The Bug Butcher, from Awfully Nice Studios, absolutely butchers all low expectations, leaving players with what feels like a retro classic but is actually a rare, modern gem. What could possibly be considered a niche PC game that has little to offer in terms of mass appeal, might actually end up surprisingly popular to everyone. After playing this game thoroughly, I can commend its vast appeal to fans of shooters, 2D scrollers, arcade classics and more! The Bug Butcher captures a style all its own with its hilarious antihero progressing the story along. This slight injection of juvenile humor brings a necessary peace to the chaotic environments players find themselves in, making this game simple to figure out, but very difficult to master.
Plus, who doesn’t love a universe where you wield a beefy arsenal of military grade weaponry that lets you slice through bugs like a hot knife through soft, melted butter.
When I discovered The Bug Butcher was a modern day implementation of the Capcom classic Super Pang, I was excited but also a bit worried. The curse that plagues many old school arcade games is the inherent grind of the game play, added to the extremely high learning curve and level of general difficulty. While The Bug Butcher did its best to steer clear of most of these historical obstacles, it obviously ran into a few issues of its own. What I think truly makes this game stick out as a great, is its ability to overcome the sense of chaotic difficulty. It offers a nostalgic callback to that child-like glee so commonly associated with the true arcade classics of history.
In its essence, The Bug Butcher is all about the grind. Players do their best to juggle multiple objectives simultaneously, most important of these being staying alive. In addition to that, players have to protect their scientist “buddy,” collect some awesome, explosive power-ups and navigate through environmental obstacles. Don’t clear a wave fast enough and struggle as the next set of bugs piles on top, making it difficult to find a safe place to stand. Dodging enemies and projectiles becomes vital to survival. I can hardly do this type of beautifully composed chaos justice in words but it is an amazing spectacle to behold and one that, to me, never truly felt like much of a grind. All the struggles, all the repetition, all the deaths and all the retries are all forgotten because they’re overwhelmed by the inherently silly fun of the entire experience.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you; I had to lower the difficulty setting back down to “easy” on more than one occasion. The concept of the gameplay mechanics is simple. The prolonged execution of them, on the other hand, can be quite difficult to master. The Bug Butcher is a game about fast-paced movement and knee jerk reactions to danger, survival and protection. Though sometimes things slip seemingly into the realm of no control, it’s up to the player to chin up, buckle down and get good enough to power through. Conquer the learning curve to earn those coveted high scores.
What The Bug Butcher excels at, is making its users somehow feel overpowered as hell, even when they’re getting their butts kicked many . . . many times in a row. With a wide array of stupidly fun guns, power-ups, speeds and skills, this game delivers on its promise as an entertaining challenge. Paired with an awesome set of goals and achievements, players will get lost in the few, short hours it takes to run through this game’s campaign missions. That’s not to say anyone should strive to power speed through the game. One of its most enjoyable features is its quirky and cute art and animation style. Not to mention, The Bug Butcher has a popping soundtrack that will leave the feet tapping hours after the PC has been shut down. So my advice is to take a little time to stop and appreciate the beautiful work put into these stunningly achieved aspects of the game.
After you’ve done that, feel free to return to enjoying the awesome cartoon violence this game has to offer in the best possible way. What’s truly great about The Bug Butcher specifically, is its ability to break convention and achieve a strong sense of originality not only to its art and enemies, but also to its entire gameplay throughout. It re-imagines the side-scrolling 2D shooter mindset in a way that merges retro and modern into a symphonic harmony. This brings in the best aspects of both worlds, while elevating such simple concepts to a whole new level of sustained enjoyment.
It is true, this game can get pretty tough and is not altogether devoid of errors. When I first attempted to play through the arcade missions, I was constantly met with a frozen still image and forced to reset my game, all to no avail. Luckily the fine folks over at Awfully Nice Studios noticed this problem and quickly released a hotfix patch that remedied the situation immediately. After that, it was back to smooth sailing. The Bug Butcher found a way to negate its high difficulty curve and unavoidable grindiness by providing an astoundingly fun sense of controlled chaos and destruction.
The Bottom Line
No matter how you look at it, the mark of a great game is measured in fun. Whether it was hard or easy, whether I died once or a hundred times, whether I personally experienced a bug here or slight glitch there —The Bug Butcher was consistently fun and that makes it a great game. I respect the awfully nice crew over at Awfully Nice Studios for keeping on top of their early access users and making sure this experience held true for all. For a game that sought to emulate an arcade classic, I call it a grand success. The Bug Butcher brought forth an impressive dose of nostalgia, while maintaining itself as a modern game with much to offer.