We need a lil’ break from all the walking simulators.
While it’s nice to actually connect with characters on an emotional level, for the sake of adoration, you just need that change of pace. A game you can run to and just jump right into the action. With a buckshot beauty in one hand, and a smug grin on your face, you jump to a game where you can just cut the bullshit and let go. BUTCHER is that game.
BUTCHER is what you’d get if Mario was a bigger psychopath than what he already is. Developed by Transhuman Design in 2016, what you saw before from them (if you had heard of them), was in stark contrast to today’s offering. Before this, they were making games that had a concurrent player base of around 4, and DOOM was getting ever closer to to being released. With that in mind, they figured “ah, bugger it”, making the most stylish 2D DOOM clone your eyes ever saw.
If you think there’s going to be some kind of story, then I’m sorry buddy, but you’re in the wrong place. It doesn’t even have the DOOM way of a story, where it’s just hanging in the background, readily available whenever you’re done using Cacodemons as basketballs. You’re just some guy on a ship, and you teleport to areas where there are no guys on ships, so you see where the differences lie.
The gameplay of BUTCHER is a carbon copy of their other titles, King Arthur’s Gold and Trench Run, but with an entirely different vignette, and approach to it. Instead of being all cutesy, it seems Transhuman Design were just pissed off that their previous games were unknown, so they went no-holds-barred on their next project. Now, they just want the people who ignored them to suffer.
BUTCHER’s tagline is “The Easiest Mode is HARD!” and unfortunately, they’re wrong. There’s a casual mode if you hate yourself enough to play on the same difficulty most game journalists do, which gives you enough health to take on most Highlanders, and enemies are too feeble to even strike back. But I’m no “most game journalists” so pop me on that “The Hardest” difficulty. Yeah!
It’s amazing how little Transhuman care about normal progression in BUTCHER. Your first weapon is the shotgun, a meaty blast that turns anything into chunky salsa, and from there, the weapons get worse. The assault rifle, while sounding equally bombastic, doesn’t take care of enemies that easily. The flamethrower is only used for specific enemies and the final two, the Railgun and Grenade Launcher, have the punch but not the effectiveness. The shotgun-only run is easily the most possible route to take here.
Regardless of how you approach your enemies, you will witness quite possibly the most violent game ever made. Hyperbole isn’t used, as the first level proves my point, with the shotgun turning everything in the room red. Body parts and intestines fly all over the place, attaching themselves to the ceiling and platforms, and with one flick of the options menu, if you die then all of the previous violence from your last attempt will stay.
How Transhuman approached the gunfights is neat as well. While all the enemies in question are obliterated in 1 or 2 hits, your guy is as expendable too. With the rules set in motion and your slowly becoming more nimble and lethal over time, it manages to push you into the battle at a brisk but forgiving pace. Along with the equally lethal AI, you also have to keep an eye out for the unarmed ones, as they usually have access to traps that can lead the player to death.
While it’s all nice touches that really add to the flow of battle, it doesn’t stop the game becoming white noise, even with the other half of the absurd sound design. After a while, the nonsense of what is happening on screen just stops becoming disturbing or funny, even when you hear the blood on the ground screaming. Even in later levels, where piranhas and tigers start trying to eat you, it’s not enough to change the one tone Transhuman have been emanating throughout.
Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still exhilarating and a blast to play, as you dart across rooms. I simply wish for the weapons to have a bit more bite to them. That isn’t what’s stopping the game from becoming a chore however, the change comes from some truly boring mission structure, which is more one-tone than the violence.
It goes like this, you enter a room, and people spawn in. Sometimes you’ll be locked in the room. That’s it. There’s no exploration, no finding guns early, or some quirky Easter eggs. There are collectable skulls, but it’s not like DOOM, where it adds flavour text or simple cheats, a la Call of Duty 4. These pointless skulls are just hidden in places and you have to headbutt walls in order to find the secret path to get them.
There’s a few that change the pace somewhat. While you can easily camp in the corner and shoot anyone that comes into your vicinity, there’s also Saw-Spiders that can enter the arena. These insta-kill bad boys will take random paths throughout the room, usually into your area. It helps keep the flow of combat at a steady, gratifying pace, and I do wish that they would’ve been more of a presence other than the two times they appeared.
Intermixed with the arenas and killrooms is Mario-style platforming under almost-insta-kill lava. There’s a few more platforming sections dotted throughout, but they aren’t worthy enough to comment on. BUTCHER heavy reliance on this one pony, smothered in blood and guts, isn’t able to elevate the game, even when you consider the 2 hour playthroughs’ you’ll more than likely accomplish.
After a while, even the environments start to the grate on the eyes. From rusty building to rusty warehouse with lava, to a rusty city, it all looks the same bar the Jungle Outpost, which has the foliage, but still has no colour or life to it. I can kind of see Transhuman trying to change the scenery here, but they forget to add any colour that isn’t grey, or red.
After a while, you WILL get to the end. You’ll die a few times but it won’t dent that length-of-a-feature film playtime. The end-boss himself is just a bigger Saw-Spider, but he’s able to shoot smaller retracting blades at you. It’s a severe misstep as you’ve been learning the dodge the Saw-Spiders at earlier intervals, so he’s no biggie. In fact, I think that’s where most of BUTCHER’s issues lie. The difficulty.
If you’re trash, you’ll probably praise the game for being unforgiving. However, if you pay more than a little attention to how the game works and how enemies traverse the field, then you’ll beat this game with no sweat on your brow. The biggest bump in difficulty comes from the specific enemies, so you scramble for the Flamethrower.
Is there a point to BUTCHER? Yes, the objective of making the most violent game ever made, handicapped by the fact that it’s 2D. Does it succeed? Yes. Is it fun? Yes. Will you care after you’ve done the main campaign? Probably not. Is it good? Mmmyeah, I’d say so. Beneath BUTCHER’s omni-violence and disregard for How Clean Is Your House?, is a well-made side scroller with the cathartic feel of DOOM. But you’re more than likely not going to remember it after you’ve polished your plate. Enjoy it while it lasts.
The Most Violent Game Ever Created. But that's the only claim to fame.