Bugsnax review: It's about ethics in Grumpus journalism

Shacknews is finally allowed to talk about Bugsnax. Just how great is this highly-anticipated PS5 launch title? Find out in our review.

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Bugsnax is the second game released by indie studio Young Horses. The studio is known for the odd and hilarious Octodad: Dadliest Catch, and they have been working for six years on this next title. Bugsnax is one of the most unique video games to be released in 2020, and it separates itself from the pack by repeatedly doing its own thing.

The Story of the Century

Your boss C. Clumby Clumbernut.
Your boss C. Clumby Clumbernut.

Bugsnax is a narrative game with a very deep and well-written story. Players will be thrust into the role of a journalist trying to break a big story. Elizabert Megafig has sent your media outlet a video inviting you to come to Snaktooth Island for an interview about Bugsnax. As an intrepid journalist, you head off on an adventure, against the best wishes of your editor-in-chief C. Clumby Clumbernut.

Things are not looking good for the town of Snaxburg when you arrive on Snaktooth Island, as Mayor Philbo is the only Grumpus left. You are quickly tasked with bringing everyone back to Snaxburg by the mayor. Throughout your journey, you will meet several interesting Grumpus characters. Most of the time, you will have to feed or find Bugsnax to get them to ultimately return to town.


It's not a Bugsnak, it's a Bug... feature

Bugsnax are attracted to and repelled by sauces, which grow on trees on Snaktooth Island.
Bugsnax are attracted to and repelled by sauces, which grow on trees on Snaktooth Island.

Players will have several tools for trapping and catching Bugsnax at their disposal. From the more traditional Snak Trap, Sauce Slinger (slingshot) and Lunchpad catapult device, to more technologically advanced tools like a fancy camera, Trip Shot, Snak Grappler (grappling hook), and Buggy Ball, players are encouraged by the game to experiment with how tools interact.

Most Bugsnax are attracted to or afraid of different sauces. Sauces grow on trees in the game, so players can easily find the right sauce for whatever task they need. There are times when Bugsnax need to be drawn out of holes or caves where a sauce is the only thing to do the trick. Ranch dressing, chocolate, peanut butter, hot sauce, ketchup, and cheese can all be used to catch those delicious Bugsnax for your fellow Grumpuses. One of the eureka moments I had during my playthrough was that I could shoot the Buggy Ball with a sauce and use my remote-controlled Strabby as a Bugsnax lure.

Bugsnax has a different take on the weapon wheel.
Bugsnax has a different take on the weapon wheel.

There are a lot of ways that your tools will interact with each other in the game, and each time the player figures out a new way to catch a Bugsnak feels very satisfying. Bugsnax is one part adventure game, with a nice dose of puzzles to solve. Capturing a hard-to-catch Bugsnak is hugely rewarding, but can make you feel dumb like any good puzzle game. The game can be frustrating in this respect at times, but it is not a fault of the systems.

There were a few moments during my playthrough where it felt like I broke the game as a Bugsnak got stuck in an animation, but it was my fault 100% of the time, and I was never in a softlocked situation. One example was when I sprayed a bush near a pond with ranch dressing to draw the attention of Buffalocust, but the darned Bugsnak kept stunning itself as it repeatedly ran into the bush for several minutes. I ended up activating a trap behind the Bugsnak to catapult it into the water. The whole situation was ultimately funnier than it was frustrating.


Talkin' about Bugsnax

There are some deep conversations had with Grumpuses throughout the game.
There are some deep conversations had with Grumpuses throughout the game.

Development studio Young Horses has done an outstanding job creating a cast of characters and creatures that you care about in this game. Borrowing some obvious inspiration from the Pokemon franchise. Every Bugsnax says their name with different intonations depending on if they are happy, sad, or angry. This leads to some hilarious moments when you are being attacked by the more aggressive Bugsnax like the Bopsicle, who fittingly belows out "Bopsicle!" in a deep, gruff voice every time it charges the player.

The cast of Grumpuses are even more charming than the hilarious assortment of Bugsnax creatures in the game. The dialogue and relationships in the game are perfectly written and touch on topics that many studios shy away from. Bugsnax addresses complex storylines like the fine line between a bromance and a gay relationship, while also including an established lesbian couple. It isn't the simple fact that the game includes underrepresented groups, but the writers have done it in a way that feels more real than most attempts at inclusion in the video game medium. The end result is a story filled with amazing characters with backstories that you care about.

Love and marriage.
Love and marriage.

Other characters in the game also draw from a wide range of societal issues, like body dysmorphia, balancing marriage with a career, blatant cynicism, and being a straight up crook. Bugsnax does an exemplary job of making the player feel empathy for even the skeeziest Grumpus. The voice acting in Bugsnax makes the story even that more immersive, as every single character was perfectly cast.


Part of a balanced console launch

PICANTIS!
PICANTIS!

Bugsnax is a truly unique and wonderful first-person adventure game that tugs at your heartstrings with its beautiful story. The themes of love, friendship, and overcoming adversity are not new, but the manner in which the story plays out is a sight to behold. Couple the amazing story with a tremendous soundtrack and nearly ten different biomes to explore, and this game is well worth a look this fall. Young Horses has given this game an attention to detail that shines through as you make your way towards the end of the game. While it is a narratively-driven game, there is definitely replay value in that you don't have to catch them all to complete the main story of the campaign.

Wiggle is a true innovator in the BanjoPop space.
Wiggle is a true innovator in the BanjoPop space.

I found myself wandering around Snaxburg at night and laughing about the little things the devs put in the game while grooving to that amazing evening tune. Watching Gramble sleepwalk, or going on spy missions for Beffica became two hilarious ways to pass time during the night. The game's day and night cycle adds to the fun as some missions and tasks can only be accomplished during specific times of day or when there is a full moon. Another really cool detail is how BanjoPop star Wiggle's banjo plays along to the song in town as you get closer to her. There are a dozen other little details that make Bugsnax a truly special experience.

Bugsnax has some hilarious environmental art, like this newspaper with the headline
Bugsnax has some hilarious environmental art, like this newspaper with the headline "Stock Market is Okay".

Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a bizarre game in many ways, and that is true of Bugsnax as well. The fact that there is no fail condition for players in this game is super encouraging while not holding back from the challenge of catching a Bugsnak or completing a mission. The interaction of all the gameplay mechanics with the variety of ways to catch Bugsnax makes this game supremely enjoyable. There were several times during my playthrough that something happened to work out and I just laughed. Bugsnax is a game that challenges the player while allowing them to play at their own pace. Young Horses has tapped into the essence of what made their first title Octodad so special with this second game, and the result is a truly emotional ending to the story of the century.  


This Bugsnax review was based on a PS4 version of the game provided by Young Horses. Bugsnax costs $25 and is set to release on November 12, 2020 for PS4, PS5, and on Epic Games Store for PC. 

CEO

Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

Review for
Bugsnax
9
Pros
  • Excellent story
  • Magnificent voice acting
  • Tremendous soundtrack
  • Unique puzzle-style adventure gameplay mechanics
  • Tastefully executed inclusion of underrepresented groups
Cons
  • Late-game mission that dragged on a bit too long
  • Puzzles can make you feel dumb
  • One typo in the dialogue text
From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 9, 2020 6:00 AM

    Asif Khan posted a new article, Bugsnax review: It's about ethics in Grumpus journalism

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 6:14 AM

      Asif Khan is talkin bout BugSnax

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 6:25 AM

      Did you experience any frame rate issues? I’ve read reviews that say they saw 10-15 FPS on PS4 when they had populated Snaxburg with Grumpuses.

      • reply
        November 9, 2020 8:23 AM

        I really only experienced FPS issues when I left my console on for multiple days. It is an original PS4, and it was running hot during those times, so I didn’t dock the game.

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 6:43 AM

      One typo in the dialogue text

      Literally unplayable.

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 6:50 AM

      Bugsnax is getting unexpectedly good reviews. It sounds super fun.

      Also, "Bugsnax is a narrative game with a very deep and well-written story" - I was not expecting that, judging from the trailer.

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 7:22 AM

      The Cons list is pretty good. :D

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 7:37 AM

      I still don’t know what to think about this game.

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 7:49 AM

      Yeah, looking forward to this one. Review looks good!

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 9:23 AM

      Trying to avoid spoilers, but I'm getting whiffs of a scary twist in the game.

      Q: is this twist something that would be too much for a kid to take? 8 or over? Should I play through it solo to vet it for myself, or would I be safe to go on a safari with the kiddos by side?

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 11:09 AM

      This might be the biggest system seller of all time

      • reply
        November 9, 2020 1:15 PM

        whut?

        • reply
          November 9, 2020 1:20 PM

          9 out of 10, even Spider-Man only got 8!

          • reply
            November 9, 2020 1:21 PM

            And clearly a joke but still awesome that this exists and is included in psplus

            • reply
              November 9, 2020 1:23 PM

              I heard it's dirt cheap so I do like that aspect of it.

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 12:58 PM

      <3

      • reply
        November 9, 2020 1:43 PM

        I'm excited to get into the story and see if my theories about there being some mystery bits are along the right path

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 1:01 PM

      Is it Multiplayer like animal crossing?

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 1:32 PM

      informative review. I wonder what a bugsnax taste like though. are they crunchy and are they spicy?

    • reply
      November 9, 2020 2:23 PM

      What a great title

    • reply
      November 10, 2020 8:04 PM

      Looks awesome. I think I’d rage quit trying to figure out capture techniques. Also you’ve triggered my gotta get ‘em all Pokémon mode

    • reply
      November 15, 2020 11:46 AM

      Amazing review. I definitely want to check this game out!

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