The news that DOOM is on its way to the Switch will have no doubt excited many Nintendo players who never had the chance to play the game when it was initially released last year. We still have some time to kill until it arrives, however, and luckily Crunching Koalas has brought the “DOOM-inspired” game BUTCHER to the console whilst we wait. Can it fend off our cravings for id Software’s mega-hit for now, though? Well, the instant inclusion of a chainsaw is a pretty good start!
BUTCHER is a fast-paced, 2D shooter which asks you to travel through hellish lairs full of enemies that seem intent on brutally murdering you in the face; the general rule here is “if it moves – shoot it”. There are a variety of weapons that you collect as you progress through the game – the aforementioned chainsaw, a shotgun, an assault rifle, a flamethrower, and so on – all of which will come in handy for different enemies or individual play-styles. As you travel around the levels you’ll also find things such as health and ammo – constantly keeping an eye on your current state for both of these is essential.
Things can get pretty intense very quickly; the enemies just keep on coming as you explore each small section and there are moments where you have to survive an “extermination” round where you get surrounded from all sides. Despite the 2D approach, the game actually manages to physically feel a little like a 3D first-person shooter at times (especially when using the optimum setup of a Pro Controller and the TV). This is thanks to the fact that the right control stick is used for your aiming and can be put in any direction – it feels great too; your aim snaps on to nearby enemies allowing you to really whizz around the screen, jumping or running as you fire your weapons.
Each shot feels incredibly satisfying too – probably in part thanks to some wonderful sound design. Every gun shot is loud and powerful-feeling; it has a real ‘oomph’ to it when you press the trigger. The soundtrack on the whole is rather wonderful too, actually; there are some genuinely creepy sounds of things dying and screeching in the background as if you have been thrown into the fiery depths of Mordor – it’s great. The visuals continue this success too; its pixelated look takes a little getting used to at first, but soon it really starts to feel natural and everything clicks into place.
Each of the game’s five areas (six if you include the devilish final boss) looks completely different too. They each have their own theme – a volcano, a jungle, and a city for example – and these differences affect how the levels are put together. The jungle levels make use of verticality (deep bodies of water and highly stacked ledges are often found here), whereas other areas might trap you into really narrow, horizontal areas. The gameplay itself doesn’t change that much, however; the goal is always to simply ‘not die’ and activate switches when necessary until you reach the exit.
That is probably BUTCHER’s only downfall – there is a lot of repetition. There are things in place to combat this such as the different area themes and the steady introduction of new weapons and enemies (mechanical spiders with rotating saws, anyone?), but essentially every level is a case of move, shoot, press switch, move, shoot, etc. Another thing that may be seen as a negative by some is the level of difficulty, although other players will no doubt love this aspect. The game isn’t ashamed to admit just how hard it is; when loading for the first time it instantly tells you that “the easiest mode is ‘HARD’!”, which, whilst not completely true, does set the scene rather accurately.
The easiest mode that you can choose is in fact “Casual”. Here, the challenge is almost entirely taken away; the enemies take much longer to fire at you, items you pick up give you double the amount of goodies that they usually would, and you’ll often find yourself just running carelessly through areas with no concern whatsoever. This really isn’t the case on the game’s ‘Hard’ (or even harder) difficulties, though. Things can get incredibly brutal on these modes but, thankfully, it is never unfair – you can study the enemies’ locations and patterns of movement to try and figure out better ways of tackling situations when you restart a level. By no means does this mean you’ll ever find yourself thinking “hey, this is easy!”, but it does mean that dying over and over again does actually feel worth it.
To answer our initial question, then: yes, BUTCHER is a great game to play if you have that DOOM itch, as well as being a great game in its own right. It feels fantastic to play; your movement and shooting feel wonderfully responsive and every trigger press is immensely satisfying. It could have been better with more content, and Handheld mode doesn’t feel quite as impressive as TV mode, but for the price you can’t really go wrong with what is an enjoyable game that does ultimately do a lot of things right. Maybe one for those who like their games on the more challenging side – give it a chance if you’re brave enough!