It’s unmistakable how cool a good slasher can be. The idea of just being a powerhouse, mowing through people as they try to run the other way really taps into something we all agreed as a society that we wouldn’t do anymore. Thankfully, BUTCHER is here to give us an out.
Though the game originally released in 2016, the SEA region got its chance to try out the ultra-violent action-platformer with its recent release on PS4. You play as a robot from outer space, come to rid the earth of its pesky human infestation. That’s really the entirety of the game’s plot, without so much as a single curveball thrown your way. Does it have the gameplay to back up its missing plot? Read on and find out.
BUTCHER is an absolute love letter to the original Doom, as well as action movies like The Terminator. It takes a lot of its cues from Doom, complete with its downwards screenwipe at the end of every level and green exit doors.
There’s also the game’s use of Health and Armor, which is a great throwback to old shooters. You also get a neat little Skull icon at the top of the screen representing your character, fully selling the T-800 vibe. On top of that, it also starts falling apart as you take more damage, only further selling the Doom comparisons.
Aside from that, there’s also the game’s lovely pixel-art levels. They all have this gritty industrial feel to them, yet they have these great colors that really pop. Of course, there’s also the option to color them red by killing humans, and the animation on things like enemy viscera is impressive as well.
One gripe I have with the game though is its over-commitment to being “retro”. The game uses some tiny sprites, like true 8-bit. As a result, it’s really easy to lose yourself, and also very hard to tell what’s actually going on in the screen. The only reason I even know the main character is a robot is because of the game’s sick box art and terminator skull.
It feels like the game could have focused in the camera a little more, or made slightly more detailed sprites. Some enemies will use different weapons, and its almost impossible to tell them apart until they shoot because they’re all just grey stickmen.
On the other hand though, the game has a CRT filter, which makes it look even more retro than before. It’s silly and fun, and I’m glad it’s there.
Butcher has some of the most straightforward gameplay I’ve ever seen. Here is a gun. Open fire. That’s it.
You navigate through the game’s levels, dodging gunfire targeted at you and shooting various humans out of the sky and/or ground. There’s some situations where you’ll even be locked into “Kill Rooms”, where you have to survive a gauntlet if you want to progress.
While the levels aren’t exactly corridors, there’s not much exploration to be had outside of finding collectibles. Outside of one or two levels, there’s rarely ever a time where you’re sent back to a place you’ve already been, so you really embody the pathos of a sci-fi murderbot as you march forwards comitting murder.
Bang, Bang, Bang, Pull My Butcher Trigger
The gunplay feels really good, with the guns having a very satisfying sound when you pull the trigger. The game also has a very generous auto-aim, snapping your reticle to most targets. For a game that won’t stop bragging about its difficulty, its nice that they chose to add that feature. You know, instead of letting you die horribly and going “GIT GUD HURHUR”.
One complaint I have with the gunplay though is that switching guns is a bit of a pain. Most of your action is happening on your triggers, with R2 for shooting and L2 for jumping. With your thumbs focused on moving and aiming via the sticks, binding the swap weapons buttons to the face buttons instead of the shoulders is really counterproductive. To be fair its not like there are any enemies that demand fast switching, but it would help the game’s flow a lot if we had that option.
There’s also the fact that like the original Doom, guns tend to feel pretty samey. As a 2D game it’s not like there’s much they could have really done about it, but it does stand that a lot of the times guns are just damage dealers, and the method of doing damage changes with each gun.
Considering the genre, it’s not like this is particularly unique to BUTCHER. But it should be noted that most enemies are perfectly fine to kill with just your shotgun, and until the end of the City Zone you’ll find little to no motivation outside of ammo conservation to ever swap these guns around.
Only Slightly More Violent Than Actual Playgrounds
Outside of just killing, BUTCHER has some of the best level design I’ve seen for this type of game. Each of the game’s Zones has their own thematic gimmick- swimming in the Jungle Zone, or lava in the Volcano Zone, for example. Yet rather than constantly oversuse these gimmicks to the point of nausea, they’re used in a very restrained manner.
For example, I hate water levels. Every water level is inherently flawed, both by how un-fun it is to lose all your mobility and by how stressful it is to worry about drowning. Yet in Butcher, even though you can’t drown, there are very few actual water sequences, with most of them just being short hops. The point of these are just to test how prepared you are for the water hazard, a school of ravenous piranhas.
This is the same for all the gimmicks, too. Each one of them features grand prominence on one of the level’s stages, and maybe small appearances in the other at best. Just enough to be memorable, not enough to get you sick of it.
This is also great because the sequences that do use this gimmick are sick as hell. In one of the stages, you have to race through the level as you’re chased by a buzzsaw. In another, the lava is building up super fast, and you need to jump up to the top of the level before you prematurely recreate the end of Terminator 2.
Again, it’s the restraint that makes these segments so enjoyable. Rather than draw me out with a half hour segment of outrunning the buzzsaw, the fact that I get one cool buzzsaw segment makes it way more memorable.
It also pops off with an amazing final boss, named “The Guardian”. The fight’s a furious dash to avoid the bosses’ attacks, where it also uses some old mechanics against you. It also has the genius idea of locking on permanently, so you don’t need to hold the game’s aim button and can fire on the boss with impunity.
Of course, the game’s not exactly the biggest. A complete run took me about 2 hours, and the game’s final boss also has the distinction of being its only boss. Considering the game is only RM44, it’s not too bad a deal.
II don’t really consider this a flaw, since many of the game’s systems and level design aren’t that deep either. Rather than playing 8 hours of repetitive levels, each good feature of BUTCHER stays just long enough to not overstay its welcome.
There’s also its difficulties, which can keep you replaying the game a while. They control the frequency of ammo drop and your health, so you won’t have to worry about enemies becoming bullet sponges just because you wanted a challenge. Instead, the harder difficulties make it so you have to play better, with less room for error.
I really appreciate that, since a lot of games think scaling difficulty just means making every enemy have a ton of health.
For what its worth, BUTCHER is an excellent game at its price point. As a lot more games try to keep you coming back, Butcher’s solid gameplay and lack of time wasters leaves me feeling utterly satisfied with the game I got.
Even the gripes about the game being too tiny tend to fade away, as eventually you get used to it. That’s not to say it’s not still a complaint, though, I’d like to be able to see my space death robot in more than just the game’s boxart. But that aside, you have a totally fun if not frustrating adventure.
|Great level design||Tiny sprites|
|Fast Paced Combat||Weapons Can Feel A Little Samey|
|Levels LOOK Good|
Review Copy Provided by Transhuman Design. Game reviewed on PS4.