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Bugsnax

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 24 - 2020

A combination of animals and snacks, what’s not to like?

 
Anyone who remembers the 2013 animated movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs will already know that the real stars of the show were the animal/food hybrid creatures. Young Horses, those of Octodad fame, obviously have a fondness for that movie and when their latest title was first revealed at a PS5 showcase back in June, their vision of an island filled with strange animal/food hybrid creatures just waiting to be caught was an instant hit. Now that Bugsnax is out on PS5, PS4 and PC via the Epic Games Store, players can get down to the important business of catching the 100 unique creatures, from Banoppers to Cheepoofs. However, there is much more to Bugsnax than a simple Pokémon clone.

 


 
The player takes on the role of a journalist who has travelled to Snaktooth Island. The original point was to interview Liz, the expedition leader and reveal these amazing creatures to the world. However, that all gets slightly cast aside when it turns out that Liz has disappeared, and the rest of the island inhabitants are all too busy with their own problems to help find her. So, it comes down to the player to help out the other inhabitants, mostly by solving their relationship issues, and bringing them together. Fortunately, helping them all out will largely come down to catching the creatures known as Bugsnax.

 
This is where the collecting side of the game comes in, although it is a bit more involved than just throwing a ball. The island is home to some 100 species of Bugsnax, creatures that combine a food type with a creature. Each of them have a pun-worthy name, such as a Crapple (combination of crab and apple) or a Flutterjam (butterfly mixed with bread and jam), and they are all imaginatively designed and quite a joy to discover. Catching them though, is not always a joy.

 


 
The player is initially gifted a special trap which can catch many of the Bugsnax. Using this may be as easy as placing it along a Bugsnax’s route and then waiting for them to move under it, before activating it. Job done. However, as the player continues to explore the good sized island, complete with different biomes and times of day dictating when and where certain Bugsnax appear, capturing them gets more tricky. The player will unlock further tools in order to capture Bugsnax, such as a launchpad that will launch the trap into the sky for flying creatures, but the player will also find themselves shaving to use the environment and think outside the box to capture the trickier Bugsnax.

 
The player has a camera that is able to scan any spotted Bugsnax and reveal their name, along with any extra information that may help with capturing the creatures. And where would an island of snacks be without some form of naturally occurring condiment? Snaktooth Island has things like Ketchup bushes that can be harvested and then used to attract certain Bugsnax, proving useful for catching. When it comes to the actual act of catching these creatures, the game can be a little finicky and seems to make things more difficult than they need to be, especially with the more difficult Bugsnax that require very specific conditions to capture. Still, there is something quite compelling about trying to find and catch each different type. Gotta catch ’em all, I guess.

 
But why do they need to be caught? Well, aside from looking cute, Bugsnax are also apparently quite delicious to eat. There is a side effect to eating them though. Digesting a Bugsnax will result in body parts of the eater changing form to match what they ate. Eat a Fryder and get a French Fry arm, eat a Rootle and perhaps end up with a carrot nose. While this doesn’t affect the players’ character, each of the island inhabitants will change form as the player provides the Bugsnax, and the player will even be able to decide in what they they change over time.

 


 
Catching the Bugsnax is compelling by itself, but it is just as easy to invest in the lives and relationships of the strange characters on the island. Despite the cuteness and obvious joy of these imaginative creatures, and the comical looks and actions of the other characters, there is a surprising darkness to Bugsnax that players will be surprised to discover. There is also quite a realism to the issues that these characters are facing, giving the game a more mature than expected feel. That is not to say that the game is not suitable for youngsters, but rather that it may be more interesting to older players than initial impressions suggest.

 
Visually, Bugsnax is not going to win any awards for pushing the boundaries. Not that it really matters though. The creatures themselves are cute, the characters are quirky, and everything is joyfully bright and colourful. It is difficult not to be happy with how the game looks. The audio work is absolutely perfect, from the voices of the quirky characters to the sounds of the Bugsnax who can only call out their name.

 


 
Bugsnax was a surprise highlight of the showcase when it was first revealed, and has proved to be just as much of a highlight now it is available. While catching these roaming creatures is not always as easy as it should be, there are surprises to be found in the game, and spending time simply exploring is always fun. Overall though, Bugsnax is packed with charm and worth checking out on PS4, or PS5 if you are lucky.

 

 ★★★★★★★★½☆ 



 

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