Humans are naturally curious creatures. If there’s any mystery, we want to solve it. If any part of our planet is uncharted, it should be mapped out as soon as possible. Sadly, not all discoveries are pleasant, nor eye-opening. If a chemist discovers something, it’s celebrated; if a biologist or adventurer discovers something, it might turn out to be something sinister. Despite this, adventuring is still so exciting, right?! That’s exactly what Elizabert Megafig thought when she set out to Snaktooth Island in the world of Bugsnax! Join her on her totally whimsical adventure!
The story of Bugsnax takes place in an alternate reality where Grumpuses (Muppet-like humans) live. You play as a journalist who received a video invitation from the famous explorer, Lizbert, to visit Snaktooth Island that’s inhabited by strange creatures known as Bugsnax. Essentially, they are a fusion of bugs and foods. After crashing onto the island, you meet up with Filbo, the mayor of the island’s settlement Snaxburg, who asks you to feed him a Bugsnak. That’s where you discover that when you eat a Bugsnak, part of one’s body transforms into the type of food through a process called Snakification. Sounds totally normal and not freaky.
Filbo tells you not only that Lizbert has gone missing, but that all the residents of Snaxburg have left town. In order to complete your story, you’ll have to convince all the Grumpuses to return to town, interview them, and finally, find out what happened to Lizbert!
Bugsnax features a varied cast of lovable characters, like the grumpy Wampus, the diva Wiggle, or the paranoid inventor *REDACTED*. Every Grumpus has their own story, quirks, troubles, and relationships, and you’ll need to fulfill their requests to get them back to Snaxburg. Afterward, you’ll be able to interview them to learn more about them and the island.
If you did some research about this game, you might have seen the term “psychological horror” flying around, and that’s no coincidence. A handful of story events throughout the game build a sense of dread and mystery, building up to the finale. Snakification is also quite unsettling when you think about it. After a point of no return near the end, the horrific nature of the game gets fully explored, and then can it be fully considered a creepy experience. Personally, I don’t think it’s a story that will keep you up at night, but it’s certainly effective and unnerving. Overall, the narrative manages to be heartwarming, emotional, and creepy at the same time.
Snaktooth’s island’s main touristic attraction is catching the large variety of Bugsnax. These cute critters vary from “smoll”, wiggly Strabby’s to goofy Bungers and massive monsters. The variety in creature design is stunning, but not as varied as it could be.
Catching Bugsnax: Tools and Physics
Throughout your exploration of Snaktooth Island, you will meet many types of Bugsnax and get your hands on plenty of useful gear to catch them. You start with a trap that you can activate when there’s a Snak in range to capture it. However, you might need to lure it somewhere first using your catapult to shoot some sauces. Some Snax hate certain sauces, some might be aggressive, and some will roast you.
If you don’t know how to catch a certain creature, you need to use your camera to scan it and get a hint. These descriptions can sometimes give you all of the information you need to catch the Bugsnak, and sometimes it’s incredibly vague.
Using your tools to catch new Bugsnax can feel satisfying, but the magic eventually fades away. To further sour this dish, catching Bugsnax sometimes feels like a battle against the game itself, rather than against the Bugsnak in question. You might need to rely on another Snak to catch one, which can be annoying. The physics can feel inconsistent too, and aggressive Bugsnax can mess up your attempts to catch another. You can either spend time catching these aggressors or ignore them and constantly get thrown into the air. But when the system works, it works well. It’s fun to catch Bugsnax, but some of its own mechanics hold it back.
Quests and Areas
Before you can head into the finale, you must explore the entirety of Snaktooth Island, find all 12 Grumpuses, and interview them. In order to return the former residents of Snaxburg, you must first do some tasks for them. The majority of these tasks involve catching specific Snax and feeding them to the Grumpus in question. As a result, these quests are incredibly repetitive. Only some missions do not involve catching Snax, but you still have to interact with them to complete the quest. As such, there’s no real variety in the quests, and they’re carried by the banter between the quest giver and the player.
This variety isn’t helped by the design of the areas. In your first few hours, you’ll journey through a forest, a beach, a gorge, and a mountain. These areas are quite small, and there aren’t a lot of interesting sights to see. If you see something interesting, you can most likely only interact with it during a side quest. The areas are also limited in size, so exploration only lasts a few minutes. The most disappointing aspect of Snaktooth Islands is that 3 late-game areas reuse the theme of earlier locales. The Bugsnax themselves even follow the same themes as before. As a result, collecting Snax gets repetitive and boring fast, despite the many variations in Snak design.
The obvious side mission in Bugsnax is, of course, catching them all. Only a handful of creatures need to be caught in order to see the credits. As a result, if you hunger to fill in your journal there’s a ton to do. If you’re not up to catching Bugsnax without a concrete goal, you’re in luck. After getting a Grumpus back to Snaxburg and interviewing them, you unlock their side-quest. They give more context behind their character and give you more stuff to do. Additionally, some of them allow you to fight a Legendary Bugsnak, which are special giant and ancient Snax. They function like boss fights, to conclude their respective quest lines. Lastly, completing a certain set of side quests allows you to visit Broken Tooth Island, an entire new area.
An exotic island with weird creatures requires great visuals to match. Luckily, Snaktooth Island and the Bugsnax that call it home do not disappoint. The game is incredibly colorful, and the environments feel vibrant. Discovering new Bugsnax is always a blast, they’re a color variation of a previous Snak. Because as mentioned earlier, themes are reused in this game.
The soundtrack is also lovely but unremarkable. It sounds great, but nothing sticks out, except for the vocalized main theme by Kero Kero Bonito, which is quite a banger. The voice cast helps with selling the game’s great cast of characters. It features recognizable voices from Persona 5, Arcane, and Sonic The Hedgehog, and all actors did a great job in their roles.
You are what you eat. That’s Bugsnax’s motto, and they are words to live by. However, its diet could’ve been more varied. While catching these insect-snack fusions is fun, it gets repetitive quickly. The fact that the game reuses biomes and creature designs does not help. Luckily, the game features a charming and varied cast of characters to carry its main quest. Bugsnax feels fun and charming, only to tear that façade away magnificently in the endgame. Your stay at Snaktooth Island will no doubt be a memorable one, and your battle against Snax and their physics will be one you will feel in your bones.
And remember, tu quid edas…
Bugsnax gets a 7.5/10.