If you were to describe The Bug Butcher to me without seeing it, there is no chance in hell I would let my kids play it. Shooting, explosions, rockets, lasers and mass killing of pests? Not in my house! Oddly enough, Awfully Nice Studios/Triangle Studios have managed to take this concept, and make it completely family friendly. The Bug Butcher is an homage to the Pang arcade series where enemies enter an enclosed area from the ceiling and you must shoot them, earning high scores for combos and time remaining. The Bug Butcher takes this classic arcade genre and expands upon it with a variety of power-ups and enemies along with witty dialog and a well-paced story mode.
Speaking of story, you are Harry, bug exterminator extraordinaire. You have been assigned to rid an infested research facility of its pest predicament on the planet Zoit. Upon beginning the game, you will play through multiple levels across 5 floors in the facility. The two main goals of each level are to collect coins that drop from dead enemies and earn a three-star rating. Two of the stars are earned for a high score (you are awarded extra points for your remaining time in the level) and the other for reaching the combo goal. If you just want to see what the story mode is about, you only need to survive. Thankfully there are easy, medium and hard difficulties for players of varying skill levels. Coins are used to upgrade your weapons and increase some of Harry’s attributes.
Along with the main story (arcade) there is also a local co-op mode for two players along with panic mode. In co-op mode, you and a buddy can try your best in 5 different missions to earn a high score and reach the top of the leaderboards. For those who really get into leaderboards and rankings, you are going to love The Bug Butcher, as every mission in every mode shows you world rankings. Panic mode is almost like a time-attack/horde mode where enemies drop coins and clocks which add extra seconds to the countdown timer; last for as many waves as possible. Specific upgrades can be purchased as you go along in panic mode, making strategy a key element to success. All three modes are enjoyable and I appreciate having a few solid modes than a lot of lackluster ones.
Controlling Harry is simple and intuitive with either the analog stick or directional pad. Pressing or holding the B button allows Harry to slide, but it will run out and require a quick cooldown. The X button uses any powerups that you pick up. Some examples of these are the snowball which freezes all enemies on screen for a few seconds, the speed injection that gives you temporarily invisibility and increased dprrf and rockets that home in on enemies. There are also temporary perks you can pick up like fire bullets, spreadshot or rapid fire bullets. These perks stack as well so it’s always a good time picking up one or more. Combine those with your special attacks and you will have a bug-busting good time. Overall I had no issues whatsoever with button placement or control responsiveness.
Upon first glance, I was not a big fan of the art style in The Bug Butcher. It has that iPhone/iPad game look, colorful but a little flat. When I finally saw the game in motion, it quickly won me over with smooth animations and fluid action. If I could change anything it would be nice to have a little more variery in the level environments, as they mostly had a similar look but with small changes. There is a short load time in between each level, but nothing too excessive; restarting a level is pretty much instantaneous. This was much appreciated when going for high combo goals as I was pausing and restarting constantly.
The Bug Butcher does what so many games fail to do, take an established genre and add personal touches to make it bigger and better than its predecessors. Something as simple as shooting and avoiding contact with bugs is more addictive than I ever imagined. The random weapon pickups make each level attempt feel a bit different than the one before it. Addicting gameplay kept me replaying levels over and over trying to reach three stars. There is a lot of fun to be had for you and a friend for a very friendly asking price.