When reviewing a game, I personally think that it’s very important to try and complete the game before putting pen to paper. Now this doesn’t always work out, as some games are just a little too hard for me to see all the way through or so unbelievably rubbish that you know beyond a certain point there isn’t going to be anything to change your mind. So it was a typical Sunday evening with my Wife sat at the table getting her preparation done for the upcoming work week and myself sat in front of the TV loading the game for the first time wondering what kind of experience The Bug Butcher was going to be.
First impressions were good, the game looks very much like a ‘The Behemoth’ game and the first 10 seconds or so had my mind thinking about enjoying a Castle Crashers style experience. Then my expectations were quickly reset by the games somewhat short tutorial. You can only shoot in one direction, directly up! This instantly frames the game in some rather restrictive boundaries, and after my initial shock I’m now thinking about how the developer is going to create a captive and compelling game-play experience within these limitations.
The game plays out in a series of small arenas where various monsters spawn in waves that the player has to defeat within a certain time limit. Chain together kills quickly and you can build a combo meter which is used to multiply your score with the aim being to finish the level and earn stars for hitting certain score/combo targets. Stars though aren’t required for progression, more to try and give some replay value and additional challenge to the levels. As you progress, you earn money that you can spend on some limited upgrades for your equipment and weapons, and beyond level 6 you gain access to some extra limited use weapons that are randomly spawned into arenas. Idea wise it’s on the whole nothing new but rather like modern take on space invaders, and although it’s OK to start with only being able to fire directly above you really limits the entire experience. After about 10 levels I can already see that the developer has pretty much exhausted all their options for variety. The monsters all essentially have to do the same thing so at some point they have to either jump over or fly above you, hence they only really vary in size, speed and whether they bounce around or just move in straight lines like the ball in Pong. The different arena environments add a little extra dimension, e.g. a ledge here or a barrier there, but the impact is limited as to not restrict things further. After the first 12 levels, I’m at the point where in my mind I’m sure that I’ve seen 90-95% of what the game has to offer and hence I’ve already formed a conclusion, this is a pretty looking game but it gets boring quickly. This is the sort of game that would be better suited to a phone or tablet where playing a quick 5 or 10 minutes here or there would better hold the players attention rather than a console where gaming sessions typically extend into hours.
At this point all I need to do now is follow my own self imposed review rule and see this through to it’s end. So I’m pushing through, level by level, occasionally complaining to my wife about certain elements of the game or how the developer could have done this or that to make the whole experience more varied and enjoyable. It’s a grind, and even the sight of the bottom of my 3rd beer bottle isn’t helping to make things any better than average. By the end of level 23 I started to pay a little more attention to the leaderboards and how I was doing against everyone else in the world who had hung on to get this far, 221 out of 234. I play on and after completing level 24 I again check the leaderboard, 128 out of 233. I dispatch level 25 and sure enough, 185 out of 223. There is a definite downward trend, with the numbers of players sticking with the game is declining on a level by level basis! That’s when for me a new game started, how many people actually saw this through to the end? After each level I started paying more and more attention to the leaderboards, not so much my position on them but how many players in total had posted a score. The downwards trend continued and by level 28 only 195 people remained. I started to get excited about completing the next level so that I could see how many of my fellow brothers in arms where still in the fight.
Then it happened, at the end of level 30 the credits rolled. After around 3 hours it was finally over. From the 1033 that had started the journey, only 151 stuck it through to the end. I took a moment to reflect on all those lost on the way, and pass thoughts as to how they finally reached the point of giving up. How many rage quit hurling the controller across the room compared to the number who gracefully decided that this game had held their interest long enough and simple turned it off. Then there were the 151, the exclusive club for those willing to see the job through to a proper conclusion. I’m sure that for some the game was perfectly enjoyable, but for me the game was never better than average. It’s a good looking, polished but unremarkable game that plateaus very early. It’s repetitive, too easy and lacks challenge but looking beyond it’s faults I did in the end find other ways to enjoy it beyond the developers intent. The game ultimately suffers from it’s shooting mechanic, which whilst different ends up being far too restrictive. I expressed earlier that this game would lend itself much better to another medium that suits a shorter, simpler game play experience and I stand by that. If the console was always to be its home, then a ‘twin sticks’ approach would have greatly increased the challenge and afforded the developer a lot more scope to broaden the depth of the game play.
Now all that remains is to give the game a score, which I can actually derive not from my own opinion but from those with whom I shared the journey.
(151/1033)*100) = 14.61
Only 14.61% of players enjoyed this enough to complete it, hence…
(5 * 0.1461) = 0.73
So, by consensus this game should score 0.7 stars, but despite it’s faults I found it more average than bad.
The Bug Butcher was provided to us by Microsoft via a download code for Xbox One.