Bugsnax Hands On: A Shallow and Dubious Snack

A hard snack to swallow

Key Takeaways

  • Any mystery or intrigue is quickly buried under fetch quests.
  • Catching Bugsnax can be fun early on, but never poses much challenge.
  • The game’s story feels about as nonsensical as the Bugsnax themselves.
A screenshot from Bugsnax 2.
 Young Horses, Inc

Young Horses’ next adventure promises a striking mystery filled with delicious treats, but ultimately fails to make a name for itself as the tale it wants so hard to be.

I wanted to love Bugsnax. It’s one of the few launch titles for the upcoming PS5 and has been heavily promoted. However, as I sat there, waiting to catch my second Cinasnail, I realized that the gameplay loop just isn’t very engrossing.

On top of that, the mystery and intrigue of the story isn’t that gripping, either. For the most part, my time spent exploring the various biomes of Snaktooth Island was disappointing and, to be quite honest, pretty lackluster.

Right from the start, Bugsnax tries to pull players in with the content that Young Horses have spent the past several months promoting: A beautiful fantasy island filled with cute mysterious creatures. It’s an interesting idea, and one that I was quite looking forward to exploring as I loaded up the game that first night.

Unfortunately, what began as a quirky tale about some missing islanders soon turned into a slog of pointless fetch quests that seemed to detract from the overall story more than dig into it. As someone that went into the game expecting and looking forward to the mystery of it all, I found I had to force myself to explore the next area, instead of excitedly sprinting towards it.

In Your Face

Right from the start, Young Horses’ storytelling is very in-your-face, something that I usually steer clear of, especially in narrative-driven games like Bugsnax. I’m the kind of person that enjoys reading between the lines and coming to my own conclusions.

Sadly, Bugsnax lays everything out in front of the player. None of the game’s puzzles—which usually just require players to catch a specific Bugsnak by using another creature to their advantage—ever feel that difficult, and all of the answers are given to the player by the game’s main quest givers.

The mystery quickly found itself lost within the sea of Bugsnax that I was tasked with collecting for every person that I came across. Where some might want Bugsnax like the cute and delightful Strabby, others have a taste for more peculiar Bugsnax, like the Bobsicle, which required me to explore other areas of the map.

Each character requires a different approach, which is nice at first, but ultimately none of them ever felt harder to catch than the starter Pokémon in a new Pokémon game. Because of this, the gameplay loop becomes tedious early on.

Sometimes Tasty

While there was a lot I didn’t like about Bugsnax, I did find myself falling in love with it a couple of times. I can recall a specific moment in the middle of the game, where a night of rest quickly turned into something terrifying.

I can’t give away any real details because of spoilers, but it piqued my interest in the story for a short moment and made me excited to play it again. Unfortunately, that interest was quickly lost as I found myself once more tasked with rounding up a Grumpus that had abandoned the village after the disappearance of another. 

There were other points in the story, where puzzles would pop up that seemed to challenge me a bit more. But, like the previous puzzles I’d come across during the story, none ever did more than act as a temporary speed bump, never challenging me anymore than the first time I had to catch a Strabby during the opening sequence.

Screenshot from the Bugsnax game.
 Young Horses, Inc.

The cuteness of the Bugsnax and the game’s similarities to creature-catchers like Pokémon might make it seem like the perfect game for younger audiences. However, the story does take a bit of a darker turn near the end, and some of the tense moments might be a bit too much for younger kids. I’d recommend steering clear of Bugsnax unless the player is old enough to deal with themes that might be considered scary to the younger gamers out there.

Ultimately, are some parts of Bugsnax that feel good. The little points of mystery that left me hanging, trying to guess the next twist were great. Unfortunately, most of the storytelling is obvious and predictable; there’s not much room for interpretation.

The gameplay itself, while satisfying early on, gets old quickly, especially as I found myself running from biome to biome catching different Bugsnax for people. I don’t mind doing repetitive tasks in some games, but the catching of Bugsnax never quite achieves the same allure as catching Pokémon, or even tracking down different weapons in looter games.

Now that I’ve tried it, I’d recommend giving Bugsnax a pass.