REVIEW: ‘Bugsnax’ Caught Me In Its Trap (PS4)

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Bugsnax Title Card

It’s the war cry of a new generation, reverberating across the internet for the past six months. Oh-oo-oh…BUGSNAX.

Developed and published by Young Horses with help from Popagenda, Bugsnax has taken social media by storm, remaining one of the biggest mysteries of the PlayStation 5 launch lineup and fueling a plethora of conspiracy theories. Is it a game for kids? Does it turn into a horror game? How many Bugsnax are there? I’ve even heard it compared to Death Strandingno one knows what it is, but everyone wants to get their paws on it.

Releasing on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and PC on November 12, Bugsnax is a first-person adventure game full of charm and engaging narratives, and has firmly cemented itself as well worth the hype, as well as one of my favorite launch titles of all time.

In Bugsnax, you play as a Grumpus who works as a journalist, investigating Snaktooth Island at the request of Elizabert Megafig. Unfortunately, upon your arrival, you discover that Elizabert Megafig and her partner, Eggabell, have gone missing.

Filbo, the mayor of Snaxburg, enlists your help to find Elizabert, bring back the other Grumpus citizens who left after her disappearance, and investigate the strange creatures known as Bugsnax.

To progress in Bugsnax, you explore areas of the island, finding Grumpuses that left town. In return for coming back to Snaxburg, each Grumpus typically requests that you find, trap, and feed them specific kinds of Bugsnax. Afterward, they’ll move back into town, where you can interview them to find more information about Elizabert and her last known location.

The Grumpuses are phenomenal characters, each with unique and colorful personalities. Coming across a new Grumpus to recruit was a true joy. I never knew what to expect and always felt charmed, even by those who were designed to be disliked.

For example, Beffica is a purple Grumpus who is absolutely obsessed with getting dirt on other Grumpuses for the sake of gossip and drama. She even previously worked for GMZ (you know, like TMZ but for Grumpuses). In real life, I would never, ever want to hang with someone like Beffica. In Bugsnax, however, I talked to Beffica at every possible opportunity, helping her dig up dirt on other townsfolk just to see what would happen.

One of the most delightful aspects of Bugsnax is seeing the relationships between each Grumpus. The Grumpuses have their own friendships and relationships, including multiple queer relationships and a Grumpus that uses they/them pronouns. Watching the interpersonal dynamics of the Grumpuses unfold was unbelievably satisfying. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t give any specifics, but seeing Grumpuses fight, reunite, and learn to coexist to find Elizabert was a true high point of my gameplay experience.

Bugsnax Grumpuses gathered around the campfire

Speaking of Elizabert, the narrative aspect of Bugsnax absolutely took me by surprise. It’s not that I thought Bugsnax wouldn’t have any substance, but I was expecting most of the game to revolve around the collection of the different snacks, kind of like a Pokémon game.

Finding Elizabert and unsolving the mystery of Snaktooth Island is an enormous part of the gameplay, however, and is engaging on every level. Throughout the game, after convincing Grumpuses to return to Snaxburg, you interview them for more information on their background and what they think happened to Elizabert.

Often, after the interview, the Grumpus provides you with a clue like a recording or a map to a specific location. Uncovering the truth of Elizabert’s whereabouts was a blast. It required building a knowledge of Snaktooth Island and Bugsnax trapping techniques to progress and learn more about the history of Snaxburg, as well as what happened to the small Grumpus community.

Of course, it can’t be a Bugsnax review without talking about…well, the Bugsnax.

Each Bugsnak has unique likes, dislikes, and movement patterns, making the gameplay experience a mix between a mystery first-person adventure and a puzzle game. Every once in a while, a Grumpus will gift you with a new device that you can use to capture new Bugsnax if you’re smart enough to figure out how to put everything together.

That’s what I loved the most about Bugsnax, other than the sheer personality of the game and world as a whole. If a Grumpus gave you a new machine, it wasn’t a one-and-done solution to catching previously unreachable Bugsnax. Instead, you had to combine different devices, thinking through everything related to the Bugsnak’s profile.

For example, one of the first new machines you get is a launchpad (or lunchpad, according to the Grumpus that gave it to you). To catch flying Bugsnax that were previously inaccessible, you need to figure out how to use your trap and launchpad in tandem to take ‘em down.

The Bugsnax puzzles get more and more complex throughout the game, sometimes requiring three or four combinations of devices and stellar timing. I loved staring at my TV screen, switching between machines and trying different strategies, seeing what would work and sometimes coming upon a solution entirely by accident. There truly was no bigger thrill than discovering new trapping strategies and ensnaring Bugsnak after Bugsnak. Afterward, going back to town and donating Bugsnax to the farm or making the Grumpuses look more and more bizarre as I gave them pickle noses and popsicle feet, made me feel more connected to the townsfolk.

Bugsnak based off a watermelon

The Bugsnax are cute, too. Each new area was a gift, and I would excitedly run around, scanning everything I could to see what creative, quirky new bugs were available for me to catch in my trap. My personal favorite was Bunger, a ridiculously foolish burger that bumbled around the world repeating its name over and over like a Pokémon. It aggressively charged at me at full speed and catapulted me halfway across the map if I wasn’t paying attention.

The aesthetic of Bugsnax is enjoyable, plain and simple. Yes, you’re there to solve a missing persons report, but the world is so vibrant and full of life that it’s hard to feel stressed about it (sorry, Elizabert). Everything, from the Grumpuses to the Bugsnax and the world around them, is colorful and engaging. I loved exploring every corner of every map and seeing what awaited me on Snaktooth Island, discovering clues about Elizabert and Eggabell, or finding new Bugsnax in hidden areas.

The music was perfect for the game, too. It’s cheery and fun when it needs to be, but also spooky and serious when it was time to unravel more of the Elizabert mystery. I never thought I would be fully immersed in a world where I’m a fuzzy red Grumpus chasing after strawberries with feet, but Bugsnax manages to somehow pull it off.

Overall, Bugsnax has me thoroughly impressed. I have truly, madly, and deeply fallen in love with Snaktooth Island and its entertaining cast of characters. Chasing after Strabbys and Buffalocusts, bonding with the Grumpuses, and uncovering the mystery of Elizabert Megafig is an experience like no other. Not only is Bugsnax a brilliant launch title for the PlayStation 5, but a brilliant game in general that I cannot recommend enough. They’re kind of bug and kind of snack. What’s not to love?

Bugsnax is available on November 12 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.

Bugsnax
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    Rating - 9/10
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TL;DR

Bugsnax has me thoroughly impressed. I have truly, madly, and deeply fallen in love with Snaktooth Island and its entertaining cast of characters. Chasing after Strabbys and Buffalocusts, bonding with the Grumpuses, and uncovering the mystery of Elizabert Megafig is an experience like no other. Not only is Bugsnax a brilliant launch title for the PlayStation 5, but a brilliant game in general that I cannot recommend enough. They’re kind of bug and kind of snack. What’s not to love?