Often time in the industry there are games that come out of nowhere and wow players. Then there are those that are driven by insane hype and release to varying degrees of success. And then there is Bugsnax, the kind of game that leaves you intrigued at the beginning, but makes you wonder how can an entire game’s runtime rely on a single gimmick? The kind of game that has you cautiously optimistic solely based on the developers’ earlier work. Yes, Bugsnax is that kind of game and I am glad that this one turned out to be quite the treat. This is the review of Bugsnax.
I went into the game with an open mind for the absurd and goofy, based off the trailers, and Bugsnax did not disappoint. But there is more than meets the eye to this charming adventure. Simply put, Bugsnax is a fine example of how far good writing can take a concept for a videogame. Better still, this is also an example of how every aspect of the game works in tandem and pulls the game together when it starts to get a bit stale.
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So, on that note, this will be a review that forgoes dissecting elements like gameplay, graphics, story, and audio, and instead speak about the experience as a whole. Because all these aspects gel so well to keep the eight or so hours entertaining throughout.
Just a few minutes into the game and it was easy to notice that Bugsnax is so full of charm. If you step into the game not knowing anything (which, by the way, is very unlikely) you will find an endless supply of absurd imagery throughout the game and I mean this in the best possible way. The game oozes with personality and its quirky art style and music sets the mood for a fun little adventure.
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You play as a journalist who is invited to an expedition on Snaktooth Island by one Lizbert Megafig. Upon arrival though Lizbert has disappeared and the story puts you on a task to find the disbanded inhabitants around the island and later interview the ones who are back home to solve the bigger mystery of Lizbert’s disappearance, and the origins behind the bugsnax themselves. Convincing these characters require capturing various bugsnax. Each bugsnak is a meticulously designed fusion of a popular snack in the form of a bug or a critter that we come across in our daily lives. These creatures are charming in their own way and they often put a smile on your face when you examine them using your camera.
There is a sense of discovery that hits you every time you see a variation of a bugsnak thanks to their goofy yet impressive design. This gameplay loop also facilitates plenty of interaction with the inhabitants of the island while you are not hunting for weird creatures made from food. At the end of the day though, gameplay is not really the strongest aspect of the Bugsnax. That is not to say what is on offer isn’t clever. There are a handful of tools that you will acquire through the course of the game and it is up to you to figure out how to put them to use based on the situation. And this offers a sense of satisfaction when you eventually figure out the solution after some experimentation. There is a fair bit of back tracking as a result but like all other elements in the game this does not stick out to become a bother.
The main story missions take about eight hours to beat but there plenty more for completionists in here. For the most part, the story takes the unconventional route and keeps you guessing. And this goes a long way to keep you coming back when the gameplay novelty starts to wear off. The real stars of the game are the characters and the writing. Snaktooth Island’s inhabitants look goofy, colourful and are wildly entertaining. But they also come with real world problems which make them feel less like animated puppets and more relatable. Some of the industry’s noteworthy talents have lent their voices for these characters and it shows. There are some truly touching moments in the game that many of us can relate to from various stages of our lives. It is this relatability combined with the various strengths of the game that holds the Bugsnax together through its run time. And the way everything is put together in the end is a testament to the talent behind the scenes.
Overall, Bugsnax is a fine example of something that ends up being more than the sum of its parts. The game’s stronger elements like the characters, writing and audio far outweigh the weaker ones like repetitive missions and gameplay, resulting in an overall package that will keep you hooked through to the end. There is something for pretty much every demographic that can hold a controller and play videogames. I often found myself playing the game with a smile on my face thanks to the games art style, characters, humour and the sheer absurdity on screen while my ten year old daughter was enjoying the events on screen like she were watching a cartoon show. That just shows Bugsnax’s appeal.
The game is currently free on the brand new PS5, but if you weren’t able to get one, it is also available on PS4 and PC. If you are looking for some time off from the Call of Duties, Fortnites and big budget open world games, then this well written humorous adventure is probably what you want. Go play Bugsnax.