The week of November 12th, 2020 is one that will forever live on in the heart of the gaming community. As this was the week, the next-generation video games will be introduced to the brand new next-gen consoles. With games so complex and advanced, with non-stop action and a captivating story that will stick with you long after the credits roll. Gamer’s had been waiting all year for this very moment, just itching to get their hands on the brand new, first-person tactical shooter… Bugsnax. Oh, and Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War came out the same week too. On the surface, Bugsnax seems to be the next, family-friendly game introduced as a launch title for the new Playstation. The Playstation 4 saw the release of Knack and now the Playstation 5 gets Bugsnax. At first glance, the game seems to be about catching sentient food with legs, and funny enough this isn’t a horror game. I personally, didn’t have much of an interest in Bugsnax as I just didn’t think it seemed like my sort of game, but after a full 100% completion playthrough, I can honestly say that Bugsnax is a true delight from start to finish.
In its presentation is where Bugsnax seems to suffer the most. The sound design, soundtrack, and design for all the little Bugsnax are wonderful and creative, but the game just doesn’t look that great. For a PS5 launch title, outside of the DualSense controller support, the game’s graphics just leave a lot to be desired. Now this game was also released on Playstation 4, but this game looks it could easily run on the Playstation 3. It’s odd because the graphics/animation style isn’t god-awful or anything it just lacks a level of polish to it. Such as a lot of the environments all look varied and unique but as soon as the player gets closer to these textures, the player can see that most textures are just large spots of the same color. To give an example, most trees in the game are tall and green, with some individual leaves on them. Upon closer inspection, the leaves on the trees are just big, green shapes that have roughly five to six different textures of the same leaf cluster randomly placed throughout it. This also goes towards the character models, as there isn’t a huge amount of detail in the villagers (named Grumpuses, yeah that’s really their name). A lot of the grumpuses are just small little creatures that are all different colors. Previous generation animated games looked wonderful like for example the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy, Crash 4 & Spongebob: Battle For Bikini Bottom Rehydrated all these games look amazing, like a playable Pixar cartoon. But Bugsnax, just leaves more to desire visually, especially since Sony hyped this game up for its release on a 4k resolution/60fps system. But the true saving grace of its presentation is the absolute banger that is the main menu theme song. Also, each of the Bugsnax chant or sing their own name as they move around, much as Pokémon do, so that was wonderful too especially the little cheeseburger, Bunger.
Bugsnax can best be described as a hunting/Pokémon -ish kind of game. Bugsnax has a first-person perspective where the player has to hunt and catch different Bugsnax. These Bugsnax act as their own little puzzles as not all of them can be caught in the same way. Some are simple, like the Strawberry, (named Strabby) which as long as a trap is placed in their path, they can be caught when they walk into it. Then, later on, the Bugsnax become more complex, and can only be caught if lured with their favorite scent, caught in a tripwire, or even lead to attack another Bugsnax, causing them to become stunned and can be swept up with a net. Bugsnax gives the player many different tools to catch Bugsnax with, such as the standard trap, a launchpad, which can send a trap up to catch airborne snax, a tripwire, and a slingshot that can shoot different sauces which scents attract different snax. What is truly the core of the gameplay (and resembles Pokémon the most) is the fact that you’re encouraged to capture every Bugsnax you see, and you can keep a journal of all the ones you’ve caught and ones you haven’t discovered yet. Although sadly, you can’t level up and make your Bugsnax fight other Bugsnax, if someone makes an underground-Bugsnax fight ring mod, please get ahold of me.
Some Bugsnax are really big deals and act as the game's main boss fights. Now I don’t want to ruin anything as these fights are all a fun little surprise, but these boss fights work great to change up the flow of gameplay. As the player has to use all their different hunting tools in unique ways to capture these “legendary” Bugsnax. These fights were a lot of fun and are simple enough as it is easy to get the hang of pretty fast, but also are different enough the player will have to try and analyze how to overcome the fight. Some even ended up stumping me, and as a 22-year-old with a liberal arts degree, that was a real shock! Just kidding, but these boss fights offer a one-of-a-kind puzzle that really shakes up the core gameplay.
Bugsnax is a game where you play a nameless protagonist who is sent on a journalistic mission to interview a great explorer named Lizbert, who has recently announced she has discovered these creatures called Bugsnax, which are little food-based bugs that are so delicious they can change your body after you eat them. Then the game opens with the player traveling to an island (Snaktooth) to interview Lizbert, only to learn that she has gone missing. So it's up to the player and the current town mayor, Filbo, to get all the other villagers back into town, and find out what happened to Lizbert. Without spoiling anything, that’s really the bulk of the story but the practicality of the game comes from its wonderful characters. Each character has their own unique personality and string of side-quests for the player to complete. These side-quests don’t really change anything from the main chunk of gameplay, catching Bugsnax, but they introduce a lot of exposition for the world and depth for the characters.
Focusing a little deeper on the characters, Bugsnax has a wide variety of characters each with their own likes/dislikes and personality quirks. Each character comes with their own likes and dislikes sheet, in regard to the other villagers in town. Sometimes while wandering around, arguments can be heard from two or more Grumpuses, and other times you can hear them sharing a laugh or bonding together. Upon completing side quests, more and more can be learned about these characters and the player can even see them change over time, such as seeing two villagers start to get along, or even learning their deepest, darkest secret. Bugsnaxoffers a lot of personality just through its characters alone.
Another thing regarding the characters, and the personality it gives the game, is that Bugsnax works very well as a “First Steps of Diversity” training. What I mean by this is, if a young child was given Bugsnax to play, the characters and their personalities are vast and come from numerous backgrounds and could be beneficial for audiences to learn about. For example, the game features several LGBTQ relationships, such as Lizbert and her girlfriend Eggabell, it has a character that uses they/them pronouns and another that suffers from depression, and this gets examined throughout the whole story. Of course, this isn’t anything groundbreaking as many forms of media introduce these social concepts, but Bugsnax does this well and upon a lot of the gamergate sort of scandals that are tied to the gaming community, it’s really important for games, and really any sort of media, to have this sense of inclusivity, integration, and open-mindedness. Also, I’m sure someone, somewhere will get mad about these sorts of things being introduced in an E-rated game, but c’mon, if you’re really upset about two little creatures called Grumpuses being in a same-sex relationship, in a fictional videogame, you have bigger problems, my friend.
Bugsnax can easily hold the player’s interest to complete a single run-through of the storyline, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of replay value. Technically, if all the player wants to do is capture different Bugsnax and feed them to a Grumpus to transform them into an edible abomination, and completely ignore the main questline, then the game never really ends. But if you beat the campaign, there isn’t a real reason to go back, since all the quests will still require you to capture the same Bugsnax, using the same tactic, in the same area.
Overall, Bugsnax is more than likely, better than you think it is. It’s a fun, cute little hunting game that has diverse and unique characters to interact with. For the selling price of roughly $25, Bugsnax will give you an enjoyable experience that is worth the money. Just don’t expect the game to reinvent the wheel, or change how you think about video games, this is just meant to be a fun little game, and that’s exactly what it is. Although I still am pretty disappointed there was no Bugsnax underground fight ring, I mean they could’ve called it the chopping block or The Food Pain-try or something cool like that, but… they didn’t. Oh well, here’s to hoping… Bugsnax 2.
And that’s the Borderline Bottomline for Bugsnax
Review Written by Dan Lasure