Bugsnax PS5 Review – A Surprisingly Touching Adventure

 

 
Overview
 

Overall
 
 
 
 
 
3.5/5


 

Positives


- Characters and narrative are surprisingly deep
- Voice acting is fantastic
- World and bugsnax are adorable
- It's Bugsnax! is a bop

Negatives


- Mechanics eventually become tedious
- Not enough variety in environments and bugsnax
- Lots of backtracking


Posted November 15, 2020 by

 
Full Article
 
 

I’m not ashamed to admit that I bought into the Bugsnax zeitgeist. The announcement of Young Horse’s quirky puzzle adventure game was filled with whimsy and I was immediately invested. I listened to It’s Bugsnax! by Kero Kero Benito, followed all of the trailers and was generally intrigued. Would there be the darkness initially hinted at or would the game remain a colourful, whimsical adventure? In the end, Bugsnax on PS5 is a surprisingly deep narrative adventure with gameplay that loses its lustre the longer you play.

Arriving on Snaktooth island somewhat unceremoniously whilst chasing a story, the game begins as you find a somewhat emptier island than you expected. The person you were meant to meet, explorer Elizabert Megafig, has disappeared. Subsequently, the settlement of Snaxburg has been abandoned by its inhabitants after they fell to infighting and chaos. It’s up to you to unite the people of Snaxburg and uncover the mystery of both Elizabert’s whereabouts and the inhabitants of Snaktooth Island.

What I didn’t expect from the story in Bugsnax was in-depth looks at the inhabitant’s psyches. Much of the time you spend in the game will be completing quests for the various inhabitants of the town and learning more about them. Everyone has some deep-seated issue they’re dealing with, be it the worry of not being able to protect someone they love or their own self-loathing. Bugsnax really doesn’t pull any punches and goes quite deep with its characters and their stories. By the time I finished with the game I’d grown incredibly attached to the games characters, especially Snorpy and Chandlo, with their vulnerability lending to their credibility. While there is the odd ‘dark’ moment unrelated to the characters, the real depth and darkness in Bugsnax comes from those personal issues its characters are facing.

Supporting the story and characters of Bugsnax is some fantastic voice acting. Characters all have distinct personalities or tropes they’re filling, and the game’s voice actors do a fantastic job of hitting those. As you progress and get to more vulnerable situations, the voice acting shifts perfectly to show vulnerability and frailty in a realistic and recognisable way. What results is characters and a story that sucked me in and kept me engaged all the way through.

At its core, Bugsnax is all about catching them bugsnax. Early on, this is extremely easy, with a simple trap and a little bit of stealth often being enough. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock new traps and mechanics that can be used to capture them. This is where the game begins to fall apart. As you unlock more mechanics and the methods become to capture bugsnax become more complex, tedium begins to set in. Waiting for something to complete a loop, ensuring your trap is placed perfectly and pulling multiple mechanics together at once (none of which are necessarily uber responsive) becomes an act of frustration. Keeping the mechanics at their simplest would have likely resulted in boredom, but the resulting mechanics are instead the weakest part of the game.

Split into different areas and biomes, Snaktooth island is a segmented enrichment filled with variety. At least, it’s mostly filled with variety. While each biome is technically different, they follow a layered model where each initial area then progresses into a second, slightly different and more complex area. These secondary biomes follow similar styles to the initial area, along with additional mechanics and props to the original, while remaining recognisable as a similar area. For example, the initial beach area progresses to a second beach that introduces more usable water and also a small cave system filled with lava. It’s technically different but is similar enough that it doesn’t feel as unique as I would have liked.

Similar things can be said for the bugsnax themselves. Early on there’s plenty of variety, but this variety reduces as you progress. This is mainly due to reused assets and models with different colourings or parts. The clearest offender of this is the Strabo varieties, which are simply different colours. There are still plenty of new Bugsnax added as well, but there isn’t the variety I’d hoped for.

Throughout all of this, the game has a fantastic whimsy to its art style that I loved. While Bugsnax certainly isn’t taking advantage of the power of the PS5, the art style still transitions well to the system. That whimsy gradually makes way for horror as you create grotesque monstrosities out of the inhabitants of Snaxburg, with some Cronenbergian influence on show. Where Bugsnax does take advantage of the power of the PS5 is in its load times, which have reduced drastically compared to the PS4 version and take roughly 6-8 seconds between areas. Considering how often you need to move from area to area (read: way too often) this is a godsend.

Overall, Bugsnax on PS5 is an incredibly endearing and interesting game; just not for the reason I had expected. The gameplay and mechanics are interesting early but grow tedious towards the end but serve well enough as means to continue progressing through the excellent story. It might not be quite the monster catcher I expected, but Bugsnax is an amazing look at fragility and personal issues.

Bugsnax was reviewed on a PS5 with a review copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on PC and PS4. For more information, check the official website.

 


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.