Ever since Bugsnax was announced for PlayStation systems back in 2020, the game has grabbed people’s attention like few others. With plenty of merchandise and its catchy theme song, it seemed as though the googly-eyed strawberries were everywhere despite being Sony-exclusive at the time. Now, a year and a half later, the game has finally made the jump to Nintendo's console, launching alongside the free Isle of BIGsnax DLC. However, despite all the excitement, Bugsnax unfortunately doesn’t quite stick the landing on Switch.
In Bugsnax, you play as an unnamed journalist on the verge of being fired. After receiving an invite from an explorer named Lizbert to visit the mysterious Snaktooth Island, you set out to discover the island’s secrets for an exclusive scoop. As you explore the island, you come across Filbo, the Snaxburg mayor. Filbo informs the player that Lizbert has gone missing, and the town has disbanded after a series of earthquakes and disagreements among each other. You're asked to bring the disgruntled townsfolk back to Snaxburg to help piece together the history of Bugsnax and find out exactly what happened to Lizbert.
The plot, while simple, does its job nicely, especially in the game’s finale, and each of the characters you meet along the way are expertly voiced. However, oftentimes it’s the writing that misses the mark. Up until the very end of the game, the characters are incredibly one-note, which is disappointing as such a large emphasis is placed on them and their backstories. There are a few instances where the game tries to force you to spend time with these characters at parties in between the game’s chapters, but it comes off as far more intrusive than charming. It is only in the game’s final moments where the story picks up and the characters start to show any sort of uniqueness. It’s clear the developers wanted you to fall in love with these inhabitants, but in execution, they were far too generic to care about.
For those confused about what a Bugsnax even is, they are a group of snack-themed creatures with googly-eyes that inhabit the Island. Each species is designed excellently, and they range from the Crabble, a crab-apple hybrid, to the Weenyworm, which is just a hot dog with googly-eyes that acts like a worm. Eating a Bugsnax turns the limb of whoever eats them into a piece of food. While eating Bugsnax is a central theme of the game, it is largely a superfluous addition that boils down to some glorified townsfolk customization, which was very disappointing for one of the game’s biggest selling points.
There are over 100 species of Bugsnax to catch, each behaving in a unique way, making capturing them a puzzle in itself. Despite the large number of Bugsnax, it’s frustrating to see such a large number of recolored Bugsnax. For instance, the Peelbug, which is citrus peel-themed, has four different variants (green, orange, yellow and red). In reality, the number of truly unique Bugsnax you’ll encounter is far fewer than 100, which is a real shame.
As you explore Snaktooth Island, you’ll find beaches, forests, deserts, and frozen tundras. Each locale has unique species to find, and you’ll need to use a variety of gadgets to capture them all. You can use your SnaxScope to scan wild Bugsnax to add them to your journal, and doing so also reveals the general path they follow, giving you an edge in your Bugsnax hunt. As you progress through the game, you’ll gather more tools, like a slingshot and a portable spring. The vast majority of Bugsnax you see in the wild are not required to complete the game, only the ones requested by certain townsfolk to convince them to return to Snaxburg. Since most of the quests follow the exact same formula of catching one and turning a body part of a character into a snack, things can quickly get stale and repetitive.
Despite the prospect of catching 100 different Bugsnax, the game never fulfills its true potential in the gameplay department. It's relatively short, taking roughly 5 to 6 hours to clear the main campaign. While the included free DLC content adds another land to explore, as well as some new content in the form of new side quests, a customizable home, and an adorable hat mechanic for your Bugsnax, the package still feels as though it is lacking in substantial content.
Another lackluster element comes from the nauseating controls. Movement and general control feel very loose, worsened by the fact you're playing in first person. At times, it feels as though the movement is coming straight from an early 3D platformer or a tech demo, with no environmental feedback and unrefined physics. Gadgets, while fun to use, are often more of a headache to get working the way that you’re expected to use them. For instance, one mission has you using a laser pointer to lead a Strabby in a hamster ball through a race track. The lack of precision in the control scheme made this challenge incredibly frustrating, despite how simple the task at hand was. Combine the aggravating controls with a far too vague hint system on how to catch certain Bugsnax and you get a game that we enjoyed in short bursts with an incredibly patient mindset.
The Nintendo Switch version is also prone to some serious performance issues. Objects are constantly popping in, which can get incredibly jarring for some of the game’s more open locales. Similarly, the game’s loading times in between areas are incredibly long, sometimes over 30 seconds, completely destroying any sort of flow. It is also worth noting that the game soft-locked several times during our time with it, forcing a reload of a previous save. And while not a dealbreaker, textures are also much lower resolution than you might expect, especially on the environment and shadows. While these issues may be a suitable tradeoff for some in order to have Bugsnax on-the-go, the technical issues here may be enough to look at playing the game on other platforms besides the Switch. We're told the team is aware of some graphical and physics issues with the non-PlayStation versions, so hopefully some of these will be addressed with patches.
Bugsnax is a game that is brimming with potential, but struggles in actual execution. Capturing hundreds of adorable snack-themed creatures sounds like such a great idea, but the lack of memorable characters, a frustrating control scheme, repetitive gameplay and numerous technical and design problems, particularly on Switch, makes for a somewhat lukewarm experience. There is certainly fun to be had here, but once you’ve played for a few hours, the magic fades and you’re left with a disappointing game that doesn’t live up to expectations.
It's strange how popular this game was when it was released. I never found the concept to be that interesting, it just looks repetitive.
My boys love this game-it’s really been the only PlayStation game they play. Issues aside, I think we will still end up getting this to play on the go.
Great review, too bad I was kinda interested
talkin bout BUUUUUUUUUGSNAAAAAAAAX.
Also, lack of memorable characters? I thought each and every one of them were greatly developed past their surface layer personalities (people who have played it probably know a few specific ones in that regard). Especially in how well they were voice acted, I'm struggling to really agree with that point specifically. The technical issues are a shame though, maybe they'll patch them out later? Doubtful though.
the game itself is marvelously charming, with some of the most well-written characters you can find this console generation. it's good stuff ❤
it's also sadly unsurprising that the Switch version is plagued with technical issues. guess I'll stick to the PS4 then.
Looks like a nice time killer title, hopefully they fix the performance issue soon.
I want Bugsnax mechanics integrated into Pokémon. I was disappointed by how little variation in Pokémon behaviour there was in PLA, so I like the idea of different Pokemon having different “puzzles” and conditions required to catch them.
I loved this game on ps5. It's by no means perfect but an enjoyable romp with such loveable characters. I do agree with a previous commenter that the concept didn't appeal, the only reason I played it was that it was on PS+ and one of the only PS5 games I had!
It's such a shame about the performance issues as feel like this could have had a nice home on switch
Gotta eat 'em all? This game sounds horrifying.
I will try it on my Xbox since it’s on gamepass , it will surely run better than on my switch.
Buying the PS4 version, then. Thanks for the review, NL.
@StarPoint Was it more to do with there being a lack of games for PS5? I move in gaming centric circles and I've barely seen this game mentioned
I played this on PS5 and you pretty much summed up my feelings for it. But the theme song still rules.
I had this on my wishlist based on popularity on other platforms. I will remove it. Thanks for the review.
I'd have given it a solid 6 on PS5 but with the technical issues a 5 is likely apt on Switch. It is pretty repetitive which put me off going for the platinum but it's not a long game and if you can get it cheap (and they sort out the technical issues) it's actually a fair bit of fun.
Ever since my former gaming site forced this game's coverage down my throat, I couldn't stand the "please look forward to this game we won't tell you anything about, hee hee" attitude the dev team had in every single interview. Imagine having a 300-word-count at the minimum and filling in the blanks when the director straight up refused to reveal what even the genre was. So yeah, I'm both pleased and not surprised to see it knocked off its pedestal.
i miss when handheld ports were actually optimized for portable, i e change the game until it actually works. the "full console experience" on handheld is still a dream, sadly, and meanwhile we miss out on the creative outcomes of the gameboy era, when handheld games had their own flavor.
There's a GameXplain video out there that directly compares the graphics in the Switch version to the PS5 version. Check it out if you're interested in the Switch version. You might leave with a more positive impression of the performance than you would after reading this review
Can’t wait for some new hardware that can handle all these ports the switch is getting! What an exciting day that will totally be cuz it’s definitely real in the real world!
@StarPoint Pretty sure the only reason this game was hyped initially is because it was a PS5 exclusive. Now that it's multiplat everyone is suddenly being honest about it.
This, Astro's Playroom, and Sackboy were the only PS5 launch games that really interested me. I didn't realise it wasn't an exclusive, and I'm intrigued to try it out, despite me seeing lots of mediocre reviews. A shame to hear of technical issues in such a simple looking game, maybe the softlocking and loading times at least can be improved with a patch.
No one has really been defending the issues on the switch version so it doesn't sound like its a case of people being nintendo fanboys.
From what ive seen of it the games looks fun but even the more positive Gamexplain review mentioned some bad performance issues especially with weather effects going on such as rain. and the load times seem like they can get very long leading to a lot of waiting between areas.
Lol I played the PS4 version and felt the same way. Great review.
…I don’t get why people seem to love this game…
Holly cow!? I didn't know this game was this bad! I,*put his fedora on", heard a lot of females talking about it as if this game was the next animal crossing.
Too bad, I had this one on my list. But there’s no need to spend time or money on a 5/10.
@Happychocobo So it was a PS exclusive. I was correct then.
This review is an opinion like all reviews, can’t agree with no good characters, I remember everyone is this game lol.
Switchup gave it 81%
Hmm... NLife seems to be on the lower end here of the reviews I usually take in for a game. Switchup, Gamexplain and others seem to be coalescing around 75-80/100, much higher than what NLife is giving this. The other reviews mention the pop in, and load times, lower resolutions, etc. But none of them complain about the controls the way the Nlife review does. The other reviews all seem to quite enjoy the gameplay and controls, etc. Also, no other review I've seen yet says anything about soft locks or crashing at all. The developer is also apparently aware of the graphical issues, and is supposed to have a day 1 patch ready that will hopefully help with this. Did NLife wind up with an exceptionally bad copy of the game? This is one of the few times I've seen NLife come way down from other average review scores on a Switch game.
Yeah, NL's review seems to be by far the most negative, different strokes I suppose. Still interested in checking this out now that's on Switch.
@Synecdoche Saying a 5/10 game (From one reviewer...) isn't worth anyone's time or money is a pretty bad way to look at reviews. A 5/10 is average, it says so right there. Not bad, just average. It may very well be worth playing to people who are interested or like similar games even if it's not the best experience out there.
"Similarly, the game’s loading times in between areas are incredibly long, sometimes over 30 seconds"
"over 30 seconds"
....Okay, maybe I just don't have access to the level of tech that other people do (spoiler alert, I definitely do not) but in all honesty, what point have we come to as a society in need of instant gratification that half a minute is an 'incredibly long' time??? I am legitimately floored by that sentence existing. I mean, what even? That is ridiculous. If you want to play an older game (or Skyrim, or the Witcher 3) and talk about long loading screens, yeah, sure; if I manage to die in either of the games mentioned I'm generally done, because I don't want to sit there for five to ten minutes doing nothing while I wait for things to get going again, but less than a minute? I don't even have words for that.
@MysticRunes I have to agree with this. I didn't get that "30 seconds is an incredibly long wait time!" (paraphrased, of course) either. I took that as...30 seconds to load? That's all? Sounds pretty good to me!
@mystman12 Yes, it’s average. There are too many great games out there — more great games than I’ll ever be able to play — for me to settle for average.
I just played the beginning and the controls are just standard first person? Does the reviewer not like first person games in general? So far the game looks beautiful, I understand there was a day one patch so that might be why the review was different from my experience. I understand it’s not on par with ps5, but I’m incredibly enthusiastic so far. Performance is better than a lot of switch titles.
I hope it’s not that the later levels suddenly have a huge drop in quality. Also with the 3hrs added play time In the dlc that makes 9hrs for 19€… I beat Zelda links awakening in 10-12hrs for 50€
The steam deck does do a good job at showing what can be done on a handheld device in terms of being able to run some of the higher end games at a good framerate and whatnot.
not saying that the switch needed to be like that considering the switch came out 5 years before the steam deck but it does give an idea of what a theoretical switch successor could do.
the switch itself came out at an awkward point since the whole wiiu situation lead to it coming out in the middle of a generation meaning that once the ps5 and XSX came out the power gap was much larger to the point that with "cross gen" games the "last gen" version was on a system more powerful than the switch.
granted devs have managed to get a lot out of the switch but the power gap is definitely becoming more and more apparent and i imagine HD development makes it less viable to build a version specifically targeting switch hardware.
I managed to platinum the game on PS5 but it obviously didn't have all of the technical shortcomings that the Switch version does, and it is definitely not a game for everyone but I enjoyed it enough to complete it, it almost has a Pikmin Vibe in terms of the cute creatures and the story really wasn't too bad either imo.
I think it deserves more than a 5. Granted I played it on my PS5 so can't speak to the technical issues found on the Switch, however and despite the repetitiveness it has a charm all its own. I enjoyed it and platinumed it. But I suppose it's that type of game that you either get into or not really much at all.
It doesn't look terribly amazing on PS5 and yet it can drop off 60fps at times. Badly optimized game all round despite being fun.
i acknowledge and mostly agree with everything you said except one thing:
IMO, the steamdeck is too large to fit the portable/handheld category, and is completely different to the gameboy paradigm in every single way. its hilarious to see the game gear dwarfed by comparison!
thank you for your thoughful reply 😊
Yeah it doesn't seem to be the most "portable" thing considering its an absolute beast.
i do find its an interesting look at how mobile tech is improving, i imagine a theoretical switch successor wouldn't be quite as powerful but be more ergonomic and quite a bit smaller.
@Fizza Exactly, the characters are really well written. Also, yes it's unfornutate for the techincal issues, but it's still a port of a PS4 game on a 2016/2017 tablet lol. But yes, I hope we will have a patch later.
Oof well disappointing review, but I’m not about to cancel my physical preorder from Strictly Limited. My kids and I thought it looks like goofy fun.
We’ll give it a try and catch a few bungers. 😁
This is on Game Pass if anyone wants to try it for free. I did and deleted it after about 15 minutes.
My 11 year old loves this game. For $20 on sale it was a good buy for him.
The controls aren't great, but fine for the low-speed game this is. And the low-res textures are masked by the cartoony art-style. Even with its limitations I'm glad we got the Switch version instead of PS5 so I can kick him off the TV to play. I haven't noticed any crashes.
I can't really agree with this review.
It runs great for me and loading times are fine.
Yes, the gameplay is repetetive but I find the lore, characters and collecting everything very enchanting and fun. It's not a must-buy but anyone that enjoys chill games I highly recommend it. "Bonger bonger bonger bonger!"
Im honestly surprised at the negativity around the gameplay. As others have said, played this on the PS5 and me and my fiancee could not get enough of it. Every creature was unique and cute along with many having their own little mini puzzles and charming characters and story. Its a quality indie game with a unique idea.
I would love if a sequel was made that expanded on the concept further.
Tap here to load 47 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...