Talkin’ ‘Bout Bugsnax!
As a big fan of weird cute shit, strange critters, and snacks, Bugsnax appealed to me immediately. From the moment I saw my first Strabby getting chewed on by an explorer with a questionable Aussie accent, the game has been living in my head rent-free. I don’t think a day has passed where I haven’t randomly started humming the absolute banger of a theme song from Kero Kero Bonito that took social media by storm. With Bugsnax, developer Young Horses (the maniacs behind Octodad) are showing that next-gen gaming isn’t just about shiny ray tracing and framerates – there is still room for fun, humour and heart… oh, and snacks.
Let’s have a look at a few reasons why Bugsnax should be on your menu next week.
Humour in games can be a tricky thing, with titles often relying on edge-lord internet humour in a way that feels dated almost immediately (looking at you, Borderlands). The games that I find funniest are the ones that disarm me by being so utterly charming, that I just need the slightest nudge for my smile to turn into a cackle. Bugsnax seems to pull this off effortlessly, which is no surprise given Young Horses back-catalogue.
With their last big release, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, the team were able to create hilarity out of the well-meaning chaos caused by the titular character, along with the unsuspecting and oblivious NPCs. Despite the main character being mute, the writing was razor-sharp in Octodad, but in Bugsnax, we will have a star-studded voiceover crew taking that level of fun up a few notches.
During your adventures across Snaktooth Island on your quest to find out what happened to Elizabert Megafig, you will run into a cast of weird, furry walrus people known as Grumbuses, who will help guide you on your journey. You will no doubt recognise a few of the Grumbus voiceovers, from One Punch Man‘s Max Mittelman as Filbo Fiddlepie to Spider-Man‘s Yuri Lowenthal as Chandlo Funkbun, Bugsnax has gone all out for vocal talent. You’ll also hear familiar voices from Jedi: Fallen Order, Evangelion, Overwatch, Persona 5 and more. Pre-pandemic, this eclectic crew recorded dialogue together in the same room, adding a depth to their performance and allowing them to bounce off each other.
From everything I have heard so far about the game, the brilliant V.O work combined with hilarious writing makes Bugsnax one of the funniest releases in years.
As an avid appreciator of the art of stupid puns, I cannot possibly describe how happy the designs and names of the Bugsnaks make me. Like little palatable Pokemon, Bugsnaks of all shapes and sizes roam the island of Snaktooth, each with a unique look, behaviour and hilarious name. Frydars are starchy spiders that look like overturned buckets of french-fries, Shishkabugs are shish kebab bugs, and Buffalocusts are big-eyed buffalo wings that fly around in swarms. Each of these Bugsnaks needs to be studied and documented so that you can understand what makes them tick, and ultimately capture them.
Most missions and quests in Bugsnax will revolve around the catching of the various critters, with Grumbuses more willing to dish out critical information once you’ve shoved some wildlife down their gobs. To do so, players will use several gadgets, traps and sling-lures. Once a bug has been observed, and you understand its movement patterns, these items can be used in different combinations to catch them, adding layers of experimentation to the catching mechanic. For example, Bungers (burger-sheep?) are attracted to the smell of ketchup, so you can use your sling-lure to lay some out near a trap, however, they must also be flipped on their backs for a successful catch, requiring additional tools. A caught Bugsnak will only stay restrained for a few seconds, so be quick to wrangle them up. You don’t want a pissed-off Quarter Pounder with legs chasing you around!
In the preview articles and videos, I have watched so far; it is clear that we have only started scratching the surface when it comes to the gadgets we can use, with a majority of the gadget-wheel still a mystery. I am sure there will be a few extra wacky traps and gizmos at our disposal further into the game to catch some of the legendary Bugsnaks, like the massive unnamed pizza moth!
Eggs Over Un-Easy
From the very first reveal of Bugsnax, during Sony’s June showcase, it became immediately clear that it’s not all sunshine and Hunnabee’s on Snaktooth Island. Despite being set in a world full of whimsy, puns and joy, there is a dark underbelly to the events of Bugsnax – a soft and creamy centre of unease covered in the most saccharine candy coating. The most uncomfortable thing about the game is what happens when a Bugsnak is eaten.
When Grumpusus (Grumpi?) devour some of the local fauna, their bodies will transform in different ways. Eating a Bungar may give you springy legs, while nomming on a Rootle may give you, I dunno…carrot eyes? The thing is, these horrific transformations trigger no discernable emotional response from the Grumpus. If I was eating a sandwich and suddenly my legs turned into large bread slices, I would be at least mildly concerned!
The residents of Snaktooth seem addicted to these edible augmentations, keeping the same wide-eyed grin they had pre-metamorphosis and then demanding to be fed again and again and again. Major cult vibes. Perhaps it is this addiction that leads some Grumpasus to go too far, ultimately losing their humanity (Grumpanity?) on their slow march to becoming an anthropomorphic pile of profiteroles. Could this be what created the monster we see at the end of the first trailer?
Similar to the way shows like Adventure Time use childish charm to hide deep truths and devastating implications, Bugsnax leads players into a false sense of security. In an interview with RockPaperShotgun Young Horses CEO, Philip Tibitoski acknowledges the somewhat troublesome vibe the game can give off. “I would not call it a horror game,” he said, adding that the worlds the team creates “aren’t always at least what you’d expect on the surface. And sometimes, when people are playing, people might not notice those sorts of things, or choose to pass over them, but if you’re really paying attention, I think it pokes out.”
Bugsnax will scuttle on to PlayStation 4 on November 12th, and PlayStation 5 at no extra cost via PS Plus on the same date.