Bugsnax takes you on a whimsical adventure to Snaktooth Island, home of the legendary half-bug half-snack creatures, Bugsnax. Invited by intrepid explorer Elizabert Megafig, you arrive to discover your host nowhere to be found, her camp in shambles, and her followers scattered across the island alone… and hungry!
Publisher: Young Horses
Reviewed on: PS4 (Pro unit)
Also available for: PS5, PC
Cast: Barbara Goodson, Helen Sadler, Fryda Wolff, Max Mittelman, Fred Tatasciore, Cassandra Lee Morris, Kenna Ramsey, Sam Reigel, Haviland Stillwell, Rick Zieff, Yuri Lowenthal, Roger Craig Smith, Debra Wilson, Casey Mongillo
Developer: Young Horses
Creative Director & Writer: Kevin Zuhn
Art: Christopher Stallman, Megan Varde
Design: John Murphy
Programming: Kevin Geisler, Devon Scott-Tunkin
The debut trailer for developer Young Horses’ follow up to Octodad featured a colourful cast of characters and one hell of a catchy tune. Indie pop band Kero Kero Bonito performed the charming “It’s Bugsnax” and myself, like many others, found it to be an instant shower-song classic. But Bugsnax is more than just a catchy theme tune. It’s got Pokémon Snap inspirations on the sleeve, some wonderful comedic moments, a charming, wonderful cast and it all comes together in a package surprisingly full of heart.
You play as an intrepid reporter who’s sent a film reel by famed explorer, Elizabert Megafig. On it, she details a wondrous new discovery on Snaktooth Island. Creatures that are half-bug, half-snack. They’re called Bugsnax. However, when you arrive in Snaxburg to interview Megafig all is not right on the island. The inhabitants and Megafig’s followers have had a falling out and spread themselves out across the island and Megafig herself has gone missing. So the task falls to you: unite the Grumbles (the inhabitants of the island) of Snaxburg, find out what happened to Lisbeth and discover the truth behind the Bugsnax.
As you explore the different sections of the island you’ll find a new Grumble who you’ll need to convince to return to Snaxburg. This usually involves catching different kinds of Bugsnax to please them, and catching those Bugsnax can range from being as easy as laying out a trap and springing it at the right time to having to find ways to cool off its molten lava coat so it won’t melt your trap.
The Pinkle requires you to pull a jar off its head before you can capture it in your net.
Each of the game’s Bugsnax is a joy to discover and their designs are a rather ingenious combination of food, drinks and bugs. However, it’s their sounds that had me laughing or smirking each time I entered a new area. Much like the Pokémon franchise, the Bugsnax sort of say their names as they move around the world. The banana Bugsnax ‘Banoopper’ slides along the ground almost singing to itself “banana-ba-ba-bannoper,” while the walking-hamburger ‘Bunger’ plods along merrily saying “Bunger, Bunger, Bunger, Bunger.” The tiny raspberry inspired Razzby we’ve all seen in the trailer sings to itself “Razby-ra-ra-ra-raaazzzby.” To put it simply: the Bugsnax are heckin’ adorable. It’s such a small touch, and it makes the whole game have this oddly hand-crafted feel to hear obviously human voices perform these sound effects for each Bugsnack, but it just works and I love it.
At the beginning of the game, you’re given a simple trap and a sauce flinger with some ketchup. Catching something like the small Strabby is as simple as laying out your trap in its path and waiting for it to walk within the capture zone. Bigger Bugsnax like the Bunger can’t be captured without first being knocked out. Fortunately, it loves ketchup and if you fling some onto another Bunger they’ll knock each other out by charging at one another and you can pick it up easily with your net.
As you venture to new areas in the game and encounter different Grumbles, they’ll give you a new gadget to help you catch Bugsnax. In one area you’re given a launcher that lets you spring your trap into the sky to catch the flying ‘Cheepoof’s’ and in another, you’re given a Trip Shot that lets you trip-up fast-moving Bugsnax like the cheese-and-cracker Cheezer.
In the final areas of the game, you’ll have to combine several of your gadgets in unison if you want to capture every Bugsnax. You don’t have to catch all the Bugsnax in the game to complete it, but with a checklist in your journal and a completionist heart, it was hard for me not to want to try and capture every Bugsnax in an area before moving on. Unfortunately, for some areas, you do need gadgets you may not have yet, so I’d advise you to not get too attached to clearing an area as I did.
Playing On PS4
While playing on PS4 you see a decent amount of load times. They last for 10-15 seconds at times between areas. Although the island isn’t huge, there’s no fast travel and the loading screens are a slight nuisance. I’m planning to check out the PS5 differences this week however, and I’ll update this review to note if this isn’t an issue on PS5. Ultimately, the loading scores haven’t affected my overall score or thoughts on the game.
There’s 100 Bugsnax to capture in the game and that includes a handful of ‘Legendary Bugsnax’ that have pseudo-boss battles (you can’t die in the game, or fail) attached to them. The Legendary fights are a lot of fun, but it’s kinda weird they’re completely optional and attached to side quests, especially because the main campaign path never delivers you any epic battles as they do.
Certain Grumbles will ask to be fed certain Bugsnax to feel stronger, or smarter and you’ll have to appease them to get them to return to Snaxburg. Once they do you can conduct an interview with them and get some more clues as to the whereabouts of Elizabert Megafig. You could probably blast through the main story missions in 3-4 hours, but you’d be missing out on some of the best content in the game’s side missions.
It’s feeding time!
After you return a Grumble to Snaxburg they’ll usually have a side mission for you. Some of these simply involve gathering some Bugsnax for them, others will have you spying on other Grumbles for mischievous reasons. All of them will lead to some of my favourite parts of the game as you get to learn more about each of the Grumbles, their grievances with their neighbours and what you can do to help everyone get along. There are some surprisingly mature themes in these side quests and character moments. I grew to love Mayor Filbo Fiddlepie’s constant attempts to unite the Grumbles and the relationship between the gym-dude Chandlo Funkbun and conspiracy theorist Snorpy Fizzlebean is oddly one of my favourite romances this year. The entire cast of Grumbles is voiced by stellar talent including Yuri Lowenthal (Marvel’s Spider-Man), Sam Riegel (Critical Role) and Roger Craig Smith (Sonic the Hedgehog). As much fun as it was figuring out how to catch each of the Bugsnax in the game, it’s the cast of characters I’ll remember fondly. Especially as you approach the final mission in the game and wrap up your Bugsnax journey. It’s a bonkers ending, but it had solidified just how much I’d come to care for the Grumbles.