A game by Transhuman Design for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2016.
Butcher is a sidescrolling shooter inspired by the gritty action games of the early 90’s – Doom in particular – but offering far more blood and guts than those games ever did, all presented in heaps of chunky pixels. You take on the role of a cyborg who is tasked with wiping out the last remnants of humanity (despite being partially human himself), but doing so is no easy task, and players can expect to be butchered quite often along this 20-level festival of carnage.
As the game’s title screen states, “The easiest mode is ‘HARD’”. For players who slept through “Hurt me plenty”, the game also offers Harder and Hardest modes, which reduce the player’s health and the availability of medkits and armor pickups, and there’s an unlockable Impossible mode if you can track down enough of the game’s hidden skulls. Players who don’t derive pleasure frequent deaths and full level replays have no business here; only those steeped in the embers of Ultra-Violence need apply.
UPDATE: About two months after the game's release, the developers created a DLC pack (called W.I.M.P.) that adds a new Casual Mode granting players four times the health and doubling the value of pickups. For those who have found themselves exclaiming "Hey, not so rough!", this pack is for you.
The game begins with a short introductory sequence featuring a giant warship in orbit over Earth. A smaller ship emerges and thrusts toward a space station, with initialization messages and directives appearing along the way. Upon setting down at the station, the player discovers a series of teleporters (which must be accessed in order), each linked to a different location on the planet’s surface, including an ironworks facility with pools of molten metal, a military base with terrifying walking saw blades, a rainy jungle with wild cats and piranhas, a lava-filled volcano research station, and a city that stands as the last bastion of humanity.
The player’s starting weapons are a chainsaw and a shotgun with five shells… which isn’t a whole lot of equipment for someone on a mission of planetary genocide. Fortunately, players can acquire additional ammo within the levels, although ammo pickups are somewhat scarce compared to the number of humans that require high caliber facial surgery. New weapons are slowly acquired along the way, including an assault rifle, flamethrower, and grenade launcher.
Players have a floaty 3x jump, which is initiated by pressing UP, allowing for multiple upward hops if the button is held, and players may perform a low jump by pressing DOWN after jumping. Players are able to move and aim independently, but running away and spraying bullets is ill-advised given the cyborg’s frailty and the limited availability of ammo. There are moments where it is appropriate to dash into the fray screaming and cursing and pumping hot lead into everything that moves, but in general, players are rewarded for taking a more tactical approach, making use of cover and cycling over to the best weapon for the job (or at least the one with the most ammo).
Players begin each level with 100 units of health, and health may be restored or extended beyond 100 units by collecting health pickups that are occasionally deposited in the environment, and even more occasionally left behind as enemy drops. The weakest of these pickups restores a paltry five units of health, which – given the average enemy’s damage output – is almost enough to recover from a stubbed toe. Armor pickups are available as well, and these function similarly to those found in Doom, allowing the payer to absorb additional damage without reducing his health meter.
Despite the many parallels to Doom, including melting screen transitions, there is one major difference, and that is the fact that most enemies can kill the player in about two seconds. Taking a close-range shotgun blast can cut a fully engorged health meter in half, and shotguns are still pretty dangerous at a distance. Additionally, guys with baseball bats can run at you quickly and start smashing you in the face, guys with assault rifles can hit you from a distance, and guys with flamethrowers can dish out continuous damage at a medium range.
Enemies become alert as soon as they get a line of sight on you – as indicated by a white exclamation point above their heads – and will open fire on your position shortly thereafter. If you get caught in the open with more than a couple of enemies in range, you should expect a quick trip back to the start of the level.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to quickly assess the situation, as the small sprite sizes and low contrast brown and grey (and blood red) color scheme causes many enemies to blend into the background, making them hard to spot. As such, you may suddenly find yourself being noticed by several enemies that you didn’t see, or get popped at short range by a lone stationary enemy without realizing he’s there. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell you’re in trouble until it’s already too late.
Finding cover is a solid strategy, but enemies will move to flush you out when possible, and enemies are capable of jumping onto higher platforms, dropping down, and even crossing some small gaps. If you’re running out from behind cover to take a pot shot, you’d better have some pretty decent aim or you risk running out of ammo and reverting back to the chainsaw. However, if you manage to strike an enemy without killing him, he may be momentarily stunned, allowing you to close ground and get in another hit. Furthermore, if an enemy drops down next to you, you can give him a good kick to stun him – or launch him off a ledge and into a pit of spikes or lava, or onto a hook at the end of a chain – and then follow up with a gun or your chainsaw… or just keep kicking him until he dies.
Killed enemies scream violently and leave behind sprays of blood, covering the surrounding level elements, and after a long battle, rooms are often drenched with the sanguine fluid. In addition, it’s possible to blast a guy in half, leaving him to scream in pain as he drags his torso around until he succumbs to his injuries.
Some bad guys will drop their intestines when killed, causing their guts to hang down through one-way platforms, or sometimes being stretched between two objects, really emphasizing the game’s gore factor. Knocking baddies into flames or shooting down a bad guy in a jet pack results in a huge fiery explosion. Even travelling through a teleporter causes the cyborg to disintegrate into squishy squibs before he is rebuilt on the far side.
At several points in the game, the player will enter “Extermination Mode”, in which the doors to the area close off and waves of enemies are teleported into the area. Here, the player must survive the onslaught, with some waves ending in a smattering of health and ammo drops, giving the player just a few precious seconds to make a run for them before the next round of enemies is pumped in.
In the second area, the player must contend with a number of moving saw blades, but these are just as dangerous to the enemies as they are to the player. Players who outrun a saw blade can listen to the satisfying sounds of enemy soldiers being ground into chum behind them, and there’s even an extermination area featuring a saw blade that can kill most of the enemies in the room, especially if you lure the bad guys into harm’s way.
The game’s drab and carnage-soaked environments are supported by a heavy industrial soundtrack, which is frequently punctuated by the sounds of screams and suffering. Audio plays an important part in strategic gunfighting as well, as players can listen for gaps between gunfire, indicating a moment of safety to advance on enemies. In addition, the HUD is designed to allow the player’s focus to remain on the action, with a visual indicator showing the number of rounds remaining in the currently-selected weapon, and a flash of red when ammo is nearly depleted. Running out of ammo automatically switches the player over to the next one with ammo, and running out completely bumps the player down to the chainsaw.
Butcher was developed by Transhuman Design, a studio based in Warsaw, Poland, which also developed King Arthur’s Gold and Trench Run. The studio is headed by designer and programmer Michał Marcinkowski, who previously developed Soldat.