Bugsnax is not at all what I expected it to be, which means a lot because honestly it was a title that didn’t arouse much curiosity when I saw the trailer. But, from the moment I entered this world, I was… dazzled? What seemed to me to be a game with veins of “farming”, presented itself by being a title with a fascinating narrative and funny puzzles, with the main objetive of capture various creatures made of fruits, Doritos or even Pizza, spread across the various locations on Snaktooth Island.
In this strange adventure the player will play the role of a journalist, who was sent to a mysterious island in search of the legendary cryptozoologist, Elizabert Megafig. It turns out that this famous explorer is missing and the entire village built by her is in ruins without any inhabitants in its vicinity. The objective thus becomes to find the total of 12 missing inhabitants in the different regions and discover what really happened in these parts. To help this situation, each former inhabitant of this peculiar village is very reluctant to return, and it is therefore necessary to perform a series of tasks, mostly, capturing these colorful beings named, Bugsnax.
It seems like a really senseless trip, but curiosity got the better of me and completely wrapped me up in these characters full of life with problems that translate into everyday life and a story with some genuinely good twists. The first inhabitant we come across is Filbo, a kind of president of the village of Snaxburg, and he quickly asks for help in his mission to reunite its inhabitants. Unfortunately he is not very well regarded by the other Grumpus which makes things a little bit more complicated.
As previously mentioned, most of the time in Bugsnax is spent helping the various residents of the island to get what they want, so that they feel comfortable enough in returning to Snaxburg. It is therefore necessary to travel around the island to find exactly what they want, which mainly involves feeding them with specific Bugsnax, which cause parts of the body to become the food they ate.
With a total of 100 different Bugsnax, spread among places by the sea, passing through the forest and even the icy mountain, capturing them is not as simple as it seems. There are Bugsnax that have a very cold body that at touch freezes the character and all the animals around him, or for example, those that fly or jump, so it is necessary to draw a previous plan before taking action. This being a title that distances itself from any type of violence, how is it possible to capture these lovely delights? There are a set of tools at the disposal of the player that start off being quite simple, such as a simple trap that is placed on the ground and when the right time comes, it is necessary to press the action button again to close it, but they become more complex during the adventure, offering a variety of strategies very welcome. In this sense it is possible to feel a light breeze of the Metroidvania genre since there will be places and Bugsnax that are impossible to capture in the first encounter.
Although all the gameplay is very intuitive and fun, what really surprised me was the narrative that goes to places that are much darker than the cheerful look shows. It mixes themes like love, loss, betrayal, all in the same bag and shakes it to produce a juice that is only savored in its entirety at the end of the story. And it’s amazing how he pulls the player this way, keeping things “family friendly”.
All the characters are wonderfully outlined, from their physical aspect that can be completely changed over time, and all of the voice acting, which gives the game a different style of humor to explore its themes. Since I talk about this theme, Bugsnax did not leave out the LGBTQIA+ community, since there are two couples of the same sex and a character with the pronoun they/them. Awesome job :).
The Young Horses studio has to be congratulated for taking a unique concept and presenting it in this way that despite all the humor and fun that comes from its gameplay, also carries an emotional and human weight on its back.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game for PS4/PS5, provided by Popagenda.]