Thursday, November 8

Review: The Bug Butcher [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While reviewing a ton of indies every week can get to be a grind it’s the surprises you periodically run into along the way that can make it really worthwhile. Sure, there are known quantities from the PC space or games that get some pre-hype in the form of Nintendo’s Nindie Directs but there are also games that seem to pop up from nowhere and catch you by surprise relatively unheralded. One such game that I’ve had the pleasure of playing the hell out of this past week is The Bug Butcher, and if you’ve got any love for classic arcade shooting like I do you’ll absolutely want to consider putting this one on your list.

The quickest and easiest way to describe it is to say it’s a faster and more intense modern take on the classic arcade title Pang (Buster Bros to some people). Now, setting sights on a title like this that’s well-known can be a risky business. Deviate too far from the formula in the wrong way and you can push away the very audience who loved the original you’re trying to attract. Fail to do enough to set yourself apart and you could be accused of making something derivative. I’d say that The Bug Butcher pretty well nails the landing though, taking many of the elements that made its inspiration work but then throwing in a variety of enemies and crazy power-ups that give the title a very modern flair. Heck, some progression in the form of a shop with upgrades you can purchase with gold coins you accumulate as you slaughter things up even rewards people who stick with it awhile.

While things start out a bit more straightforward with starter enemies that split into smaller ones and that all will bounce along (forcing you to line up your shots carefully to avoid getting hit) and with no obstructions it’s pretty easy. You’ll slowly get new power-ups introduced to you that will show up randomly and give you effects like rapid fire, a laser, or even a variety of missile launchers. Then, as you go into new areas new complications will arise. Elevators will restrict your power-ups and play out a bit tougher, some areas will have obstructions you’ll need to contend with that you can often destroy but will make enemy patterns harder to quickly and easily follow, and then an odd array of new threats will continue to be added throughout the game’s 30 levels. Once you’ve beaten them all and registered your ranking on the global leaderboards (you’ll need to keep your kills going to not lose your score multiplier) you’ll then additionally have the option to hit the aptly-named Panic Mode and face far more unpredictability and challenge.

Overall, if there’s any piece of you that has a love for a rock-solid arcade shooting experience The Bug Butcher is a wonderful surprise with an extremely fair price. If you’re an old-school gamer like me you’ll likely appreciate the nods to Pang’s iconic style but if you’re not familiar with that title it will probably just feel like a shooter with bouncing enemies that you’ll need to carefully destroy to get maximum results. Throw in global leaderboards, an ability to slowly enhance your skills, and a pretty surprising variety of weirdo bugs to deal with and it’s a very good time. While I don’t expect my high scores to last for long, it was a lot of fun getting them.

Score: 8.5

  • A smart update of the Pang formula, managing to be familiar but clearly standing on its own
  • An intense 30 levels of fun as well as an unpredictable Panic Mode… which can be even more crazy with a friend
  • The budget price of admission is more than fair for what it delivers

  • The Hard difficulty, which equates to death with one hit, may be a bit too intense to be practical
  • The upgrades, while nice, don’t have a massive influence but at the same time take a while to obtain. Not sure whether they were even necessary in the end