Bugsnax is the game we need going into 2021; a reminder that creativity can cure. While the concept borrows from other materials, the execution is wildly original. But that's no surprise; Bugsnax is the latest creation from Young Horses, the studio behind the hilarious and bizarre adventure game Octodad.
This latest release is larger in scale than the studio's previous games, and I'd argue it's more successful, if not quite as memorable. Bugsnax is an easy game to enjoy, but difficult to describe. It takes you on a whimsical adventure in which your goal is to capture Bugsnax, half-snack, half-bug creatures, using various tools and techniques. Doing so helps you uncover the mysteries of Snaktooth Island where the game takes place. Along the way, you'll encounter a cast of characters brilliantly brought to life by excellent voice acting.
Bugsnax is an easy game to recommend for players of all ages. It blends a Pixar-worthy narrative with challenging puzzles, a compelling mystery and interesting characters — but it is the unconditionally innocent whimsy that will put a helpless smile on your face. It's one of the best PC games out there.
Welcome to Snaxburg
It's impossible not to liken Bugsnax to a Disney movie although the better comparison might be Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. The narrative revolves around a mysterious place called Snaktooth Island where strange critters called Bugsnax roam. When you consume Bugsnax, a part of your body turns into that snack — a poignant reminder that we are what we eat.
Your goal in Bugsnax is simple: figure out what happened to Elizabert Megafig, an explorer who invited you to the island, and learn the mysteries behind it. But first, you need to return the denizens of Snaxburg to the central town in the game. Doing so requires you to complete a series of quests, most of which involve capturing Bugsnax and feeding them to the fun cast of characters you meet along the way.
This might seem like a lighthearted game at first, but darker elements drive the narrative down an intriguing path, one that will keep children and adults hunting for Bugsnax for hours on end.
A lovable cast of characters
Among the many things to love about Bugsnax are its personalities. Much like its previous games, Young Horses injected the silly, adorable and bizarre into a likeable screenplay assisted by cute edible creatures and diverse characters.
Bugsnax is not as laugh-out-loud funny as, say, Octodad, but it's irresistibly heartwarming. The first snax you find is called a Strabby (if you've seen the trailer, then you're already acquainted), which is best described as an upside-down strawberry with googly eyes. Later, you'll come across Cinnasnails, Shy Weenyworms, Kwookies and Cheepoofs, to name a few.
If the creativity of these food-turned-animal creatures doesn't put a dorky smirk on your face, their adorable, often baby-like voices certainly will. I can't count the numbers of times my wife or myself instinctively blurted "awwww" when a burrowed Poptick (a kernel that pops when it catches fire) echos its name or when a wide-eyed berry repeats "Razzby" as it scurries away from your character.
Then there are the hysterically-named residents of Snaxburg called Grumpuses, like Filbo Fiddlepie, the hard-headed farmer Wambus Troubleham or the scientist Floofty Fizzlebean. Each has its own distinct personality, some being more likable than others. It's hard not to fall for Filbo, a friendly but skittish mayor who is trying his best to reunite everyone. I had a tougher time with Beffica Winklesnoot, a snide know-it-all. Then there's the unlikely friendship between Chandlo, a weightlifting "bro," and his right-hand-man Snorpy, an intelligent, but paranoid conspiracy theorist.
Your conversations with these Snaxburgians typically contain clever food-related puns (Eggabell Batternugget "scrambles to keep herself together"). Although you don't stay long with any one character, each has such a strong personality that you can immediately form an opinion about them.
Catch Bugsnax, complete quests
At its core, Bugsnax is a puzzle game. It borrows heavily from Pokémon Snap and the traditional Pokémon games in that your main objective is to capture Bugsnax and learn their traits.
Why would you want to capture these enchanting beings? For a variety of reasons, but ultimately to bring each Grumpus back to Snaxburg and find out what's going on with Elizabert. Grumpuses will assign you quests to catch and feed them Bugsnax so their bodies can transform into food (stay with me here).
Catching Bugsnax gets increasingly difficult as the game progresses. Nabbing an adorable Strabby was as easy as scanning the edible bug to see its route, placing a trap along that route, and timing the trap to close when the living strawberry was underneath it. Easy enough.
Tricker quests required me to deploy more than one bug-catching tool, use the environment, or get help from nearby Bugsnax. For instance, the flying, burning s’more, or Charmallow, can only be captured when you stun it from the sky and extinguish its flames. The first part can be done using a tripwire — the aerial food flies into it and comes crashing down. If it lands in water, you're good to snatch it in your net. If it doesn't, you need to lure a Bopsicle (or Big Bopsicle) into it so the flame around it gets extinguished.
Assisting you in catching Bugsnax is a set of tools. The one I used most often is the Snaxscope, a camera that told me a Bugsnack's route after I snapped its picture. From there, I could drop a Snak Trap on the route and close it when a creature is underneath.
When a snack was being stubborn, I would lure it in with a Sauce Slinger. First, I would need to find it in my Bugapedia (think Pokédex), figure out what it likes, and shoot that condiment (ranch, ketchup, peanut butter, etc) toward a trap. Other tools let me snatch flying Bugsnax or those that are stunned or vulnerable.
Gamers who like fast action might not enjoy the pacing of this game; Bugsnax requires calculated problem solving — you need to obtain information about a Bugsnax, then consider every tool in your arsenal to make the capture. I was only a few hours into the game when catching Bugsnax became genuinely challenging, requiring me to use multiple tools or the environment around me.
And yet, I never felt frustrated spending 30 minutes or longer capturing a single Bugsnax. Everything I needed to solve these riddles was in the notebook in my backpack — I just needed to put the pieces together.
There are also some quality-of-life elements to keep you from losing interest. For example, when you lose a tool (you forget to pick it up, for example), you can press a retrieve button and wait a few seconds for it to repopulate in your inventory. Also in your backpack is a map showing varied terrain, and a description of each Bugsnax with their likes/dislikes. It all helps you put the clues together as to how you can lure and trap certain Bugsnax.
Snaktooth Island and cartoon characters
Bugsnax is an indie game so it won't push your beastly gaming rig or the PS5 to their limits. The cartoon graphics aren't the most polished or textured, but there is an enjoyable diversity to the colors, landscapes and character models.
Snaktooth Island is relatively small in size, but the various terrain made the world fun to explore. Within a few minutes, I could walk from a beach through a village and into a desert. And the vivid colors used throughout the game compliment the jovial nature of Bugsnax.
I ran Bugsnax on an Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 equipped with an Intel Core i9-10980K CPU with 32GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 GPU. Unsurprisingly, Bugsnax ran at an unwavering 60 frames per second with the graphics set to Ultra.
The game ran smoothly from start to finish and I didn't encounter too many bugs (you know what I mean). The worst of them caused my traps to be caught on fire indefinitely. I couldn't use the trap again until I switched to a different tool then switched back. It was a relatively minor bug, but one that grew frustrating the longer I dealt with the Bugsnax I was chasing.
Bugsnax is a game you should play with friends and family watching so everyone can enjoy these irresistible half-fruit, half-snack creatures. The puzzles requiring you to capture Bugsnax grow complex and hugely rewarding while the wonderful cast of characters bring whimsy to the mysterious narrative.
While the game can feel repetitive at times, capturing Bugsnax and learning about the citizens of Snaxburg makes for a fun adventure. Between the comical dialogue and the lovable creatures, I thoroughly enjoyed my romp through Snaktooth Island.