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Serial killers are an interesting topic, just look at the popularity of CSI, NCIS, Dexter and the countless murder investigation TV documentaries out there, not to mention films. Games featuring serial killers are a little less frequent though (no, the way you play GTA V doesn’t count), so Goodnight Butcher has something a bit more unique before you even click ‘play’ on your Steam menu.
That is its only unique feature, however, as the game itself is little more than endlessly navigating a maze. You play a butcher in an apparently condemned butcher’s store, but leaving isn’t an option due to the strange demonic presence within the building. You must make offerings by dragging animal carcasses from the freezer into the cutting room, then take the resulting cuttings to various rooms in order to trim them down to steaks or grind them up for sausage meat, etc. This all sounds very simple, but you are not alone.
As you prepare your offerings you will be chased by demonic apparitions and other nasties, each with their own telltale audio/visual cues. You must also contend with random blackouts which reduce your vision to a tiny circle around your avatar, this can cause all manner of problems as each night passes.
Much like Five Nights At Freddy’s, Goodnight Butcher takes place over the course of several nights (only three here, however) increasing in difficulty as they introduce new threats and game mechanics. Again like FNAF, each night brings with it a snippet of the game’s storyline, literally – newspaper clippings help the plot unfold. Unfortunately, whereas Scott Cawthon’s games excel in their drip fed stories by generating genuine intrigue, Goodnight Butcher is far too brief in both game length and storytelling. There isn’t even an introductory sequence to explain why the butcher is there in the first place, no hook with which to grab the player’s attention, basically rendering the game’s plot unsatisfying and, worse, unnecessary.
The gameplay itself is fun though, keeping things simple in order to focus on the mechanics of evading threats whilst getting your job done to satiate the demons’ hunger for blood. With every meat product placed in the shop’s counter window the blood vial at the side of the screen fills slightly, a marker denoting your goal amount is etched at a certain height on the vial and increases each night. Fill the vial to the necessary marker and the night’s work is complete, before you’re dropped into the next night and its new horrors. Its simplicity is reflected in its control scheme too, only using the arrow keys to move, S/Shift to run and X/Space to interact, so the lack of controller support isn’t really a problem.
Goodnight Butcher’s 2D visuals are simple but effective, somewhere between an RPG Maker game and something created in Flash. The environment looks much like an ordinary butcher’s shop, only dark and run down. Each room has unique traits so that you can more easily determine when you’re in the right place for your current task, though the map does denote which room you’re currently in and marks important rooms with an X – except in Nightmare Mode, which removes the map completely.
The enemies aren’t particularly inventive, looking like something taken straight from ‘Demons for Dummies’ with their horned skulls and whatnot. They look decent enough and are in keeping with the tone, but something a bit more unique and varied (every creature is a variant on the same design) would improve the style considerably. The sounds that each demon makes is fantastic however, distinctive and atmospheric. Perhaps the only true atmosphere in the game.
Indie developers are often a source of the most special and terrifying horror games, with claustrophobic atmosphere and stunning direction, but Goodnight Butcher places too much emphasis on speed and repetition to really offer up any scares. You’ll be too busy trying to get from A to B to care about the floating demon in the room, which quickly becomes more of an irritation than a genuine threat. Once the second demon is introduced and blackouts start occurring, it becomes a chore having to navigate around trigger spots in order to reach the breaker and restore power every few minutes, instead of striking fear into the player.
Speed and repetition are seemingly the central themes of Goodnight Butcher, as it repeats its gameplay mechanics across a measly three nights, lasting less than half an hour. Even upon completing the game, the unlocked Nightmare Mode challenges you to fill the vial (with night three’s difficulty permanently enabled) in as fast a time as possible. This does add a little longevity to proceedings but not enough for the game to really last beyond an hour or two. At £1.59 Goodnight Butcher doesn’t break the bank and is an interesting curio if you’re looking for a quick fix, but there are far superior horror games out there that are more deserving of your time and money.