You know when you know you shouldn’t eat something but it just looks so tasty that you can’t help yourself? Even when it’s making you sick? What about when it’s making you…not you anymore? Welcome to Snaktooth Island, where the Bugsnax are plentiful and also food.
Bugsnax is a puzzle-adventure game that’s somewhere in between Pokemon Snap and Night in the Woods. You play as a journalist who has a penchant for cryptids, with an editor who really wishes you didn’t. So when you get a video from explorer Elizabert Megafig inviting you to come see her newest discovery, you obviously can't resist going to get the scoop. This big discovery? An island populated by Bugsnax - in their words, “kinda bug, kinda snack”. On Snaktooth Island you’ll find strawberries with adorable googly eyes that squeak their names as they run around, and aggressive burgers that run around on their fry legs, smashing into anything that smells like ketchup. And if grumpuses (that's what you are) are to be believed, they just might be the tastiest food on the planet. Lizbert’s group of friends straight-up cannot eat enough of these things, despite each meal turning one of their limbs into a version of what they just ate. Cronenberg antics be damned, everyone wants to get their hands on as many Bugsnax as possible.
Story & Atmosphere
After a rough landing on Snaktooth island, you find out that Lizbert is missing and the rest of the villagers are scattered around the island. You'll need to bring them back together in order to piece together what happened to Liz and finally get the interview you were promised.
Bugsnax (both the game and the creatures) are incredibly charming and perfectly weird. The critters, all different types of food, run around the island chirping out versions of their names like edible Pokemon. They have different types and personalities, from shy Shiskabugs (vegetable skewers with googly eyes) that run away when you get too close to aggressive Bopsicles (walking popsicles with googly eyes) that freeze you as they body check you off of ledges.
There are 100 different species of Bugsnax to catch, spread out across eight different biomes. This count is fairly inflated though as there are often multiple varieties of the same species that count as separate Bugsnax. For example you can catch Cheepoofs (cheeto butterflies), and both white and flamin’ versions as well. Despite the semi-frequent doubling up, the variety in the game gives you a memorable and interesting cast of creatures to observe and catch. And after the catching, comes the eating.
The eating is pretty disturbing. Every time a grumpus eats a Bugsnax, one of their extremities changes into a facsimile of their meal. Worse, you get to pick which part changes, giving you a terrifying ability to modify the bodies of your new friends as you see fit. Once you get over it though, this system is pretty fun to experiment with. You can’t turn anyone’s body parts back to normal once they’ve been changed, but you’ll eventually get the ability to swap them out for other Bugsnax they’ve eaten. This was a critical feature in undoing the very ugly burger nose I accidentally bestowed on my favorite villager, and a lot of fun to play around with. Each Bugsnax has a different appearance for the different changeable parts, giving you a lot of variety to explore in your horrible abominations.
When Bugsnax was announced, the biggest question was what this game actually was. You could tell it was weird, funny, and interesting, but what would you actually do? My personal theory before launch was that it would be more of a creature farming/collection sim, like Viva Pinata or Ooblets. In reality, Bugsnax is really a game about its characters and the relationships between them.
The core gameplay involves gathering information about Lizbert’s disappearance by finding the scattered villagers across the island’s eight biomes and convincing all the Grumpuses (Grumpi?) to move back to Snaxburg. As obsessed as the people on the island are with how delicious these adorable critters are, they’re largely terrible at catching their own food. Lucky for you, you’re pretty good at catching them and people are happy to trade information when they’re full.
To get in their good graces, you'll need to catch you some Bugsnax! Armed with only a handful of tools, you'll need to get creative to trap your prey. Collecting each Bugsnax is a little puzzle, ranging from just knowing where to place a trap to coordinating a series of springboards, trip wires, and grappling hooks. The puzzles are mostly straightforward and quick to figure out, with a few memorable exceptions (hearing “picantis” is still rage-inducing). Since most of the sidequests involve catching different combinations of the critters, the relative simplicity helps keep the quests from getting too overwhelming at the cost of sometimes feeling a little repetitive.
That being said, getting to them in the first place can be a bit of a frustrating experience. After the first quest (or set of quests) you get from a villager, their tastes will usually span a few zones. While that sounds straightforward, the way the map is constructed makes this a bit of a barrier to getting on with the actual game. The zones are set up in two concentric circles with the town in the middle, so to get to the further areas you’re crossing through an entire zone, and encountering two loading screens - both ways. I played on PC and found the loading screens to be pretty long, which made these trips irritating at times. If you plan ahead to grab Bugsnax for a few quests at the same time you can mitigate some of this, but ultimately you’re going to find yourself trekking across areas pretty often.
After the grumpodes have been fed and consequently had their body parts transformed, they'll head back to the village where you can interview them and get a little closer to finding Lizbert. These sequences are straightforward, clicking through a series of questions as to why they came to the island, why they left, and their relationships with others on the island. Each one helps you move the story along, but also helps you get to know the person as well. After their interview, they’ll have a few side quests for you. These sidequests were genuinely my favorite parts of the game.
They, like the main quests, basically all consist of gathering various Bugsnax, but the moments you get with the characters, and the interactions between the characters, are rewarding, funny, and heartwarming. Despite their disturbing fry-arms and burger legs, all the characters are interesting and endearing in their own ways. That’s definitely not to say I liked all of them, but even the annoying ones were fun to learn more about. Most of them have a history with each other, and getting to unravel their complicated relationships was as rewarding as unraveling the mysteries of the island. I feel as though these missions could be considered essential to the story, as skipping them would really strip away most of the heart of the story, and you’d end up missing out on some of the best moments Bugsnax has to offer.
Bugsnax is a fairly short game. My finished save clocked in around 11 hours, which includes doing every side quest and catching around 80% of the Bugsnax. How long to beat suggests that a “gotta catch ‘em all” playthrough would take about 13 hours. I definitely feel like the length gives you enough time to really enjoy your time on Snaktooth island, get to know the characters, and catch juuust enough Bugsnax before it starts to feel repetitive.
Bugsnax is a super charming game with memorable characters. The little puzzles and variety of Bugsnax make the world feel alive, and the villagers make it feel important. It’s hurt a little by its repetitive core gameplay, but getting to the story moments will make all the knocked over nets worth it. Your visit to Snaktooth Island will be under 15 hours, making it as short and sweet as the strawberries you’ll feed to your friends by the handful.
Bugsnax is available on PS4, PS5, and PC/Mac through the Epic Games Store.