Do me a favor. Before you start reading this, go to this YouTube link and play the Bugsnax song by Kero Kero Bonito. Has the earworm drilled into your brain? Good. Now let's learn about some Bugsnax.
Writing a lede is never easy but with Bugsnax, I have no clue where to begin. The talking strawberries? The walrus wildlife expert? Or the fact that you have to feed talking food to something called a Grumpus?
I guess I'll start by introducing Young Horses, the independent studio behind Bugsnax. Formed by a team of former DePaul University students, Young Horses is the group that brought us Octodad, a comedy adventure cult classic in which you play as an octopus living among humans.
Your goal in that game is to master intentionally janky controls to complete various human tasks so the actual people around you don't find out you're a cephalopod — because your tentacles and massive head don't give it away.
This bizarre plot should ease you into Bugsnax, Young Horses' third major project after the 2014 release of Octodad: Dadliest Catch. In Bugsnax, you play as a journalist whose goal is to explore Snaktooth Island and document its strange half-bug, half-snack creatures.
Your host on the island, Elizabeth Megafig (the walrus in the below trailer), is nowhere to be found when you arrive, and her followers are scattered throughout the island.
You need to find Lizbert and discover the mysteries behind these adorable, edible animals. Yes, I too am getting Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs vibes (I'm talking about the sequel, of course). It gets better, though, because there's a Pokémon element where you'll harness your inner Ash Ketchum to capture all 100 (!) Bugsnax species using traps and bait.
"I think to some degree we’ve made a puzzle game in a way, because with each bugsnak you’ll have to figure out what it likes, what it doesn’t like, how it behaves, and then how to use that information to capture it," John Murphy, Bugsnax gameplay designer, told Third Coast Review in an extensive interview.
He continued, " Our goal was to create something where it is kind of puzzley like that, but it’s also another way in which Breath of the Wild is an influence – we didn’t want it to be puzzley in the way that there’s one way to solve this. We wanted to give a set of tools that can be used in combination with each other, where oftentimes there is one obvious way to catch the Bugsnak, but usually, there’s a few options, if the player gets clever."
We know Bugsnax was inspired by Viva Piñata, Ape Escape, Pokémon Snap, Dark Cloud, Pikmin 3, Adventure Time and BioShock (yes, the horror game) among others, so you can expect to encounter elements of those games as you chase down elusive fruit.
Does Bugsnax already sound too weird for you? Then let me just leave this tweet by Young Horses President and co-founder Philip Tibitosk:
To all the folks saying we must've been on drugs to come up with something as weird as #Bugsnax:You've seen barely two minutes of Bugsnax. WE HAVEN'T EVEN GOTTEN TO THE WEIRD STUFFJune 12, 2020
Bugsnax gameplay trailer
I could have started by showing gameplay footage, but where's the build-up in that? Now that you're sufficiently on edge, below is the announcement trailer starring an adorable strawberry (or is it Strawbee?) and our Australian walrus host. And don't worry, if the song you listened to at the start of this article is fading from your memory, it makes a return here.
This first trailer is more of a teaser, giving you a feel for the lighthearted, silly nature of the game and its cartoony, colorful aesthetic while introducing you to the talking food and diverse biomes seen throughout Snaktooth Island. There are hamburger spiders, cinnamon bun hairdos, and rolling donuts. It's all vibrant colors and mouth-watering food until the spooky ending when a mutated monster runs at the camera.
But in the words of every gamer at E3 each year what about the gameplay? Don't worry, we've got you covered there, too. A short 2-minute trailer was released in August, introducing our boss — the editor of the GNN, Clumby Clumbernut — who considers our walrus friend a "2-bit con artist." Ouch. I'm guessing we don't listen to her advice about not "chasing this Bugsnax story" because the next scene cuts to Snacktooth Island and its aloof mayor.
The remainder of the trailer shows first-person gameplay of the protagonist catching Bugsnax using a variety of contraptions: a trap snags a strawberry, a tomato-shooting slingshot lures a hamburger to a ketchup pen, and a tripwire catches an oblivious ice cream sandwich.
For what's worth, my favorite part of the trailer is this line from the fumbling mayor of Snaxburg: "You're pretty good at stuff and...nobody hates you yet. Catch Bugsnax and bring everybody back to Snaxburg."
No, wait. That's the second-best part of the trailer. Nothing beats the gigantic flying pizza bird/moth in the closing scene (because pizza).
Bugsnax on PS5
Bugsnax is coming to PS5, PC and Mac but those who play on the next-gen console will benefit from the haptic feedback system in the DualSense controller.
"Running around in the environment and feeling the different types of terrain under your feet while sprinting is really cool and weird," Tibitosk said in an interview with USGamer. "Past vibration in games has felt good, it's a nice addition, but it's never been essential, I guess."
He continued, "Now, it feels like it makes a big difference in the game, whether it's running through a stream of water or, when trying to catch a Bugsnak, it being in your trap and finding 'oh, is it trying to escape?' You can feel how intense it is and how close it is to escaping."
Bugsnax: Release date and what's next?
Bugsnax is a single-player game but the devs behind it suggested a multiplayer mode could arrive in a DLC if the game is successful.
Now that your interest is piqued, you're probably wondering when you can start hunting for pickled hermit crab and sub centipede? Bugsnax is on schedule to be released this Holiday season. While that's the same timeframe as the PS5, the game has not been confirmed as a release title (but this should be the hero title for the PS5, right?).
That's everything we know about Bugsnax so far. We'll regularly update this article as more info is announced.