The Bug Butcher (Switch) Review
Release Date: November 8, 2018
Developer/Publisher: Awfully Nice Guys/2Awesome Studio
Platform: Nintendo Switch (originally on Steam in 2016)
Classic arcade action is a wonderful thing, but has a hard time in modern gaming circles. With all the AAA games offering hours of entertainment or freemium titles offering that quick grab for the cost of ads or player's time and classic games coming in multi pack compilations, it's really satisfying to find a game that hits the sweet spot of affordability and entertainment. The Bug Butcher hearkens back to classic arcade action in a value priced package.
In the far-flung future, humanity has met with an alien race. But instead of being a highly advanced society who wants to share knowledge with us or an undying race of villainous creatures ready to rend us limb from limb, we found a society of super annoying bugs. They require a bit more than traps and bait, though, so our exterminator Harry must risk life and limb to clear the world of these vicious annoyances.
I was never able to play the classic Super Pang! series (or it's American cousins Super Buster Bros), but the developers of The Bug Butcher claim it to be an homage to their gameplay. I tend to agree looking up Youtube videos on the subject. Various alien bugs bounce around the screen, and it is your job to eliminate them. Popping a larger one divides it in two, until something small enough is able to be destroyed on it's own. There are varied enemies with different patterns across the game's 30 levels, with several bosses intermixed across the story. Basic level structure is that there is a timer counting down to "neutralize the threat" by killing everything in the room you are in, you included, but the scientist working with you can turn it off if you kill all the bugs in time. Bugs will bounce all over the room like the spheres in Super Pang!, but some will directly attack the scientist. If he dies, it's game over too. The game uses a lot of smart audio cues to keep you up to speed on what's going on, although Harry must be a distant relative of the Kool-Aid Man because he spends most of the game saying "OOHH YEAH" and other groovy sentiments when he offs a particularly nasty bug.
The game can be played in solo Arcade/Story mode or Panic mode, which offers solo or two player local play. Strangely enough, one and two player Panic mode offers the entire game up for level select, while you have to fight your way through in story mode to reach the same places. I know it's a simple design choice but I find it odd as you can go test out any level at any time, kind of killing the joy of progression through the story mode. The waves are different, more of a survival mode, but I still feel it would be better saved for some sort of unlock mode so you didn't see the art and hazards early. Multiplayer is local only, which is fine. There is a major leaderboard for anyone craving online features. (Side note I hope they fix: the game supports two player via split Joy-Con but the icons on the screen don't change like in many Switch games. It still says XYAB even though those buttons are irrelevant now.)
The scientist will spawn power ups for you as much as he can, and your combo meter can add to your score and abilities as well. From machine guns to lasers, freeze bombs and heat-seeking missiles, there are plenty of cool firearms to take down the enemy horde waves. In one part of the storyline, the scientist says he won't be able to get you powerups. Harry says he's okay (he's the cool I-Can-Do-It guy the whole time) and that he has "Old Reliable," his trusty basic machine gun. I tend to agree, as several of the guns have different rates of fire. There are a couple of the shotgun blast style weapons that have a hair of delay compared to the faster lasers and such which would mess with my runs. Another thing that would deter me was the speed that the enemies would come in. You see a warning saying what vent the next wave would come out of. Traditionally it feels right to stand under it and start blasting. For the most part this is fine, but there are a few enemies with hefty health bars that come slamming to the ground. That surprise usually ends in a life lost. The waves are set, though, so it takes a bit of memorization and you'll learn what's safe and what's not.
The Bug Butcher has a fun art style reminiscent of games like Castle Crashers and Alien Homnid. The cartoony enemies are fun and colorful. Thanks to their unique hues it's easy to pay attention to what kind of enemies you are facing and where each individual glob will be heading when the screen is chock full. Overwhelming levels can eventually be beaten thanks to a simple leveling tree that you purchase permanent unlocks on via cash found in level.
Perhaps the best part of the game is it's overall value. It is short at only 30 levels but contains a three-star scoring system with a bonus challenge to attain in each level, like a maximum combo meter. This means you'll enjoy going through levels multiple times aiming for a high score and place on the leaderboard. A single runthrough by a master gamer might only take a couple hours, but The Bug Butcher has that "one more quarter" attitude reminiscent of oldschool arcade games. If you're looking for some classic arcade action, The Bug Butcher is a great addition to your Switch library.
-Classic arcade gaming and high-score challenges
-Value priced for easy pick up
-Two player local team up fun
-Some power ups are slower than "Old Reliable" and certain bodyslamming enemies make for frustrating deaths
-Odd choice of everything unlocked unless it's story mode (your mileage may vary)
Special thanks to 2AwesomeStudio for providing a code for review!