Bugsnax looks like an excellent game for your kids. The cute graphics hide a surprisingly adult story.
Way back when (alright, a few months ago) during the PlayStation 5 showcase, Bugsnax definitely caught my eye. Between the cute graphics, the fantastic theme song, and the Pokemon Snap type feeling, I knew I wanted to play it.
Bugsnax being included free with PlayStation Plus just cemented how quickly I would play it! It looked like a mix between Pokemon Snap where you could catch the Pokemon and a lighthearted adventure.
Well, Bugnsax is mostly this. You can scan/photo the Bugsnax, and there is certainly an adventure in the works. But lighthearted is definitely not how I would describe Bugsnax, no matter how it looks.
So what is Bugsnax about?
You are a reporter that has been offered the chance to interview explorer Elizabert Megafig. The subject of the interview? Her newest discovery – Bugsnax!
Of course, you don’t just want to interview Elizabert. Various other Grumpus (Bugsnax ‘people’) also went to Snaktooth Island with her, each with their own story. The only problem is, Elizabert disappeared as you were travelling to the island.
And this is where the adventure of Bugsnax happens, exploring the island and learning about its inhabitants. You become a helpful stranger, helping all the Grumpus as you try and find the lost explorer.
But what about the Bugsnax themselves?
The task of collecting all of the Bugsnax is surprisingly optional. There is plenty you need to catch to progress the story, but once that is done, you only keep going for Completion’s sake.
There is a surprising amount of love in the design of the Bugsnax. Sure, there are a few that are the same creature with different colouring, but on the whole, each beast is incredibly well thought out. If a little terrifying.
You get to learn as much about the Bugsnax as you do about the Grumpus. Some travel in a path and you can trap them easily. Others need to be lured, and some require some real out of the box thinking to trap them.
What is Bugsnax like to play?
Actually playing Bugsnax is both familiar territory and a retro throwback at the same time. You play the silent protagonist, interacting through dialogue trees. The most you ever get to see of yourself is your shadow!
As you explore around the island, you can freely explore just like any other sandbox game. Snaktooth Island is split into areas, and each section is large enough to hide secrets making exploration fun. That said, each site is small enough that I didn’t feel the need for a fast travel system, either.
One thing Bugsnax isn’t is an easy game. Oh, the individual objectives and main story missions are straightforward enough, but Bugsnax doesn’t hold your hand either. You are given tools and a tutorial sure, but there are several other ways you can use the tools and environment that the game doesn’t mention.
This isn’t an oversight – it’s part of the puzzle. Each Bugsnax and puzzle has subtle clues placed around the island to help guide you. You need to pay attention and work out what the game is trying to tell you, and this makes for an addictive time.
You said that Bugsnax was an adult game though?
Well, more suitable for adults would be a better way to put that. The Grumpus have well-written problems to deal with. And I don’t mean friendly ways to ask you to fetch a Strabby.
Each Grumpus is dealing with specific and, unfortunately, everyday issues. The first two you meet have obvious self-confidence issues and marital problems. From there, it gets darker depending on the character and how much they share.
Initially, I thought the writing was clumsy with what felt like a heavy-handed writing style. However, as the game progressed, I honestly can’t say if I just got used to the style or if the quality improved. Either way, I came to care for each Grumpus and wanted to help them through their hard times.
The ending (which I won’t spoil) is fairly obvious, but predictable story beats aren’t by themselves an issue. And Bugsnax is an excellent example of this.
Bugsnax is a unique game in a very special position. It is an interesting diversion game, but one that gives a glimpse to a potentially successful franchise.
The inclusion of Bugsnax on PlayStation Plus for the PS5 launch was also a great move. It doesn’t show off the power of the console like Astro’s Playroom. Still, it is just long enough and intriguing enough for new console owners to enjoy a game they probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
And that’s the real crux of the issue. Who was Bugsnax written for? It’s not an epic adventure, pure RPG or a puzzle game. It is it’s own game though and having giving people the chance to experience it while the field is relatively empty for PS5 games is a great choice.
If you don’t have a PS5, you can also get Bugsnax on PC for AUD$38 on the Epic Play Store. I’m not trying to say Bugsnax is suitable for a cheap game, but it is priced just right for the amount of play that you get.
And I honestly can’t wait to see what the sequel brings.
- Well designed creatures
- Absorbing characters
- Well-paced challenges
- The lack of hand-holding may put off ‘modern’ gamers
- You have to get through the first half-hour before the story grows on you
Until next time,