Bugsnax burnt me out.
It might be me, but the themes of the game leave me whiplashed, and the puzzles sometimes leave me tired.
Created: Jan 21, 2021
By ENBYSS~11 min read
I know how bad the title looks, so lets start with the positives here.
First of all, the world is gorgeous. I could spend a long time just walking around in it, discovering new places, and just taking it all in. It all feels very natural, and has a pretty warm and relaxing feeling throughout. The scattered pieces of lore everywhere also add depth to the world, how long the creatures have been there and certain cultures that had existed in the past.
Speaking of the creatures, the namesake of the game - bugsnax - are all amazing. If I’m honest, I find all of them adorable, apart from certain nuisances (looking at you Noodler.) The way they move, the sounds they make, and the way they behave is all cute. It makes me glad that there’s a petting feature in the game - although you can only do so once you’ve donated them to the farm - which means you have to catch them.
This is the core gameplay loop of the game. There’s a bugsnax you want, and there’s a way of catching it. This gameplay loop is very entertaining, apart from some annoying problems that, from what I could tell, increase the deeper in the game you go. See, there’s many kinds of bugsnax, and many ways of catching them. You can group them into three general kinds though:
- Simple. This is where Strabby or the Snaxpods lie. These ones are about as easy to catch as just laying your trap down and waiting, or picking them up with the net. The best first step to catching a bugsnax is basically to lay down a trap alongside its path and let it walk in. Multiple flying bugsnax also fit here, because the only extra step is just launching your trap into the air while they’re flying.
- Not that simple. Here lie the ones like Bunger and the Kwookie. These don’t care for your trap, the former will just launch it somewhere else, and the latter will simply avoid it. As a result, you’ll have to stun them first. There’s an item that helps you stun Bugsnax, but in the Bunger’s case, you’re going to need to stun them with another Bunger. Which brings me onto the third category…
- Using Bugsnax. Some Bugsnax are just uncatchable on their own. For example, if a Bugsnax is on fire or icy, then you can’t catch it since you’ll be too busy dealing with being burnt or frozen. However, you can trick an icy bugsnax to bump into one that’s on fire - and they’ll cancel each other out, creating an opening. Another example of this is a sandwich sub bugsnax that you need to break up by making it collide with one that blows up the ground its on to separate it.
It’s quite fun, not to mention interesting to figure out the way of catching certain Bugsnax. The simple ones do get a bit repetitive, considering there’s quite a bit of them that follow that formula, but I’m not complaining about that since it’s with different creatures, so the repetitiveness barely hits. No, what I am going to complain about instead is the complicated ones.
Now don’t take me wrong. I adore the complicated methods. They’re very rewarding… once you execute them. But here’s the problem, there’s a number of cases where you just can’t, or doing so is very annoying. Three very specific cases come to my mind: Charmallows, Noodlers, and Cocomites.
Charmallows. These ones are on fire, and in the same area there are other bugsnax that are frozen. So the solution is to make them contact each other right? Yeah! If you’re lucky. The first time I had to go get one, the only one in the area was one that was hovering over a tower. Even bringing the frozen Bugsnax under the tower, and slapping it with the Charmallow’s favourite sauce did nothing. Apparently there’s a complicated way of making it come down, but earlier in the game I had already caught a frozen Bugsnax by making the Charmallow run into it. So instead I just went out of the area, came back in, went to sleep to trigger the time window in which it spawns, and caught it. I respawned them.
Cocomites. So these ones require a force to be broken open right? In the same area there’s a bugsnax that - once it finds you - it tries to ram you. In another area there was a very similar Bugsnax that when it hit a solid object, it rammed it and stunned itself. So of course, I tried to make it ram into a Cocomite tree to make it fall. Turns out these ones swerve around solid objects. Just ignore them. No matter, because it seems like I could just grab them. But this meant that my option for a force became limited to a specific other bugsnax…
The Fucking Noodler. Okay this one can go directly to hell. Here’s all the problems I faced. Okay so, the Noodler swims in lava and so is on fire. Makes sense so far. Occasionally some ice bugsnax walk in, but you might need to trick one into coming into the area. Got it. So they bump into each other right? Hahaha, maybe? Here’s the kicker. If the noodler locks onto a creature or a trap, it will launch it into the lava. So it ends up grabbing the ice bugsnax, launching it into the lava, and making it inaccessible - because if you jump in the lava you’re gonna be on fire, of course. Also, the ice bugsnax will get mad once it targets the Noodler, and if it bumps into it it will ram it backwards, which since the Noodler comes out of lava, usually means it puts it right back in.
In the Cocomite case, this means I need the Noodler to launch the Cocomite to break it - wait for the Cocomite to stop being on fire, and pray to some god out there that I can trip it up and catch it before a noodler can come in and throw either the Cocomite or my trap back into the fucking lava.
TL;DR I hate everything about the Noodler.
So I guess we started the negative portion. Here I’ll talk about the two big things that I didn’t like. Having to make people eat Bugsnax, and the Grumpuses themselves. Now hold on - for the first one I understand, it’s a central theme of the game. I saw someone compare this game to Spec Ops, and while I’m not 100% sure how much that comparison works, it does work here, because you’re being forced into doing something you don’t want to do, and the only way to stop is to just. Stop playing the game. Which I did, but that’s beside the point. I’m not gonna fault the game because I’m not compatible with that.
What I will fault the game for, albeit slightly, is the Grumpuses. I see people calling them likeable, indepth, fleshed out, and the like. I can agree with indepth, but likeable not so much. Let me explain my process here, so many of them just act in a way that’s unbearable. I won’t name them all, but one’s a constant conspiracy nut, one lacks literally any empathy for the Bugsnax, one forces you to spy on people so that she can get hidden information, one scams people, and one has a leader role despite them not really doing anything, and making you do everything. I can go on, but I’ll stop there.
There’s some of them that I like. Somewhat, at least. Well, Triffany I do like all round. She’s pretty sweet, passionate about what she does, and has ambitions she sticks with. I can vibe with that. Gramble is the only one that doesn’t want to eat Bugsnax. So that’s already a huge plus in my book. However, one does need to keep in mind that - apparently - Bugsnax are the only food source in the game, and Gramble had a collection of them that - when the whole town ended up starving - refused to help the others. Now this I’m conflicted on. Mostly because you’re either going to have a town of Grumpuses that die from starvation, or Bugsnax will be eaten anyways. Well, there is the sauce, though I’m not entirely sure whether you can live off of it. Maybe you can. The only sign that any of these people can eat the sauces is an offhand line Wumpus makes near the start of the game.
Besides that, there’s a second thing - the sidequests. Here’s the thing that annoys me. Usually sidequests in games are people or creatures asking for help that they need, because they can’t do it alone for some reason. Here however, I really don’t get it. Like I mentioned before, there’s one Grumpus whose sidequests consist of snooping on others and taking their secrets. Which I not only feel bad about doing, but also fail to see why they can’t do it themselves - especially since it seems like they already did so before. This wouldn’t bother me, but literally almost all Grumpuses do absolutely nothing but make you get Bugsnax for them. Some exceptions to this are Wumpus, who’s a farmer and is actually helpful considering his farm lets you have access to all the sauce plants you already encountered - and Triffany who’s an archeologist that was already exploring some ruins. Their sidequests do consist of getting Bugsnax, but they’re different. For Wumpus, you’re getting them because he wants to test out a theory where you can plant them. For Triffany, she’s exploring the area for some artifacts, while also asking for bugsnax that she’s researched.
There’s also Floofty, who creates inventions and tells you to get them stuff so that they can test them out. Although Floofty is the source of the horrible Noodler request, I did like it. Now these three are the exception, because Triffany is doing archeological research, Wumpus is farming, and Floofty is researching and inventing. In other words, they’re all busy doing something. I’m giving them a helping hand in the things they’re already doing. The others? They do fuck all as far as I know, but they still make you do everything. Bilbo is infuriating, because he’s technically the mayor, aka the one who should manage everything, but he does absolutely nothing but arrange meetings, and from what I’ve seen, do a speech. Everytime he tells me to do something, I remember that he’s supposed to be the mayor and get a bit more annoyed. I remember thinking that Beffica was harsh at the start, but yeah, no, she’s kinda right.
And now that I’ve brought harshness to the table, oh boy, let’s go for the kill. The fucking bickering. Grumpuses talk to you, or someone else. When they talk to you, it’s either a conversation - or more commonly, some quest they want you to do. When they talk to each other, they argue like it’s a reality show. In my first four hours, I remember seeing an argument between Wumpus and Gramble, in which Wumpus attacks Gramble for uh not letting him devour all the Bugsnax, and Gramble retorts by bringing up, and I quote, how he doesn’t know love and brings up this point by bringing up his estranged wife. In a game that looks like a cartoony relaxing adventure, this leaves you with whiplash. What I didn’t know, was that as the game went on, literally all of them would devolve into constantly arguing with each other about anything and everything. The best part is that these arguments seem like they fizzle out into nothing instantly. There’s moments where two of them have a heated argument because of some past events, and then talk like nothing happened.
It’s exhausting. That’s the word. After 8 hours of playing the game, I felt exhausted. And in a game whose premise of feeding these people I don’t like all that much Bugsnax which I do like quite a bit, all of this led to me just stopping the game and not wanting to go back to it.
I’m giving it a 6, because despite all of this, I still really love the Bugsnax themselves, the world, and how you catch many of them. It’s also insurance, as it seems a lot of people out there do infact love this game and think it’s very good. However, for me personally at least - I can’t bring myself to play a single second more of it.