No, gentle reader, you are not seeing double. Though it shares a surname and a great deal of assets with early summer's Bill Killem [Free] from Everplay and Chillingo, Buzz Killem [$0.99] is a completely different game that takes place in the same universe. Rather than the timed running action of Bill, this game puts you in control of Bill's father, Buzz, in a stage-based arena battling action game that will feel instantly familiar for fans of Super Crate Box [$1.99]. This isn't the first time Everplay's name has been attached to an arena battler, of course. They also acted as the publisher for FireFruitForge's awesome melee action game Spell Sword [$0.99], and there are certainly elements of that incorporated into Buzz Killem's design as well.
The game opens with a cute cinematic that tips its hat at a couple of popular iOS games. Buzz and his son Bill are out fishing together when Buzz gets a call about some alien activity. He invites his son along, but since he has other plans, Buzz has to go it alone. You shouldn't expect a story-heavy game here by any means, but the game does do a nice job of setting up each of the game's four stages with a humorous conversation between Buzz and his commanding officer. It's just enough to give the game a bit of context and character without overdoing things. Aliens are here, and Buzz means to greet them, but sadly, he only speaks two languages: English and bullets, and like many bilingual people, he definitely favors one over the other.
Each of the game's four stages offer up a variety of missions you have to clear, in sets of three at a time. To unlock the next stage, you have to finish up a certain percentage of the current stage's missions, and there's no way through them but to do them. Buzz starts with little more than a peashooting pistol to his name, but defeating enemies will earn coins that you can use to power up weapons you own or buy new ones. In the usual style for this genre, you'll always start with your basic gun, but enemies will often drop weapons crates that will give you a random gun from the ones you have unlocked. There's also quite a hefty selection of items that can be dropped once you've unlocked them. However, these aren't unlocked with coins, but rather by gaining levels from killing alien scum. Once you've earned them, you can power them up using your coins. Gaining levels also earns you access to a large selection of disguises, most of which riff on games, movies, or other pop culture symbols. These disguises change your character's parameters, so it's worth unlocking and trying them all.
The controls and the way the world works are very similar to Bill Killem, along with the enemies. You can double jump and shoot, and enemies can be killed indirectly by pushing objects onto them. There are several types of enemies, and the longer you play, the more deadly they become. Apart from your basic pistol, every weapon in the game has a limited amount of ammo, and once it's spent, you'll go back to that default pistol. The stages are fairly big for a game of this type, usually scrolling in several directions for at least a screen or two. That means that, unlike similar games, you can't see where all the enemies and power-ups are at any given moment, so you have to keep moving to make sure you aren't missing anything.
The missions are challenging enough to give your fingers a pretty good workout, and the stages themselves are different enough from one another to provide incentive to open them up. The last two stages are pretty visually exciting in a way, adding nicely to the game's atmosphere. The game's economy is a bit more sluggish than I'd prefer, with things getting very expensive before you're even off the first page of the shop, and while the game does sell coins as IAP, there's no doubler available. If you want to unlock and upgrade everything in Buzz Killem, you're in for a grinding long haul. The game is fun to play in and of itself, but in these kinds of games, a lot of the fun comes from unlocking new toys, and it just takes too long to do that as you progress.
There's also a bit of a problem with the hit boxes on some of the enemies, making some of the unlockable weapons more of a hindrance than a help. Almost anytime I picked up the chainsaw, I ended up frantically running around trying to burn its fuel as fast as possible, since it has a very hard time hitting the flying enemies. In addition, while I love the big size of the levels, it's all too easy to fall to your death simply because you didn't see where the bottomless pits were versus areas you could just scroll down to. Falling down a pit is instant death in this game, and it's an incredibly frustrating way to go.
If you enjoyed Super Crate Box or Muffin Knight [$0.99] and are looking for something new that doesn't stray terribly far away from that concept, you'll probably have a good time with Buzz Killem. The sheer amount and variety of unlockables puts both of those games to shame, and the coin and experience systems ensure you'll be making steady progress even if you're not very good at the game. It's a lot less intense than either of those two games thanks to its roomier stages, lending it a slightly different feeling while still maintaining a very familiar core. It's not the most original thing you'll play, but if you're up for some straightforward alien homicide, Buzz has your back.
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