We love snacks. Salty, chewy, crunchy, sweet, cheesy, sour, spicy. There’s a snack for every tastebud under the sun. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, either. Snacks are a universal language. Are they good for you? There’s a debatable amount of nourishment in snacks, but that doesn’t matter. They taste like fun. But is there a way to capture the fun of snacks without eating them? Does it also involve weird creatures?
Bugsnax from Young Horses is a happy marriage of celebratory snack culture and well-balanced gameplay. Players find themselves exploring Snaktooth Island in search of a missing explorer lost amidst living snack creatures and a host of denizens called Grumpus. The Grumpus would like you to capture the bugsnax for their munching pleasure, which often require inventive and sometimes surprising traps and tools. What follows is a pleasantly addictive game with tons of heart that will satisfy that craving for a chill, cozy timesink.
A big part of what makes Bugsnax so much fun is how well it handles exploration. Snaktooth Island is just big enough to have a few distinct biomes, but not so sprawling that you’ll spend hours and hours backtracking looking for some rare thing that’s impossible to find. Most players can get through the game in about 10 hours, making it a perfectly bite-sized selection for a weekend of gaming or as a palate cleanser if you’re grinding away on tougher stuff.
The vibe is decidedly cute, with a tinge of the ghoulish. Your friendly neighborhood Grumpuses want to eat bugsnax so they can grow new appendages based on what they ate, a weird but literal take on the “you are what you eat” adage. The bugsnax themselves are freaking adorable, too. With 100 to capture and catalog you’ll experience a breadth of creativity ranging from the fast-food-inspired Bunger to the ice-cream dream Scoopy Banoopy.
Capturing bugsnax is easier said than done. Despite its fluffy exterior, there’s some legitimately challenging gameplay going on here thanks in large part to the way the game lets you figure things out for yourself. There is a lot less handholding than you’d expect, a good thing to be honest.
It’s tempting to write this off as a kiddie game because of its cartoony aesthetics but you’ll need to put on your problem-solving hat to capture some of the more elusive bugsnax. Unlike certain other PS5 games *cough God of Wår Ragnarok cough* Bugsnax is content to let you figure things out for yourself without someone constantly chirping in your ear. There are eight tools to use in your journey, and they can be combined in a few different ways, giving you just enough strategy to play with without any hopeless confusion.
There’s also a lot of sentimentality for a game that seems to exist for celebrating puns. Your central quest is to find different Grumpuses on the island and convince them to return to Snakburg, the only town around and your central hub throughout the game. A lot of them have sad stories to tell, and the writing is earnest enough that you may find yourself emotionally invested in ways you didn’t expect. Like any good munchie, Bugsnax manages to hit all the right notes, but briefly, to keep you coming back for more. And, just before you get sick of it, it’s done. Play it ASAP.
Bugsnax is playable on PS Plus and Game Pass. It’s also available for purchase on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC.