There's something about certain classic arcade games that indie developers just can't get enough of. The Bug Butcher borrows heavily from Pang (AKA Buster Bros.) but does it live up to the classic?
The Bug Butcher plays almost exactly like Pang which is odd because I just reviewed a similar game (Pirate Pop Plus) where I expressed how rare it is to see a game that plays like Buster Bros. Anyway, The Bug Butcher exchanges the chain-like weapon that you can only fire once at a time for a rapid-fire pistol. This makes the gameplay more action-oriented but it also takes a lot of the strategy and need for pinpoint accuracy away. Good thing the controls are simple and responsive. All you do is run left and right, shoot up, dash, and unleash a power-up whenever the meter is full. This basic setup mixes well with the fast-paced gameplay to create a streamlined experience. However, as a Pang fan, I can't help but feel it's far less satisfying due to the projectile-oriented weapons as opposed to strategically launching perfectly timed chains in order to rid the stage of enemies / bubbles.
Unfortunately, The Bug Butcher doesn't really offer anything special when it comes to its graphics and sound. The enemies are goofy alien creatures that are easy to identify so you can eventually learn how to take each variety down. You play as a little spaceman in an orange suit and his animations can be expressive yet he ends up seeming like your generic Flash game protagonist. You don't get to play through many environments either as the entire game takes place in a space station. The only places you get to see consist of plain rooms, elevators, and a furnace. When it comes to music and sound effects, you can't get much more generic than this. The flat electronic tunes and stereotypical effects match the bland visuals and it adds up to one monotonous looking and sounding adventure that would feel more at home being played in a browser window. Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible; just nothing special.
As you progress through the 30 stage arcade mode campaign, you'll collect coins that you can redeem for some cool gear. New weapons such as laser guns and power-ups that can freeze all of the enemies or launch an array of homing missiles have the potential to turn the odds in your favour when you're in a sticky situation. There's a few perks as well that can extend the duration of the combo meter and allow you to deploy a shield. These offer some variety to the basic gameplay and a sense of progression that's quite rewarding.
Besides the single-player campaign, there's also a panic mode that acts as a survival marathon. You can either challenge it with a friend by your side or solo. It's great to be able to play with a local pal and it can be enjoyable for a short period of time although I wish you could play through the arcade mode this way, too. Speaking of which, there is an online ranking system that's in play for every stage and mode so you could always try to outdo your previous efforts even after you've completed everything.
One aspect that frustrated me a great deal is the one-hit kills. Certain enemies can end your life in an instant while some stage hazards can crush you before you even knew what hit you. To be fair, these are somewhat easy to avoid except for when these enemies spawn alongside dozens of others and it's hard to keep track of them specifically. Instead, I wish they took two bars of health away because that would have been challenging enough. The majority of my retries were due to these foes and that's just not fair.
The Bug Butcher is a decent take on the classic Pang formula but it also manages to turn it into a more mindless experience. It still provides some enjoyable gameplay but you definitely won't remember it for long after you massacre your last bug.
- + Simple controls blend well with the fast-paced arcade-style gameplay
- + Good variety of weapons and power-ups
- + Includes local multiplayer and leaderboards
- - Takes the classic Buster Bros. formula and makes it significantly less enjoyable
- - Generic visuals and music
- - One-hit kills are very irritating