KILLBUG lets you joyously squash waves upon waves of insects

Posted on May 3, 2023

KILLBUG is the latest release from Melbourne developer Samurai Punk. Its premise is simple: load into an arena overflowing with writhing, wriggly insects and survive as long as you can with only a knife and submachine gun. Kill. Kill. Kill to your heart’s glory and pray you inevitably rank well in the leaderboards in this score-chasing venture. KILLBUG delivers on that premise, providing another quirky title under the studio’s nine-year existence.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. KILLBUG is incredibly simple in its design, quickly throwing players into the action to familiarise themselves with the game feel. You’re always on the same, single map that is low-poly (much like the many creepy crawlies) in art style. Jagged walls and inclines populate the map, allowing for plenty of verticalities at play… something you’ll come to learn is crucial in-game. Expect a minuscule arsenal at your disposal and a playground you’ll become incredibly¬†familiar with (yes, expect to die a lot). Every little detail of how the game works can be bent in your favour, allowing you to hopefully survive for the long haul.

KILLBUG’s movement suite includes wall-running and the ability to double jump, with a dash being output whenever the player right-clicks to melee. Manipulate the rapid firing of your gun just right and one can hover in the air between chains of wall-runs and leaps to and from the floor. This is all crucial in not only moving your way through hordes of insects, but also immersing yourself in the feeling of KILLBUG. Hopping about, juggling all these spinning plates while there are foes coming at you from all angles, it all feels incredibly retro. That feeling is remarkable, not too dissimilar to what Neon White achieved last year. This is yet another example of indie developers’ want and success in returning to the retro FPS style. I’m glad we got to see that effort from a studio as creative and talented as Samurai Punk.

It’s worth stating that it’s a tough climb and battle with the game. With about 10 minutes survived and a score accrued of about 120k, I managed to just crack the top 10 in the list of players that had pre-launch access. I imagine my ranking will plummet a long, long way down come release. The very reason that you’ll potentially struggle with KILLBUG is because of the exact influx and enemy diversity that is thrown your way. The game starts out with small ladybugs and flies, but the longer you hold out, the more varied enemies you’ll find.

“…This is yet another example of indie developers’ want and success in returning to the retro FPS style.”

Before long, wasp hives that fire projectile wasps, red-back spiders (an obligatory inclusion as per Australian representation), and millipedes that scale the side of walls and snake their way around the map also pop up. Survive long enough and what I can only comprehend as a gigantic flying centipede will erupt from the ground. Its implications and impact on the map, while you play, are relatively unclear to me as of this moment; I’ve not yet survived long since their introduction.

Players that have Entomophobia (a fear of insects) will either have a delightful or horrifying experience with KILLBUG. On the one hand, there are so many different ways the creepy crawlies can cause you harm, whether that’s direct hits, exploding on death, or the slugs that leave a poisonous trail just to make the map that little bit busier. Although, you do get to, well… kill bugs, seeing them erupt satisfyingly in gooey pinks and greens. That’s got to work for at least some.

The knife melee/dash hybrid is absolutely the most powerful of attacks, with players able to wipe out a series of enemies if they’re bunched up enough… but it comes with a catch. It’s crucial and must¬†be used frequently because successful kills with the knife restore both health and ammunition for the SMG, but it also has a cooldown that’s cruelly and effectively just a little bit longer than players would like. This can very easily make situations hairy and is often the defining factor that can extend or end a run. It’s an engaging risk vs reward mechanic where I’ve had both ends of the spectrum. A quick attack has been my saving grace at times, whilst other times I was too eager, inefficient in my strike and therefore not regenerating my health.

KILLBUG is an incredibly solid shooter. There are absolutely no complaints to be had about its limited scope when the loop is this engaging. Runs go through so quickly that you’re often right back in the action. If I had to voice any issues, it’s just some of the tutoralisation. Every so often, players’ SMG will be granted one special magnum-style bullet used to blast through a group of bugs. It’s a powerful and valuable limited shot. There’s clearly some pre-requisite that triggers the shot, but I have not yet worked out what that requirement is, with it seemingly popping at random. The tutorial offers no hints or inklings that this is a feature in the game, nor does it teach you how the melee grants heal. These are left to the player to discover when thrust into the arena.

Samurai Punk has done it again, crafting another stylish and quirky title with KILLBUG. The proof is in the pudding. KILLBUG is addictive, providing the goods with that ‘one more run’ feeling. Players keen to get their insect-killing on can check out the game on PC via Steam.