Butcher is essentially a fast based 2D side scrolling bullet hell shooter from Transhuman Design and published by Crunching Koalas. Originally released on the PC last October, Butcher is a very hard game; indeed the games’ own tagline is ‘The Easiest Mode is Hard’. Beyond that is ‘Harder’, ‘Hardest’ and then ‘Impossible’. So is it really as difficult as it seems?

You are a cyborg charged with exterminating the last of humanity. This most reductivist plot equates to shooting everything that moves, and everything that moves is shooting at you. The pixelated visuals deliberately evoke the likes of Duke Nukem and DOOM as does the ‘just keep moving and shoot’ gameplay itself. Controls are a bit tricky to begin with and important to master, with the right stick and right trigger aiming your reticule and firing, whilst the jump button is on the left trigger. Movement is on the left stick with ‘down’ allowing you to drop through most floors. Clever level design adds a lot of verticality meaning you are always leaping about on the move from the constant threat that the many enemies bring. As the difficulty levels ramp up, they take away a third of your health and there are no longer any medkits or armour drops, as if it wasn’t already tough enough.

Each level comprises of 4 progressively longer and more difficult grim and grimy stages. Quite often you will get locked into a room and won’t be able to progress until you have cleared out all of the grunts and dive bombing jet pack wearing enemies. You’ll pick up old faithful weapons like assault rifles, shotguns, rail guns and of course, chainsaws to tear through and obliterate the waves of enemies. You will paint the screen crimson with their bloodied entrails as they scream in agony. A loud throbbing industrial metal soundtrack again reminds us of those early 3D shooters, and it does capture the spirit of DOOM. This game is hardcore and it is tremendous fun.

You only get one life to complete a level, the health bar drops quickly on damage and often one false move means you’ll have to start over again. You can certainly clear the early levels in just a few minutes, but after a while, as the levels in the stages get longer and more complex, the red mist and controller rage begins to seep in, and I find at that point it’s best to walk away for a bit. This is definitely a game where you will need to ‘Git Gud’. I found I was not particularly ‘Gud’ and I will admit I laughed when the ‘repeat a single level 10 times’ achievement popped. Before any others had. I should add that if you’re prepared to sacrifice your self respect, a casual mode has been included. This whacks your health up to 400% and doubles the values of pick ups. Apparently…

Thanks to Crunching Koalas and Xbox for supporting TiX.