Butcher is an ultra-violent 2D sidescroller that prides itself in its hard difficulty. However, does the unforgiving gameplay make for a fun or frustrating experience?
In Butcher, you play as a cyborg who is programmed to eradicate humanity which unsurprisingly entails violently murdering anything that moves. It also turns out to be pretty difficult, something Butcher likes to advertise upfront. Its title screen warns you that the easiest difficulty is Hard and it doesn't take long to realise that the game undeniably lives up to its promise of a challenge.
Aesthetically, Butcher draws a lot of inspiration from games like the original Doom and has a cool industrial soundtrack. Its levels are bedecked with macabre implements and pitfalls and there's a huge emphasis on gory, bloody kills. On top of shooting enemies, you're also able to impale them on hooks, kick them into fire pits and even feed them to deadly piranhas. The more people you kill, the more the scenery gets painted with blood. Basically, if you're even a little squeamish, you might want to look elsewhere for your next video game purchase.
The campaign comprises twenty short levels (plus a final boss) spread across five worlds but Butcher's high difficulty level ensures that you won't be able to breeze through most of them. Enemies are very quick off the mark and often spawn out of nowhere. In some sections, you're locked in with dozens of them all gunning for you at once. This results in a lot of deaths even on the easiest mode. When you die, you go back to the start of the level. There are no checkpoints and no save option.
Most of the time, this feels pretty fair. However, there are some occasions when you'll die unavoidably such as when you get crushed by a couple of walls that you didn't know were going to suddenly move in and squish you. Other times, you'll feel like the mechanics are at fault. The controls take a little getting used to, the jumping is kind of floaty, and the way you have to cycle through your weapons one by one to get to the one you want is needlessly cumbersome. Sometimes, you'll run out of ammo for one gun then have to run around while trying not to get hit and frantically tap the square button in the hopes of finding the right one for your current situation.
For the rest of the time, Butcher can be a lot of fun to play. Blasting a bunch of enemies in a row that are coming at you from different directions while jumping about and swinging your gun around can be both exciting and satisfying. Also, managing to finally clear a level in one sweep after dying numerous times makes you feel suitably accomplished. There's also a degree of strategy involved such as taking cover behind objects and eliminating enemies in a certain order so that none of them get an angle on you.
This is particularly important on the harder difficulties, of which there are three. The hardest is Impossible which tasks you to beat the game with a third of your normal health and without any health or armour pick-ups. I managed to beat a few levels on this mode but it basically demands that you learn every stage by heart in order to make it through. This style might appeal to some gamers but for me, being forced to replay the same part of a level over and over quickly becomes tiresome. If you're anything like me, you probably won't find a lot to interest you after you've beaten the game once which took me under three hours.
There's one other issue I'd like to mention. Like a lot of games on PlayStation 4, Butcher has no option to alter its screen size which on some TVs (like mine), the edges get cut off the visible area. In some games, this isn't a big deal but Butcher's HUD is so close to the periphery of the screen that half of it gets cut off on my TV. This can also make it harder to see where enemies are coming from which hinders the gameplay. This isn't particular to my TV; I've heard of other people reporting the same thing with other models on various games. Butcher and other titles could alleviate this issue with a simple screen adjust option but unfortunately, it doesn't have one.
Butcher is a fun, addictive riff on a classic genre with an uncompromising approach that makes it feel both rewarding and frustrating. You're unlikely to get much mileage out of it unless you like a lot of repetition and a torturous level of challenge but if you're attracted by its over-the-top retro aesthetic, it's definitely worth checking out.
- + Provides a tough challenge for all levels of gamers
- + Stylish retro visuals
- + Fitting industrial soundtrack
- - Weapon-switching is awkward
- - Some deaths feel unfair
- - The harder difficulties are just annoying