I don't like bugs but I like snacks so let's see if the 2 go together in the very strange and compelling Bugsnax for PlayStation 5.
A few months back, I was delighted after watching the trailer for Bugsnax during some sort of PS5 presentation but I didn't really know what to expect from its gameplay. All I knew is that there are these fuzzy critters who eat bugs that look like snacks which transforms parts of their bodies to match the snack. Well, what can you expect from that? Perhaps some sort of goofy 3D platformer? That's what I thought but I was incorrect as Bugsnax is a first-person adventure sandbox game with a clever bug-trapping component and plenty of objectives to complete at your leisure. Although that definitely wasn't what I was expecting, I still had a pretty fun time with this little game and I'm sure you will, too, as long as you enjoy quirky games that are played at a casual pace which isn't everyone's cup of tea.
The first thing that struck me with Bugsnax is how much personality its characters have. I figured the goofy-looking creatures (known as Grumpuses) would have had some sort of collective homogenic personality traits but, no, everyone is very different. Although this is excellent on the surface, you'd kind of expect such a colourful and cute game to be brimming with positivity but Bugsnax unfortunately isn't. Some characters are actually pretty mean-spirited and watching the kind-hearted mayor get bullied made me feel really sad and I don't like feeling sad when I play games. In fact, for me, games act as a wonderful escape from the real world which is often cruel, unfair, and harsh so although I had expectations for a lighthearted escape, it ended up making me a bit depressed at times.
On a positive note, I like the collection of Bugsnax which range from strawberries to hamburgers and there are about 100 of them to collect. Most varieties have their own movement patterns and methods of catching them such as luring them to smash into each other and simply waiting from a distance with a trap set up near where they'll emerge. Thankfully, you have a camera thingy that can analyze them so if you ever get stuck with trying to catch one, you can read clues that may help you out. I only had to look up online how to catch a couple of the species but other than that, they're fun to figure out how to catch on your own.
The campaign structure basically has you wander around its island world which is a bit on the small side as you catch Bugsnax, feed them to characters, and talk to folks who you can interview to get to know more about them. The resulting formula is quite laidback and the variety of objectives will have you exploring while constantly checking things off your list. That being said, I didn't feel that there's an actual driving force behind it all. Sure, you're trying to ultimately find a lost explorer but there's no real motivation beyond that. Also, the game world is rather generic in its environments and the subpar albeit sometimes cute visuals certainly don't help.
In Bugsnax, the bugs are snacks and that's quite cool. Beyond that, its relaxing open-world objective-based gameplay is solid for winding down with after a long day but it doesn't really have much else going for it.
- + The bugs are snacks and that's pretty neat
- + Laidback gameplay that features a wide variety of clever objectives
- + Diverse cast of quirky characters
- - Gameplay lacks a substantial driving force
- - Somewhat small and generic game world
- - A few characters make me feel sad inside