OpinionVideo Games

Killbug Is a Beautiful Panic Attack of a Bug Arena Shooter

Killbug from Samurai Punk is a hectic arena shooter FPS where you have no time to breathe against bug armies, and it is excellent.

Sometimes you can instantly tell a game is going to feel amazing to play, which is how I felt when I landed on footage of Killbug online. This arena shooter is from Melbourne-based studio Samurai Punk, which is also behind games like Screencheat and Justice Sucks. I’m not an FPS pro by any means, but I’m always excited when I see a game trying to do something weird with the genre. This definitely fits the bill, with a robust movement system you have to completely master if you want any hope of surviving the endless swarms of bugs and boosting your score on the leaderboards. And while this wasn’t by any means necessary for enjoyment, I had a 10/10 time when I paired Killbug with a couple of pot-infused gummies and just let the insectoid chaos wash over me.

Did it dull my reaction times? Probably. Did I get squashed by digital bugs a whole lot and sweat through a shirt or two before I could even clear the first couple of waves? Definitely. Was it absolutely rad? Oh yeah. There’s hardly a still moment as you hurtle narrowly past bugs and spray your SMG wildly to thin the hordes, with this game clearly living in a similar lane to the zippy and trippy shooting games like Devil Daggers and Hyper Demon. These games take the frenetic movement of early FPSs like Doom and let you loose in challenging arenas filled with overwhelming mobs of enemies and bonkers visuals that may give you a headache, but they work. Killbug is less psychedelic than those prior examples but just as unrelenting.

Killbug from Samurai Punk is a hectic arena shooter FPS where you have no time to breathe against bug armies, and it is excellent.

Even the starter enemies are super intimidating — ladybugs that quickly grow in number and form intimidating masses that crawl across the ground and up walls to you. They do solid damage and can close distance faster than you expect with a charge attack. They’re quickly joined by honeycomb-slinging bees and exploding fireflies that will sail away and damage the horde if you get a lucky angle on a sword slice. As an interpretation of your advanced senses, the sides of your screen will warble with warm colors if enemies are about to hit you from offscreen, and you will be fighting completely surrounded from the very beginning of the game until the time you’re finally brought down.

Your enemy bugs may have the power of numbers, but at the very least we have a gun and sword to tip the scale. You play the titular Killbug, seeking vengeance on the denizens of a violent underground bug kingdom who clipped your wings and left you in exile after being threatened by your sweet sword moves. The game explains its basic movement systems including a double jump, wall run, and a dash connected to your melee strike in a brief tutorial, but there’s more depth if you go past Killbug’s outer layers.

Killbug from Samurai Punk is a hectic arena shooter FPS where you have no time to breathe against bug armies, and it is excellent.

You’ll first notice that you float down slower if you’re firing your gun facing downward, giving you a cushion to get to another wall or safe area before plummeting into the path of a centipede. I was clumsy with the verticality at first, but I soon found myself bouncing between columns and kiting enemies every which way, or being confident enough to jump off bounds of the floating arena to slip away from a growing ambush. I even discovered a powerful move that wasn’t explained in the tutorial by glancing at a gameplay stream by the devs. I saw them melee the ground at the same time as a jump, which gives you a huge vertical boost and a small window to shoot a powerful skill shot from your gun that one-shots even the tankier enemies. This move punishes you by wasting a melee slash if you don’t nail the timing, but it is always so satisfying to pull off, especially when you manage to nail a Huntsman spider that’s been chasing you down with a no-scope.

You also recover a sliver of health for every enemy killed by a melee hit, and you get even more if you manage to line up a strike that cuts down several bugs at once, meaning you’re always balancing whether you can afford to dash into the surging crowd just for a moment to top off your health. I love these systems that add even more moments of on-the-fly pressure to encounters. Even though I felt incredibly badass every time I was controlling my character, the game made sure to preserve the fact that one mistake could quickly snowball and spell doom for the run.

Killbug from Samurai Punk is a hectic arena shooter FPS where you have no time to breathe against bug armies, and it is excellent.

Even though enemy spawns seem to be somewhat consistent per run, it’s hard for the repetition to feel stale when so much is thrown at you to increase challenge. I have the first waves of Killbug’s enemies memorized pretty well by now, but the timing of throwing new threats at you just as you’re getting comfortable still feels fine-tuned, at least for my skill level. Some players may wish for more customization of weapons or a couple of maps to choose between, but I came to appreciate that Killbug focused around one move set polished to a sheen in a tightly designed arena. More options could have risked poking a hole in this incredible foundation of a movement system or introducing strategies that trivialize the well-balanced challenge.

Killbug has become a phenomenal addition to my gaming rotation even in the short time I’ve had it. I was sucked into it pretty deeply in the first days, but I’m still playing it at least once a day for a couple of runs if I’m ever unsure of what to play. Killbug promises something strange and specific, and it more than delivers on it. That thing may not be for you, but those it jams with won’t be able to put it down. In a time when AAA shooters tend to leave so much to be desired on the single-player front, I highly recommend exploring innovative and bonkers games like this if you still like messing up some bad guys in first-person every now and then.

About the author

Jacob Linden
Jacob is a freelance writer for The Escapist and the writer of the column Expedition, which explores compelling side stories in new and classic games. He started writing for The Escapist, and games media in general, in fall of 2022 after a year writing blogs for small brands and news for smaller websites. He plays a ton of different genres but has a soft spot for sprawling RPGs like the Souls series or Skyrim, and he firmly believes that Pokémon Emerald is the best game in the series hands down. He has a degree in Film & Television Production and is also published in Esquire, Polygon, and Popular Mechanics.