Bugsnax is an unforgettable mystery adventure title from indie developer Young Horses that challenges players mentally and emotionally.
It’s been six years since developer Young Horses released its first offbeat adventure title Octodad: Dadliest Catch, and in that same vein of peculiar yet fascinating, the band of misfit developers has struck video game gold once again. Bugsnax is an enigmatic experience leading players on a hilarious journey while simultaneously challenging them emotionally. Young Horses has presented Bugsnax as a goofy comedy jam hosted by wannabe Muppets with dark undertones, but Bugsnax has a lot more to offer beneath the surface of Snaktooth Island.
Bugsnax follows the story of a struggling journalist looking for his big break, who out of desperation follows a lead that lands him on Snaktooth Island, home of the titular Bugsnax. Elizabert Megafig is the fearful (cult) leader of the small civilization of Snaxburg, but upon arrival, the player discovers that she has gone missing. With the distraught inhabitants scattered across the island, the player must rebuild the community and search for the missing Megafig. However, the closer the player gets to finding Elizabert, the closer they get to uncovering the sinister truth behind the half-bug, half-snax civilization.
On paper, Bugsnax is a compilation of fetch quests where players have to appease islanders by collecting specific Bugsnax from different regions of the island. What makes Bugsnax more than a mundane collect-a-thon is how it forces players to think outside the box. There are 100 different species of Bugsnax that players can collect, and each one acts as its own puzzle that requires a unique series of actions in order to catch. Each islander will offer the player optional sidequests that will allow the player to build relationships with the residents of Snaxburg and really get into the heart of why each inhabitant chose to uproot their life and follow Elizabert to Snaktooth Island. Some of the side-questlines will end in special boss battles that can’t be accessed otherwise, and these fights are some of the highlights of Bugsnax.
Bugsnax’s biggest drawback is how it presents itself visually. The game is supposed to look like an episode of the Muppet Babies, but it sometimes lacks the production quality that even that aesthetic can offer. The awkward limbs of the Grumpuses clip into their bodies far too often, character movements can sometimes feel jarring, and animations or cutscenes don’t transition the way they are supposed to. Bugsnax also controls in a way that feels unpolished. After a couple of hours, it feels fine to play, but at the start, the game feels like it’s in beta. These issues don’t take away from the overall package that is Bugsnax, but they do feel simple enough that they could have been fixed given a little more time.
The way the game sounds is a stark contrast to how it looks. Bugsnax’s soundtrack is fantastic, and yes, that includes the game’s catchy theme song by Kero Kero Bonito. The player’s adventure is powered by a synth-filled score from the moment they hit the title screen until the closing credits roll. This is complemented by the star-studded cast of voice actors that fill each character with life, highlighting the game’s audio as one of the best overall presentations in recent memory. While having so many distinct personalities on such a small island could be cause for awkward interactions, somehow Bugsnax weaves these boisterous personalities together in harmony.
Bugsnax may not have what it takes to be a chart-topping hit, but it does have the makings of an instant cult classic. Its goofy nature won’t be for everyone, but players who take Elizabert Megafig up on her offer will be pleasantly surprised by Bugsnax’s interesting gameplay mechanics and loveable characters. If nothing else, one thing is for sure: Bugsnax’s ending is bound to surprise anyone who dares brave Snaktooth Island.
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Bugsnax will release on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC on November 12, 2020. Screen Rant was provided a digital PlayStation 4 code for the purpose of this review.
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