Bugsnax is one of the most delightful games to come out this year. At first glance, it seems silly and lighthearted—and slightly angled towards children—but beneath the surface there’s an unsuspecting level of depth. It’s a quirky, wholesome adventure that welcomes you into a world of adorable snack creatures and invites you to try to catch them all, and it’s an intoxicating game that should not be missed.
I Want To Believe
In Bugsnax, you are a journalist following the expedition of Elizabert Megafig; a peppy and courageous explorer leading a company of Grumps (the fictional race of the game’s characters) to the obscure Snaktooth Island. With a penchant for the paranormal and the strong want to believe, you decide to investigate after getting word of Elizabert’s incredible discovery of Bugsnax—miraculous, bug-like creatures made of different foods. Not only are they newly-discovered creatures that no one can seem to make sense of, but they’re so delicious they’ve inspired the company to establish a colony and start a new life.
When you reach Snaktooth Island, it’s not long before you notice some curious things going on. Elizabert and her partner, Eggabelle, have gone missing, and ceaseless fights among the rest of the Grumps have driven them into isolation on different parts of the island. Cave paintings show signs of people who inhabited the island thousands of years ago, but no one can figure out who they were, or what happened to them. And Bugsnax seem to have an addictive quality with a significant side effect—they mutate different parts of the body to resemble food when eaten. With your trusty tape recorder in hand, it’s your job to bring the Grumps back to the colony of Snaxburg, solve Elizabert’s disappearance, and figure out why people’s legs are turning into strawberries.
As you explore the island and search for different characters, you’ll quickly see just how cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs these Grumps really are. Persuading them to come home is usually as simple as getting them their Bugsnax fix, but you’ll have to figure out which tools and traps to use to snag their favorite treats.
Cheeseburger in Paradise
You start off with a basic trap that can be activated once a Bugsnak enters its zone, and shortly after, you’ll get a slingshot that can shoot foraged sauces such as ranch dressing or ketchup as bait. As you progress, you’ll gain more contraptions that can be used to capture Bugsnax, and figuring out how to pair the various tools together to exploit a Snak’s weakness makes for a unique and enthralling puzzle experience.
The controls are smooth and simple for the most part, and transitioning from one tool to another is easy. The most fussy contraption to use is your Tripwire. Because it can only cling to certain types of surfaces such as rocks or trees, it requires very precise aim that’s hard to achieve with the first-person camera alone. None of the other tools are nearly as touchy, though sometimes you’ll find them getting in your own way thanks to how big they are compared to the camera.
There are 100 different species of Bugsnax in the game, and they are a true delight to discover. You’ll find a small handful of different biomes on the map, each with their own distinct Bugsnax to match. The groves are crawling with centipedes made of sub sandwiches and Fryders—spiders with french fries for legs. Head to the beach and you’ll find bizarre creatures like pineapple tarantulas and jumping cocktails called Snaquiris. All of the Bugsnax are adorable and cleverly designed, and each has its own preferences and behavior. Traveling to each biome to discover them does require sitting through some painfully long loading screens on the PS4, but hopefully these will be cut down notably for PS5 players.
You have space for a certain amount of Bugsnax in your inventory, and you can feed the Grumps whenever you please. Early on, you’ll acquire a tool that allows you to control which body parts mutate when you feed them, meaning if you want to turn someone’s legs into baked potatoes or give them tacos for ears, you can do that. The more you feed them, the more you can go back and customize their appearances later, and it’s a hysterical—and terrifying—pastime.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All
Because there’s no single way to capture a Snak, your creativity can genuinely run wild. You’ll spend hours on end figuring out how to use a frozen Bopsicle to extinguish the flames of a nearby Charmellow, or setting your trap up on your Lunchpad and aiming it perfectly at a flying Cheepoof. The lengths you’ll go to are an absolute riot. In this whimsical world, there’s no limit to the absurdity, and you will undoubtedly get sucked into trying to catch ’em all.
The story development and character performances are also worthy of praise. All of the characters you meet have eccentric personalities and backstories you’ll gather in bits and pieces, and they are voiced perfectly. Gramble, a neurotic breeder, finds solace and companionship in the Bugsnax he considers his pets, because they are the closest thing he has to family—something he’s never been able to keep in the past. Eggabelle suffers from a constant feeling of inadequacy, and struggles to find a sense of worth and identity outside of her relationship with Elizabert. Beneath its cheery surface, there’s a surprising amount of depth to the characters, and it’s all delivered in a way that feels organic and sincere. The game also stars two different same-sex couples, bringing characters not usually found at the forefront of children’s games into the spotlight. This alone deserves applause.
Bugsnax surprises in more areas than just one. The vibrant world is dynamic, with weather, day/night cycles, and moon phases that influence when certain creatures can be spotted. The characters in Snaxburg have unpredictable routines, and even speak to one another when they walk around town in an impressively natural way. It’s not a huge game with a ton of nuances by any means, but the details are well-executed, and there are lots of side quests to keep you busy. Though the bulk of the gameplay centers on catching Bugsnax, each species requires such a different strategy that it doesn’t get old—if anything, it’s dangerously addicting.
A Sensational Adventure
The intriguing mysteries, colorful characters to befriend, and overall charm in everything from the voice acting to the design of the different Bugsnax makes this game a true winner. It vaguely feels like Pokémon for the new generation, and both children and adults will find a lot to love here. The controls are easy to master, the gameplay is superb, and there’s a lot to do on the reasonably-sized map. If you are what you eat, then I’m the happiest Cinnasnail this side of Snaktooth Island has ever seen.
***PS4 review code provided by the publisher.***
- Ultra clever animal/snack mashups
- Incredible voice acting
- Superb and addicting gameplay
- Intriguing story full of mystery
- Long loading screens on PS4
- Main story is short
- Tripwire is fussy to aim