It might be described as a 2D homage to Doom, but Crunching Koalas’, excessively violent and brutally bleak, Butcher has as much in common with the 16-bit iterations of Alien 3 as it does with John Carmack’s landmark FPS – well, it does from a purely aesthetic point of view anyway.
The gameplay might be Doom with fewer dimensions, but while it certainly shares many of that games’ visual cues, at a glance, Butcher has a very strong Alien 3 vibe going on. That’s fine of course, as for those who haven’t played it, Alien 3, despite being based on a rather disappointing movie, it’s actually one of the better video game interpretations of the series to date. The big difference here of course is the speed. Sure, it has that ‘hellish’ vibe that Doom is famous for, but beyond the very Doom-esque selection of weapons, what makes the two games so immediately comparable is Butcher’s speed.
Despite its heady claim that “The Easiest Mode is Hard” (a blatant lie given that there is actually a Casual Mode), Butcher actually starts off at a relatively steady pace. You move your character around a very bleak space station as a handful of enemies show up that can be easily taken down using the games’ simplistic but effective twin stick shooting mechanics. At this point, Butcher feels more like Alien 3 than it does Doom – this only lasts for a few stages though.
Each stage is brief, but despite the lack of checkpoints, initially at least, Butcher feels a lot less challenging than you might have expected. This doesn’t last long. After a brief and somewhat gentle introduction to the world of Butcher, the difficulty and speed begin to ramp up exponentially. You might not be moving any faster than you did at the start, but the constant array of blood-thirsty enemies encourage a sense of perpetual motion in which you are rarely given the opportunity to look around and smell the…..blood soaked death traps? Whether it be the fast paced and relentless enemy attacks or the increasing number of environmental death traps, Butcher soon becomes a hectic, chaotic, but always manageable experience, one that is relentlessly challenging but very rarely unfair.
As you move deeper into the game, those claims of this being a 2D take on the original Doom begin to feel more and more accurate. It might be from a 2D perspective, but as you gain access to a wider range of weaponry and the game throws increasingly epic enemy encounters your way, that 2D aesthetic that is initially so reminiscent of Alien 3 begins to drain into the background with all of your emphasis instead aimed towards simply surviving the next deadly encounter.
Visually, the low-fi 2D visuals, while clearly done many times before, feel somewhat unique thanks to the games’ gore-laden aesthetic. Many games have gone for this psedo-8-bit style in recent years, but by homaging the genres to which the style is usually associated, most games invariably become relatively bright an breezy affairs. By keeping the emphasis here on 90s uber violent shooters, the aesthetic subsequently takes a unique turn by going for a much darker, altogether grimmer tone. Yes, it’s a little arcadey and certainly far from realistic, but the levels of violence here still have an effect and really do captures the tone of 90s era Doom.
It’s not very deep, it’s not very nuanced and it’s certainly not particularly innovative, but what Butcher is, above all else, is loads of fun. This is a tight, challenging, carefully crafted twin stick shooter that manages to capture the essence of 90s era Doom and successfully transfer it into a 8-bit-styled 2D shooter – it’s fast, it’s frantic and it is supremely playable. The shooting mechanics are incredibly rewarding and the low-fi art style, while obviously done before, manages to find its own unique niche thanks to its grimy, blood-soaked aesthetic. Butcher is a return to a simpler time, a time when story took a back seat to gore and uber violence; it won’t be for everyone of course, but if you’re in the market for a decidedly old-school shooter, Butcher is better than most.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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