To truly understand Bugsnax, we must first understand what Bugsnax are. Are they bugs? Are they snacks? Are they something more nefarious? You are a keen investigative Grumpus journalist who receives an invite from explorer Elizabert Megafig, to travel to Snaktooth Island in order to document the strange phenomenon known as Bugsnax. But on arrival, Elizabert has gone missing and the town of inhabitants is fractured and scattered. It falls upon you to find out what happened to Elizabert and the inhabitants and to help in rebuilding the village while documenting and understanding just exactly what these strange yet delicious looking creatures are.
If you’ve ever played Pokemon and thought “What if I could feed the monsters I catch to other people?” then not only would I say this game is for you, I’d suggest you might have a few underlying issues to sort out. Bugsnax captures elements from several successful franchises and rolls them into one, creating an experience that is fun and quirky, yet oddly familiar. From the eyes of the journalist, you explore Snaktooth Island, documenting the various Bugsnax and working out the best way to capture them with your Snak Trap. Some of the Snax are craftier than expected though, and don’t easily fall for the trap – so you have to harvest different sauces from plants to lure them in; for instance, both Bunger and Fryder really love ketchup, while Strabby and Kweeble like chocolate sauce. There are even elemental effects at play for some Bugsnax – for instance, Noodler or Scorpenyo will burn your Snak Trap or anything you use to catch them, while Bopsicle will freeze things.
As you race around Snaktooth Island collecting Bugsnax, certain characters will only return to Snaxburg if you perform necessary tasks, most revolving around catching a particular Snak that’s only found in another area of the map and feeding it to them. The problem-solving element of the game starts to shine here as there are certain Snax that you can only catch with particular items, or certain sauces, or even at a specific time of day or night. It then is up to you as to how creative, or crazy, you can be to catch these Bugsnax. Believe me, there will be some unbelievable catches that will make you feel proud of yourself.
Of course, once you’ve caught the different Bugsnax, the next question is: what do you do with them?
Do you give them over to Gramble, who is trying to keep them as family? Or do you feed them to the other Grumpuses and watch their body change shape to the creature they’ve been fed? Half the fun is turning the Grumpus townsfolk into crazy-looking beasts made of food with the variation of Bugsnax at your disposal. Get the combinations right and you’ll also score some neat trophies which add to the appeal.
No strangers to blending quirky fun with more adult storytelling, developer Young Horses wear their influences on their sleeve. There are shades of Pokémon and Pokémon Snap in the game, but with additional aspects of games like Ape Escape and Viva Piñata as well. Throw in some adult storytelling on top of that and you’ve got a well-rounded adventure that doesn’t revert to being a chore to play. The overall story won’t take you too long to complete if you’re quick, and the range of side-quests and Bugsnax to find will give you more to do throughout.
The game looks crisp and clean for what it is with lots of bright colours and cute designs, and the designs of the areas and creatures have a very nostalgic feel to them almost as if it could have been released in the early days of the original PlayStation. The voice acting is far from a chore to listen to as well, and throw in some very chill ambient tunes for the different areas and you’ll manage to lose a lot of time just having fun exploring. I’d be amiss if I didn’t include the extremely catchy theme by Kero Kero Bonito too, which you will no doubt get stuck in your head once the game is over.
Further into the game, some of the shine starts to wear off just a bit. Loading times seem quite excessive for visiting different areas—I’m sure I waited almost a minute a couple of times—and the game starts struggling when an area is populated with a lot of Bugsnax, with frame rate drops and stuttered gameplay, and that’s even on a PS4 Pro. It seems quite unusual for a game that looks as smooth and simple as it is to have such an issue, and luckily that was the only major problem I encountered, save for falling down a mountain and getting stuck in a wall for about 40 seconds.
PLAYSTATION 5 IMPRESSIONS
(WORDS BY SHANNON GRIXTI)
I’ve also been playing Bugsnax on PS5 and echo Matt’s sentiments about what a great little game it is. It really feels like it was made for the PS5. The DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers are used in more ways than any other game that I’ve played so far, with a great tactile feeling for every gadget. Similarly, haptic feedbacks mean that you can feel every environment differently.
In terms of performance, it’s probably the least optimised game that I’ve played. It’s still absolutely beautiful but I experienced quite a lot of frame drops. Load times going between areas for at least four to five seconds, which felt a little bit over the top considering the areas are tiny.
Still though, with the game being free on PlayStation Plus for PlayStation 5, you’d be crazy not to try it.
THIS GAME WAS TESTED ON A PS5 AND A PLAYSTATION 4 PRO FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Whether it’s the super-catchy theme song, the nostalgia-evoking gameplay, or simply the very basic fun of hunting new Snax to transform the Grumpuses, Bugsnax is a game that is well worth your time. Its simple yet addictive challenge of catching the cute yet strange creatures coupled with some wholesome storytelling delivers a well-rounded and fun adventure.