New from the creators of Octodad takes us to an island to capture snacks with legs and mutate the bodies of its inhabitants. Sounds like fun.
Although Bugsnax is a game for all audiences (well, technically for those over seven years old, but that’s already getting picky) and accessible for free as one of the first titles included in the PS Plus service for PlayStation 5 (although it is also available on PS4 —version we’ve played— and PC via the Epic Games Store), it has something disturbing that keeps our guard down despite its vibrant colors and friendly characters. Created by Young Horses, responsible for the also peculiar Octodad: Dadliest Catch, the game takes us the fictional (hopefully) Snack Island to elaborate a report on the properties of the Bichisnax, creatures halfway between animals and fruits, cookies, sandwiches and other prepared meals. Unfortunately, upon arrival, the task is complicated by a bumpy landing and the discovery that the expedition leader, Elisaberta Higochumbo —Lisa for friends — has disappeared.
Canelo Torrija, self-proclaimed mayor of Snaxburgo —the settlement built on the island— acts as host in his place and gives us the Bichitrampa that will allow us to catch these strange edible animals. A hybrid between strawberry and insect that prowls the area is our first objective, the tutorial of rigor. As we approach, it hides in a bush, but we also have a camera with a scanner (the Snaxcope) that allows us to collect information and show its route, so capturing it is as simple as leaving the Bichitrampa on the ground, moving away and activating it by remote control when the Bichisnax passed by. Jubilant, Canelo insists we put it in his mouth and plop! When he eats it, his hand turns into a stump shaped like strawberries. It is the starting point of a game that later becomes even weirder.
Trouble at Snaxaíso
A few more captures and the encounter with another pair of characters as extravagant as Canelo are the prelude to the arrival in Snaxburg, the nerve center of the island now almost depopulated. However, the abandonment has not been caused by the fact that the consumption of Bichisnax TURNS THE MEMBERS OF THE OWN CHARACTERS INTO PIECES OF FOOD. No. That part, it seems, is easily accepted (in their favor, the design of the grunts – a race of stuffed animals reminiscent of the Sesame Street puppets – helps to cope with the growing component of body horror). As Canelo well informs us, and we see first-hand in the interactions with his former neighbors, the fright is due to multiple personal quarrels that ended up blowing up the coexistence in the village.
Therefore, our objective from then on is to go out in search of all the other characters, exploring the rest of the Snack Island in the first person (our avatar is never seen or named directly), to find out what motivated each one leave the comfort of your home in Snaxburg and what errands will they get them back so that we can then interview them and put together the pieces that will help us find Lisa. This translates into a relatively linear development in the sense that the grunts are spread over a series of areas with different themes (the initial meadow, a beach, a rocky canyon, a snowy slope) opened sequentially, as they return and they provide clues or objects to solve the main quest, but within each area there is a certain degree of freedom both to choose between them — there are usually two grunts per zone — and to hunt the Bichisnax they require.
Bugémon Snax: Get All
Because yes, although the communal disputes and the disappearance of Lisa are the common thread – in addition to the excuse to act a little detective and look for diaries or solve puzzles -, the gameplay is based mainly on the search and capture of these living delicacies . Bugsnax lacks combat, we can’t go around beating around or attacking with traditional weapons, so hunting becomes a constant exercise in logic: placing the Bichitrampa on a Bichisnax’s predetermined route may work in some cases, but the game soon it requires lowering them off walls and walls, capturing them on the fly, digging them up, or stun them before putting them in a net (sorry, Bichi Red). Some are even engulfed in flames or emit a cold so intense that it freezes us when we get close, so, although the character does not have a life meter or dies – they are only temporary annoyances – we also have to find a way to adjust their temperature before to catch them.
The key is to observe and, in a similar way to Pokémon Snap – but with free movement – use the equipment, the environment or even other Bichisnax to achieve the desired results. For example, beyond the trap and the net, shortly after we started we also got a slingshot (nicknamed Tirasalas) to shoot concoctions of different flavors, a very useful tool that works in tandem with the clues provided by the Snaxcopio. Thanks to this we found out that Bocatoritos (hamburgers with legs) are thrown at everything that has ketchup, which serves both to shake bushes with other hidden Bichisnax and to stun themselves; or that Mangrejos (apple crabs) have a predilection for chocolate, so they will dig up Piñántulas (pineapple + tarantula) from the beach for us if we first spray the leaves that emerge from the sand.
These flavors can also be applied to the Bichi Bola, a crystal sphere with a trained Bichisnax chasing a laser pointer and useful both for pulling them out of hiding places and for getting chased if it is smeared with a substance to their liking. Other key items are the Shuttle, a trampoline that allows us to propel the protagonist, the Bichisnax or other objects in the direction we want; the Atrapasnax, which throws a grappling hook to grab things from a distance; and the Tira Ñam, which stretches a cable between two points and serves both to drive elements (fire, ice) and to trip Bichisnax whose trajectory takes them directly towards it. Once with the complete repertoire, the game allows you to experiment and even find alternative solutions to “puzzles” that often do not have a single solution or can be solved by resorting to the rest of the fauna.
For example, one of the tasks commissioned by the grunts requires breaking a pair of Eggs (eggs, go) and, to achieve this, as soon as we can put them in the path of another that sends them and cracks them as throwing them towards one on fire that them heat until the Bichisnax inside is suffocated to the outside. We are not going to stop at more specific cases because discovering these reactions for yourself is part of the fun, something that includes such surprising revelations as that some Bichisnax fragment forming new creatures. It is true, of course, that the hundred species available to capture is a figure that is achieved by reusing variants with different colors or properties, and also that the second half can end up becoming a little more monotonous because of that and because we stop receiving new equipment, although the game can be completed in 5-6 hours, so it is hardly a major problem.
Collections, mutations and therapy
It should also be clarified that those 5-6 hours only take into account the basics, which is to meet the initial demands of the grunts, get them to return to Snaxburg and, after completing the pertinent investigations, access the final stretch to solve the mystery of the island (the game unequivocally advances the point of no return, although after completing it we return to continue playing). If, instead, we want to hunt all 100 species and complete the secondary missions, the duration is easily doubled. Getting the grunts to return is only half the job, since once back in the village, the old quarrels resurface and we have to mediate or help them to complete their little story arcs.
In practice, this usually means continuing to hunt and feed them more Bichisnax of their choice (something we can also do of our own free will, transforming more and more of their bodies … If that kind of thing suits us … Or we want get certain trophies). But sometimes it also involves participating in a more active way in the daily life of Snaxburg, which is not a simple saying because it has a clock that governs day-night cycles on which depends both the appearance of some Bichisnax and the routines of the grunts. It is not something particularly complex (moving around the town, going to the bathroom, going to bed at nightfall), but from time to time it gives rise to curious situations, such as discovering a case of sleepwalking or the true nature of certain characters.
If we immerse ourselves in these little stories, little by little it becomes clear that the consumption of Bichisnax is not limited to a matter of simple gluttony and that the replacement of limbs by food is a transformation with which they do not mind dealing because they see in it a catalyst for another transformation of an internal nature. Bugsnax offers a light and digestible (ahem) look at the insecurities and shortcomings of characters who have seen Snack Island an opportunity to improve their lives. It is up to us to contribute to this, a process in which, incidentally, sometimes access is given to the legendary Bichisnax that pose the greatest challenges in the game. It is a strange and twisted formula in its right measure (we return to the introduction and its suitability for all audiences), but it serves to create a unique aura and reinforces the perhaps not too surprising – but effective – final revelation.
Bugsnax on PlayStation 4
As we mentioned at the beginning, despite being one of the outstanding titles for the launch of PS5, we have analyzed Bugsnax based on the PS4 version, where it does not hide its humble origins nor does it sneak among the highlights of the generation that ends in what the technical section refers. The settings and characters are somewhat simple in aspects such as geometry or animations (the Bichisnax use literal emoticons to express their moods, a creative decision that is as extravagant as it is hilarious, matching the rest of the work), although, luckily, the nice artistic section makes strength on the other hand. The grunts in particular shine thanks to their designs and excellent English dubbing that goes a long way in giving them a life of their own. Something similar applies to the Bichisnax, who do not have dialogue as such, but exclaim their own names like the Pokémon in the animated series, also adding to the general delusion.
That said, something where the PS4 (standard) version does leave room for clear improvement is in performance: although not consistently or severely, the game suffers from some noticeable hitches in framerate, whether when navigating the areas of greater amplitude – which are never really large compared to other maps the console has moved — or by performing automatic saves that record every progress. On the other hand, the loading screens between the different areas of the island can range between 20 and 30 seconds – sometimes even more – something that is surprising considering its moderate scale and level of detail. They are setbacks that don’t spoil the experience, but should be alleviated post-launch as much as possible.
Bugsnax on PlayStation 5
The PS5 version – which we have also tested – does not change the humility with which the game is presented, with its virtues in the artistic section and its simplicity in the technical area. In this sense, it does win above all for its performance. On the one hand, the loading times are drastically reduced and in less than 5 seconds we jumped from the start game button to start the introductory scene. We also noticed that there is improvement in the transitions between zones, which load in less than 10 seconds on the new Sony console. Add that we have not noticed the jerks seen on PS4, offering a much more fluid experience and generally smooth and without problems.
Also note that Bugsnax makes a timid approach to the haptic possibilities of the DualSense. At the start of the game we notice how the controller vibrates while it is raining. It is true that the feeling is far from the same rain effect present in Astro’s Playroom, where one can really notice the drops constantly falling. Here it is something more subtle and less worked, but the intention is there, as is also the fact of noticing small vibrations while we walk through the grass. In general, the DualSense experience is not comparable to that of the pre-packaged game starring Astro Bot – the use of the resistors in the triggers is a bit clunky – but the implementation is appreciated and, although it could be better, the experience wins integers with the PS5 controller.
Bugsnax is one of those titles that we like to discover because, even with their limitations or shortcomings, they add something new to catalogs full of offers that are generally more similar to each other. At times, its concept of searching, interacting and capturing creatures may be reminiscent of games like Pokémon Snap, Viva Piñata or Ape Escape, but the result is fresh and distinctive even among them. And although repetition ends up making a dent in the formula in the long run, the hundred Bichisnax and the equipment available allow a lot of experimentation and the use of lateral thinking to find alternative solutions. Its cast of characters, the gruñecos, also helps to outline a unique personality in the narrative field, with funny dialogues, unexpected conflicts and the constant perplexity caused by their mutations. Whether as a dessert to say goodbye to PS4 or as an aperitif to welcome PS5, Bugsnax is a snack with its own strong flavor and easy digestion.
- The concept behind the Bichisnax and the transformations. Unique and delusional.
- The grunts and their dramas. A memorable cast that invites you to get involved.
- Some of the situations get quite elaborate, it requires using your head.
- Abundant content if we want to see and get everything.
- Capture tactics are repeated for large numbers of Bichisnax.
- Some technical unevenness in both graphics and performance.