There’s been a shift in gaming for many years now where developers and publishers have sought to gain attention through intelligent gameplay and interesting plots. But it’s not always the case to need a dynamic twist on a formula to make it fun and even the simplest designs and mechanics can be vastly entertaining. But adding tons of gore and sickening imagery with plenty of fast paced action isn’t bad either.

Butcher is a retro inspired pixel art, gore fest with high octane action and extremely challenging factors implemented. This is simply put what a 2D, side scrolling Dark Souls game could be like if it combined with elements from Contra. The Butcher strives on its bloodshed and extreme difficulty, testing player skills and attributes such reflexes and timing.

You embark on a bloody journey as The Butcher, a cyborg programmed to wipe out the last traces of humanity through gruesome methods and with an unforgiving attitude towards your enemies. Travelling through iron works, jungles and military bases, the Butcher will bath in the blood of his enemies, running, gunning and chain-sawing everything that moves. Heavily inspired by classic 90’s shooters, we see elements of Quake and Doom in the art style and weaponry while the game overall feels like a fluent, fast paced, ultra-violent Contra.

Your main objective for The Butcher is to blast your way through each level, reaching the end while taking out as many NPCs as possible. It’s simple, effective and highly entertaining. The action is relentless and the sense of challenge is aplenty as players will have to deal with unforgiving enemies, lack of checkpoints and hazardous environments where one wrong move can easily end you.
Where The Butcher prevails is through its intense, brutal action, magnificent sound and level design.

The action is constant, avoiding any tedious repetition with great pacing as new weapons are given throughout your campaign and most encounters require smart thinking to progress. The majority of the campaign is thoughtfully designed to encourage exploration, giving altering terrains for tactical advantages and interactions with the environment that can benefit your survival or simply kill you. There are usually big set pieces that come in the form of elevator shootouts, outrunning giant saw blades and outlasting hordes of enemies. So players will not only be kept on their feet, but thoroughly entertained if blood soaked carnage is your thing.

There’s a great sense of challenge without feeling the difficulty is artificial, overbearing or unfair. There’s usually an abundance of first aid ammo, with plenty of room for players to manoeuvre in order to avoid fire. Levels are usually not too long as well, meaning encounters aren’t dragged out and it’s fairly quick to regain your progression. Thankfully there’s a practice mode and a beginner mode that’s useful for newbies. To be honest the experience is best with the hard mode selected as it does keep you more so engaged without being too difficult. Most players of Call of Duty, Gears of War and so on will fine an exhilarating experience that’ll test their skills. Harder difficulties in the game are another matter as they’re completely insane, going as far to offer no medkits and lower starting health.

Now that’s not to say The Butcher is perfect and while it’s very good, there are some issues. Now the difficulty is encouraging players to be more skillful and not to just rush in mindlessly. Granted it appearance is a mindless, bloody shooter but there’s intelligence here to the madness. While the non-existent checkpoint system isn’t a massive burden for most, there’s a point in the later halve of the game where some of the more complex, levels soon become relentless trial and error exercises. The learning curve for the difficulty soon excels and if you think just because you’re doing well at the start means you’ll own the game, think again! There can be periods were the game feels like it’s pushing a trial and error style format of play but this usually is not the case if you’re just more thoughtful on combat or have good reflexes for those booby traps.

While the difficulty curve can be an issue for some people there’s also a lack of any dynamic features such as co-op, bosses or even perks and abilities to bring variation in combat. There’s only one boss battle in the entire game, while the rest of the game isn’t broken up with other major events.

Yet The Butcher is an exhilarating experience of old school style carnage being pumped up with tons of blood, gore and intensity. What I appreciated most about the Butcher was its simplicity but managed to carry dynamic level design, thoughtful survival style gameplay with great action. Check it out!

++ Intense, gruesome mayhem
+ Great soundtrack and intro inspired visuals
+ Good sense of challenge without feeling artificial
- Tough learning curve

A PS4 copy of Butcher was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review