Bottom line: If you love creature collecting, cute characters, drama, mysteries, and/or puzzle games then Bugsnax will be right up your alley. It does an excellent job of walking the line between adorable and creepy, which results in a fun new experience for gamers of all ages.
- It's very creative
- Adorably creepy characters
- Plays out a lot like a murder mystery
- Time and weather mechanics
- Capturing every Bugsnax is a puzzle
- Changes up gameplay by unlocking new tools as you keep going
- Too many bugs (not the snacky kind)
- Makes you wanna snack in real life
- Might upset people with sensitive stomaches
Bugsnax has been on just about every gamer's radar ever since it was first announced in June. If the zany idea of half-bug-half-snack creatures that turn parts of your body into them when consumed didn't catch your attention, then the catchy Bugsnax song by Kero Kero Bonito definitely did.
As a reporter, players travel to Snaktooth Island on the invitation of Lizbert Megafig, the intrepid explorer who discovered Bugsnax and their body-changing effects. Contrary to what I thought from looking at images, Lizbert is not a walrus, but is a Grumpus — a furry, muppet-like creature with big teeth, a bulbous nose, and paws for hands.
Upon arriving to the island, players discover that Lizbert and her romantic partner Eggabell, the resident nurse, have both been missing for days. What's more, the Grumpuses that came with Lizbert on her expedition have all abandoned the settlement of Snaxburg due to backbiting and mistrust. Now it's up to you to help Filbo, the mayor of Snaxburg, bring all of the explorers back to their homes and then figure out what happened to Lizbert and Eggabell. And of course, all the while you'll be cataloging every kind of Bugsnax with your camera and figuring out how to capture them all.
This might all sound like nonsense, and you might be right, but I've already beaten the game and I definitely enjoyed it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that gameplay and the story are both much more complex than I expected. However, if you have a sensitive stomach, this might not be a treat you want to take a bite into.
Bugsnax review What I like
|Play Time||12-15 hours|
I played Bugsnax on PS4, though it's also one of the games coming to PS5 at launch. From the moment I first set virtual foot on Snaktooth Island I felt a sense of unease. This strange feeling only grew when I captured an adorable Strabby, a half-strawberry-half-bug creature, and fed it to the mayor of Snaxburg, who immediately proceeded to grow a strawberry limb in place of his right arm. Instead of freaking out about it like any sane person, he talks about how awesome Bugsnax are and tried to convince me to eat them as well.
This is basically what you get for the whole adventure: adorable-yet-creepy. Luckily, this blend of tones has become Young Heroes' thing, starting with the popular but bizarre Octodad: Dadliest Catch, and it knows how to make it work.
Creature collection Each one a cute puzzle
To have a great creature-collecting system you need two things, the first is unique creature designs and names. Bugsnax succeeds here. They have unique shapes and designs and they even move about in clever ways, which not only makes them cute but also increases my desire to want to catch them all — just like Pokémon (It's almost impossible to mention creature collecting without bringing up Pokémon, so get ready for the wave of Pokémon comparisons). Plus, these creatures often have clever names, which regularly brought a smile to my lips. Similar to Pokémon, the creatures say their names over and over. If you catch one, you'll hear the creature say its name directly from the DualShock controller, which startled me the first time it happened.
Another fun thing is that thought bubbles with emojis in them pop up above the creatures to help you know what they are thinking even from afar. So if you've just been chased off by an aggressive Bugsnax, it might have a face with a tongue sticking out. If a Bugsnax is scared of you, it might have the Home Alone hands-on-face expression.
The second part of a great collection system? Players need a fun way to catch said creatures. In Bugsnax, players are given a special camera early on that allows them to learn more about specific Bugsnax after taking their picture, kind of like a Pokédex. Thing is, some Bugsnax are easy to catch while others require specific traps or tools. I had to think creatively in order to solve these puzzles and capture some of the flying creatures in this game.
At the heart of it, creature collection in Bugsnax revolves around solving puzzles. As you continue through the story you unlock more tools, which allow you to capture more of these creatures. As an example, near the start of the game, I was given a slingshot and access to slingable sauces like ketchup, chocolate, ranch dressing, and more because certain Bugsnax are drawn to certain sauces. Strabbys are attracted to chocolate, while Bungers (basically hamburger beetles) are drawn to ketchup. You can lead Bugsnax into traps or make them go to specific locations by leaving a trail of sauce for them to follow.
Figuring out how to capture each creepy crawler made the game more interesting for me and exercised my brain. However, there were times when I kept trying something I was sure would work only to discover that I didn't have the necessary tools to capture a Bugsnax just yet.
Time and weather mechanics Determines which Bugsnax are out
There are 100 different species of Bugsnax for you to catch. However, some only show up at specific times in the day or during specific types of weather. You can rest at beds or sleeping bags to change the time, but you're at the mercy of the weather. So if you haven't completed your Bugapedia, it might mean that you need to come back to a location when it's raining.
Fortunately, the game is nice to you. You'll find evidence for the Bugsnax that aren't currently out and if you take pictures of this evidence with your camera the game will basically tell you what conditions need to be met for you to see them.
The plot keeps you going Is it murder or just a mystery?
Each time I brought a Grumpus back to Snaxburg, I got to interview them. The information they gave helped me slowly start to unravel more and more of what happened to Lizbert and Eggabell leading up to their disappearances. Catching Bugsnax in various locations around Snaktooth Island was interesting, but my curiosity kept drawing me back to the center of town and the drama that unfolded there.
Like a good Agatha Christie novel, every character is a suspect with motives and unique personalities. Many of the Grumpuses flat out hate each other, but there are a decent number of adorable couples that breakup the infighting. On that note, the game provides a relatively diverse cast of 12 individuals, four of which are LGBTQ+.
Bugsnax review What I don't like
Made me feel a little queasy Sensory rollercoaster
I have a relatively sensitive stomach. When I see something unpleasant, my appetite tends to go away and my gag reflex crops up. Thing is, there's such a mixture of yummy looking junk food Bugsnax and horrendous looking Grumpus mutations in this game that my stomach was on a constant rollercoaster as I played. As you can imagine, this left me feeling a little queasy during certain sections of the adventure (I'm looking at you, Wiggle).
Maybe it's because the characters seemed to become cannibalistic after a few changes, or maybe it's because insect appendages stick out of some of my favorite things to eat, or maybe it's because there was such a strong focus on food. Either way, I chose not to change the look of my Grumpus neighbors unless it was absolutely necessary to advance the plot. If you have a sensitive stomach, this game might not agree with you.
When I was playing for long stretches and merely catching Bugsnax instead of feeding them to Grumpuses I tended to get pretty snacky. At the beginning of my Snaktooth Island adventure, I wanted chocolate-covered strawberries, but around the middle, I was craving pizza, nachos, and Cheetos. Just be prepared to fight off or give in to your snacking temptations while playing this game.
Lots of bugs but not the snacky kind
It took me about 12 hours to beat Bugsnax. During that time I encountered several bugs. You're probably like, "no duh!" but what I meant is that there were several glitches. Only two of them were bad enough that I needed to restart the game, but as you'd expect, they tended to be rather frustrating regardless.
The two times I got really stuck, was initiated by a Bugsnax critter hitting me into a wall. When I recovered from the attack and tried to leave the area, I couldn't move. It was like I had somehow gotten embedded in the wall. Fortunately, when I went to the menu and chose to turn the game off, it told me exactly when the game had last saved, so I was able to tell how much I would have to redo when I came back.
The glitch I encountered most often would happen in Snaxburg when I stumbled across an area that triggered a cutscene between two or more characters. Suddenly the camera would move on its own away from the action and consequently make it so I could no longer hear what the characters were saying. Fortunately, I was able to keep up with what was being said by reading the subtitles. I would only gain control of the camera once the cutscene ended, at which point I would sometimes have to walk a decent ways to get back to where I had triggered the interaction. It's not the worst thing but definitely was a bit off-putting.
Young Horses is planning on releasing a 1.02 patch for Bugsnax in the near future, so it's possible these glitches will get fixed when that happens.
Bugsnax review Should you play it?
I enjoyed playing Bugsnax. Granted, there were times that the food-focused action made my stomach a little upset, but the thrill of sighting new creatures and figuring out how to capture them kept my mind busy. Plus the ongoing mystery surrounding Eggabell and Lizbert kept pulling me further into the story until I finally discovered what had taken place.
4 out of 5
The game provides plenty of progression to make capturing Bugxnax worth your while. I was able to unlock more carrying spaces for Bugsnax or acquire additional tools as the game went on, which gave me more mechanics to work with. If you like puzzle games, creature collecting, cute things, or mysteries, you really ought to check Bugsnax out.
Creepy crawly treats
You are what you eat
Capture and catalog adorable Bugsnax as you unravel the mystery of what happened to the famous explorer, Lizbert Megafig. This game is part Pokémon Snap, part puzzle game, and part mystery.
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