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BUTCHER

Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Crunching Koalas
Developer: Transhuman Design
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Arcade/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

I donít think Iíve reviewed a game that was more deserving of its allcaps stylization than BUTCHER. Just look at it. It says almost everything you need to know about the game. Two meaty, vulgar syllables smashed together in one nasty phonetic crunch. But while the name might give you the most basic idea of what itís about, it belies the fact that thereís an incredibly intelligent, challenging arcade style experience buried underneath all the blood and viscera.

BUTCHERís hyper-exaggerated pixelation manages to amplify the already-excessive ultraviolence. Even from a distance, the pixels used to construct everything are absolutely massive, which in turn makes the on-screen action look like itís been heavily censored. Not that itís shy about its subject matter. Everything in this game dies horribly. Messily. By buckshot, blades, bullets, and brimstone. Human beings are reduced to sticky, nondescript networks of unidentifiable red clumps, burned into nothingness, or repurposed as house paint. Itís an absolutely disgusting game, and the fact that it's so implicitly detailed somehow makes it worse. Everything else about BUTCHERís visuals is in the service of being as high-impact as humanly possible. The simple act of firing your shotgun visibly rattles the screen, for crying out loud.

Maciej Niedzielski has somehow created the official soundtrack to unapologetic mass murder; itís an awesomely nasty piece of electronic metal that elevates the on-screen action at every step. It feels quintessentially 90's; in the same grody way that Hotline Miamiís music is quintessentially 80's. The music bores into your skull and plays you as you play the game. It makes you more ruthless, more efficient, and more graceful in your campaign of indiscriminate slaughter. BUTCHERís only voice acting is made up of agonized screams, because, of course it is. And all the sound effects that precede those screamsÖ earn those screams.


Gameplay:

Oddly, BUTCHERís gameplay is what ultimately provides the context for it. The game begins aboard a facility in outer space. Thereís only one door you can go into. You warp to the planet below (Earth?) and quickly realize that your mission is to annihilate every human being in sight. Because if you donít, they will do exactly that to you. I get the sense that BUTCHER is kind of a speculative exercise inspired by The Terminator, albeit one with a rather psychotic twist. Make no bones about it: you are the bad guy here.

It really is that simple: you proceed forward as each level dictates, killing everything in your way. The ultimate goal is to reach the door marked "Exit," but this always involves some combination of killing and occasionally, some very light puzzle-solving. Oftentimes, youíll find yourself in what appears to be some kind of arena. Pressing a button locks you in and triggers an "Extermination" sequence, in which enemies teleport in and try to put you down. These are the most exciting moments in BUTCHER, and it forces you to make the most of the smart map design, high-power gunplay, and fast platforming to get the job done.


Difficulty:

A major tagline for BUTCHER brags that "THE EASIEST MODE IS HARD." Thatís not entirely true, and the game goes out of its way to establish that you are inferior to it if you donít wish to partake in its default setting. That being said, games like these need to be really difficult from the off. Itís both an important stylistic choice and a vital link to the tough-as-nails experiences that inspired this gameís creation.

So yes, BUTCHER does not screw around. Any regular cannon fodder grunt is more than capable of zeroing out your armor and putting an end to your life in a matter of half-seconds. If your reflexes and environmental awareness are not on point at every moment, you will die. But death is an important learning tool; there is some trial-and-error to this game, but those who pay attention and are quick to adapt will ultimately find success.


Game Mechanics:

BUTCHER began life as a PC game, but playing it on Xbox One leads me to believe it was always intended to be played as a twin-stick shooter. The gameís controls are fluid, responsive, and easy to master. Movement, aiming, and firing are handled almost identically to other twin-stick shooters, and the generous aim assist/lock-on allows you to dedicate most of your attention and effort to carefully navigating the environment while avoiding gunfire and hazards. The decision to have (LT) double as a jump button is inspired; your right thumb should be used to aim 99% of the time, with that final 1% reserved for switching weapons when youíre out of ammunition.

On their own, most of BUTCHERís enemies are pretty easy to put down, but the game implements its challenge factor by having them attack you in numbers. Thereís a hierarchy to enemy types thatís evocative of Doom; the strategy involved is also quite similar. Do you cull the herdís weaklings before taking on the heavy hitters? Or do you switch to your big guns and focus the most immediate threats down as quickly as possible? Regardless of your strategy, youíll be doing a lot of kiting in BUTCHER; if youíre not moving, youíre dead.

BUTCHER knows what it is, and it knows what itís not. Go in with the right kind of expectations, and youíll find something of a love letter to the seedy underbelly of early 90's video games. Itís absolutely not for everybody, but itís perfectly priced, stylish as hell, and catharsis redefined.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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