Bugsnax Review: Hungry for Adventure!
When I first reviewed Bugsnax for PC nearly 2 years ago, I was thoroughly impressed with the seriously adorable title that definitely doesn’t have anything sinister lurking in the shadows at all, why are you asking? Of course, this was back when it first launched, and in its original just-after-release state it packed in enough fun for a 10 – 12 hour romp through the mysterious and diverse biomes of Snaktooth Island. I remember having a blast traipsing around the island, collecting and cataloging all the different bugsnax and exploring the areas, but there were a few issues (and… ahem, bugs) that I experienced as well. So when Young Horses graced us with a Switch release — complete with the BIGSnax DLC, well… you’d have to be a sour grumpus to say no to another delicious adventure, and I was eager to see what had changed. So back to Bugsnax I went, the long-awaited port finally coming to the portable console. How does it fare?
For the uninitiated, Bugsnax is a game about catching creatures that are “kind of bugs and kind of snacks.” So, you know, bugsnax! You start off fully intending to arrive on Snaktooth Island to interview the infamous, intrepid explorer Lizbert, but after a crash landing and crash course in bugsnax catching, you learn that Lizbert and partner in love and crime Eggabell have gone missing. To make matters worse, the expedition team Lizbert assembled has scattered across the island, the grumpy grumpuses unable to make amends after their small society collapsed. If you’re going to follow up on this lede of a lifetime, you’re going to need to help this ragtag group of grumpuses resolve their issues first — through the power of bugsnax friendship!
When I played the PC version of Bugsnax, I felt like the controls left something to be desired and was frustrated with the fact that opening the journal doesn’t halt everything else happening around you. Playing the Switch port felt similarly — the controls were again fairly unintuitive, and for some reason the journal still does not pause the game; however, there was still a noticeable improvement in controls over the PC version, especially when playing docked with a pro controller instead of handheld mode. What you get in controller improvement you seemingly “lose” in graphics quality, however, as the low FPS rate is fairly noticeable and the draw distance left something to be desired in comparison to other platforms (two things I care little about normally but I did indeed notice). Simply put, the biggest (only) draw for the Switch port is to play on the go, but what a draw that is!
Pre-DLC days, Bugsnax could be completed in one weekend, the entire experience only needing a good 10 – 12 hours to run through from start to best ending. With the inclusion of the free BIGSnax DLC comes a massive amount of content that easily doubles the game’s completion time. The most noteworthy new features are two new areas — Broken Tooth Island and the Triplicate Space (with accompanying new storylines and bugsnax), but also a brand new mission type sent to your brand new house via your brand new mailbox. While these 110 mail missions don’t impact the storyline whatsoever, they do help players entrench themselves into the island as they run around completing requests, such as feeding a specific bugsnax to a mystery grumpus or setting yourself on fire for 30 consecutive seconds. You know, the usual. Also, bugsnax hats.
Although Bugsnax is definitely about catching and cataloging the titular creatures, the real gems here are in the world-building and relationship development. The small city of Snaxburg and its inhabitants need to rebuild their society, but they can’t do it without resolving their interpersonal issues. Can the scientifically-minded grumpus find their ethics and repair their relationship with their brother? Can the long-married couple find a way to grow as individuals alongside each other? And will the conspiracy theorist genius ever confess his love to his himbo roomate? Answering these questions will require diligent bugsnax-catching from the player, but fulfilling their requests will lead to some serious soul-searching by the grumpuses, their problems almost a little too real and relatable and their solutions just what the therapist ordered.
After spending an entire week with Bugsnax (and BIGSnax), I feel like I understand the game a whole lot more. Naturally, that happens when you play any game for a second time, but the inclusion of the mail missions and the storylines found within the DLC really fleshed out the entire experience. I finally understood some dialogue early on that, as it would turn out, wasn’t throwaway at all, and even though there was a mind-bogglingly insane amount of stuff to do, none of it truly ever felt unachievable. In fact, Bugsnax feels less like an adventure game and more an exploration puzzler, each mission or bugsnax requiring players to develop their own strategies to complete or capture. Anyone who loved games like DK64 or Mario 64 but craved more depth between characters and overall lore will absolutely want to see Snaktooth Island for themselves, and if they want to play on the go, then the Switch isn’t a bad choice at all.
My first romp with Bugsnax back in 2020 was pleasant, but playing it again in 2022 with the free DLC has taken an enjoyable adventure and elevated it to an addicting one. Like many games, the Switch holds the title back ever so slightly in the performance arena but makes up for it in terms of mobility — who wouldn’t want to catch bugsnax on the go? No matter what way you choose to capture and catalog, Bugsnax is still a must-play game even 2 years later. If you’ve played Bugsnax before but have yet to enjoy the free BIGSnax DLC, there’s no better time than now to revisit Snaktooth Island and discover its bugsnax; if you haven’t played at all, then this is your sign to pick up this surprisingly deep (and dark) experience.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC, PS4, PS5, XBox One, XBox Series X, Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Young Horses; Developer: Young Horses; Players: 1; Released: April 28, 2022; MSRP: $24.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a digital copy of Bugsnax provided by the publisher.