Your friendly scientist pal can also spawn in ammo for you that changes how your basic machine gun behaves, again for a set number of shots. The placement of these boxes of dead bug flavoured goodness and which of the ones you currently have unlocked it will activate is completely random but it’s always fun to go from a puny machine gun to a deathly death style laser beam of power and, well, death for a short while.
The only thing I felt was missing in The Bug Butcher was boss battles. As I mentioned before there are 30 levels taking place in 5 different rooms with an elevator level between each one. The elevator levels really felt like they could have been epic boss fights that would have brought more variety to the gameplay. Perhaps a small bugbear but it felt like it would have taken what is a good game and made it great.
All in all The Bug Butcher is a well made game. The lack of boss fights notwithstanding, I really enjoyed my time with the game and I keep going back to the Panic mode that pits you against never-ending waves of bugs to squish. There is a couch co-op option for this game mode but I never got the chance to try it unfortunately. I reckon it would be fun though…
8 shooty bang wallops out of 10