The Bug Butcher

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: 2Awesome Studio
Developer: Awfully Nice Studios
Release Date: Nov. 8, 2018


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Switch Review - 'The Bug Butcher'

by Cody Medellin on April 12, 2019 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

The Bug Butcher is a 2D, action-packed, side-scrolling shoot-'em-up game where peril comes from above. Use a wide selection of weapons and power-ups to tear through increasingly challenging levels.

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There are certain qualities that can be found with arcade games. The premise has to be very simple to understand. The gameplay should be understandable enough for anyone to pick it up immediately. The challenge should escalate enough for players to constantly be tested. Finally, there should be some incentive for players to keep coming back, even after the campaign has concluded. The Bug Butcher, the debut title from Awfully Nice Studios, adheres to some of these traits quite well, and the result is a title that feels right at home with some of the classic arcade titles.

In The Bug Butcher, you play the role of Harry, an exterminator who specializes in the eradication of intergalactic bugs. You get a call from a research lab on a distant planet asking for your help, and with your machine gun in hand, you go and do your job. That's all there is to it. There are a few quips and jokes in between levels, but the plot doesn't get much deeper. There are no twists or special surprises, making this title perfect for those who don't usually pay much attention to stories in games.

The best way to describe The Bug Butcher is that it's a mix of the seminal shooter Galaga with the puzzle elements of Super Pang and Buster Bros. Each level is set in a room, with enemies arriving in waves from several openings in the stages. Enemies tend to bounce, stick to the ceiling, or make giant leaps whenever they get close to you. By comparison, your actions are very limited. Your movement is restricted, so you can move or dash laterally from left to right, but you can't move up or down or even jump. Your shooting is also restricted to firing upward.

To balance this out, you occasionally get new guns, like rocket launchers and laser rifles, and the ability to combine them with powers such as double damage and faster firing, but all of those have limited stock. Killing enemies helps you fill up a meter that lets you unleash one of three different randomly chosen abilities for a limited amount of time. The ice grenade freezes all enemies, including ones that come into the scene. You have the chance to unleash a barrage of dumb rockets, which greatly damage any enemy that comes close to them. You also have the chance to activate some speed boots that let you zip around the level while granting you temporary invincibility. Killing enemies also drops coins, which help you upgrade your weapons and abilities and grant new perks, such as increased overall movement speed or a shield so you can absorb one extra hit.

The campaign spans 30 levels, each of them evenly split into five different stages. The objective always remains the same, which is to clear out the enemy population before time expires, and in typical arcade fashion, the challenge escalates as you progress. New enemies get introduced every few stages, and new environmental obstacles are added, such as barriers to restrict movement and a giant hammer to avoid in the center of the stage. One thing you'll notice is that the end of each stage doesn't give you a boss fight. Instead, you're given another gauntlet of enemies to fight, but extra guns aren't occasionally thrown in to help you out.

For the most part, The Bug Butcher is enjoyable due to the smooth shooting. It satisfies, and there's never a time when your guns feel woefully underpowered for the job. The game has a variable difficulty level, but it never feels too challenging. You'll experience a few deaths while playing on the normal difficulty level, where you can take four hits before expiring, but there's no real roadblock that stops you from finishing the game in the span of an afternoon. The easy difficulty really lives up to its name, as the eight hits it affords you is more than enough to breeze through the title, but the hard difficulty level only allows one hit before death. Luckily, the leveling of weapons and abilities carries over through difficulty levels, so playing on the hard difficulty can still be manageable.

Beyond the campaign's three difficulty levels, there are a few things that'll keep you coming back. Each stage has a leaderboard for high score chasers, but the font is so small that you'll barely be able to read the names and scores, even when playing in handheld mode. Each stage has four optional objectives to accomplish, which is nice for those who really want to deck out their character. There's also a survival mode tha has its own leveling system, and it works well for those who want unrestricted blasting. The good news is that co-op is supported, something that would've been good if it were also included in the main campaign.

The presentation is quite nice. The soundtrack is good action game fare, and the effects are also nicely done. There's minimal use of voice, mostly relegated to picking up power-ups, but that plays without any issues. The game goes for a cartoon/Flash-inspired style that animates well, with lots of details given to the alien bugs. For the most part, the frame rate holds up well, but docked mode was the only place where the action can randomly hitch for a second. It isn't a game-breaker, but it can't be missed.

As stated at the beginning of the review, The Bug Butcher is an absolutely solid homage to classic arcade shooters. It nails the shooting mechanic and provides a gradual level of difficulty that doesn't veer too much into impossible territory. Though it's a short game, there's enough to keep people interested for more than an afternoon, and it's a good fit on the Switch thanks to the short levels and co-op gameplay for endless mode. This is another indie port to Nintendo's console that's worth checking out.

Score: 8.5/10

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