In 1989 Capcom released the rather famous video game Buster Bros. (also known as Pang). This game spawned several sequels and was extremely well received. However, the series hasn't seen much activity lately, (at least, not until Pang Adventures comes out next month) so someone new has decided to take up the mantle. Enter The Bug Butcher.
Playing similar to these old games, your job in The Bug Butcher is to eliminate all bugs on a level before the time runs out. To do this I had to run back and forth and shoot the aliens while they were above me. It starts simple enough. Early levels only saw basic enemies that could do nothing but bounce, and all I had to do was run under them and shoot them at the right time. Harry, the titular Bug Butcher, can only actually shoot up, so I had to wait for the bugs to be above me before I could go after them. It means every single enemy requires a certain amount of risk and timing to go after them.
The enemies in The Bug Butcher were often rather creative. Sure, there were your simple filler enemies. Little bouncing balls that died in a single hit were common, and the game really loves its "every time you kill me I split in two" enemies. Yet between those enemies there were bee-like enemies that would shoot lasers or strange suction-cup things that I would have to lure into making awkward short hops rather than fly or bounce. One interesting feature comes from the scientists that are always working around the clock. Normal enemies don't do anything to them, but ceiling-crawling spiders can grab and eat them. I'm not just watching myself here, I also had to make sure the scientists were doing okay.
That's a lot for just one man with a machine gun though, but no need to worry there. A steady supply of new guns and power-ups made sure I was always a match for the bug army. Weapons spawn randomly throughout the levels, and included some pretty snazzy stuff. A laser was particularly destructive, a rocket launcher spread an impressive swath of destruction, and a lightning gun let me spread damage to multiple enemies. There was no gun I actually did not enjoy using. As I killed bugs, I would fill up a bar that would become one of four random abilities. This would include freeze grenades, bubble shields, missile swarms, and a drug that would make me temporarily invincible and extra fast. It seems a bit strange that I wasn't allowed to pick which ability I wanted to bring with me, rather every time I filled the bar the game would just randomly pick one of the four. It meant that I had to adapt to what I got rather than build around what I wanted, something that sometimes drove me nuts as I could never get the missile ability to be very useful, but that's not a huge complaint really.
For the most part "not a huge complaint really" is where most of my issues with the game lay. As I killed aliens, I would collect coins that I would be able to spend on upgrades for my guns and abilities. Yet, finding the upgrade screen is oddly difficult, requiring me to back out of both the results screen and the level select screen to get to it. To add to that, the upgrade shop is very wonky when used with a controller. At one point, I bought an upgrade for a gun not on the screen because switching screens doesn't cause the cursor to go with it. There are occasional boss fights in the game, but after the boss fight there's still an entire level and getting killed during this part means having to repeat the boss fight as well. I'm also concerned about the lack of content in the game. The campaign is about three to four hours long and the panic game mode is good with friends but not quite the attention holder I'd hope for. I also ran into an occasional bug, and not the kind that I could kill. Literally. At one point and enemy became stuck on the floor and I had to restart a level because there was absolutely no way to kill it.
One thing The Bug Butcher also falls short in is story. Much like the other complaints, it's not really a huge deal, the simplistic "Harry shows up to kill bugs" thing works well enough to get me from level to level. It just feels strange that the developers chose to put efforts into cutscenes (as small as they are) but not into the story itself. The story is about thirty missions long, each mission only taking a couple of minutes assuming you don't die.
Once you finish off the story mode then you can play in panic mode to pass the time. This mode is basically a time trial, as you have to kill as many bugs as you can before time runs out. Sometimes bugs will drop time extensions, and you can pick up coins as you play to buy upgrades mid-match. You can play this mode with a second player as well, which greatly helps up the game's enjoyment factor. Panic can be a lot of fun in bursts, but I wouldn't play it more than that. It's good enough of a reason to go back to The Bug Butcher once in a while, but it can't quite hold me there for longer than a run or two.
Now for some really good things: The Bug Butcher is really nice to look at. The hand drawn art style manages to perfectly fit the cartoony game. Each monster is lovingly animated, and the whole thing comes together really well. The game's techno heavy soundtrack is also fun. Each song fit the stages well, and I honestly could see myself tapping along to them without the game playing.
The Bug Butcher is a blast in short bursts. It's a tight game that sets itself some simple goals and manages to knock them all out of the park. There's some issues here, and I don't think it's a game I'd want to play for more than an hour at a time, but if you don't mind that then The Bug Butcher should be considered by anyone wanting to relive some classic gaming, or who at least wants to enjoy a solid action shooter.
The Bug Butcher was reviewed on Steam with a key provided by the developer