Video Game Reviews

Bugsnax or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Snax

Bugsnax is a quaint little puzzle game from indie developer Young Horses, who previously brought us Octodad. 

Now, I use the word quaint to describe this game, because… well, it is. But it is also so much more than that. I mean, if I were trying to come up with some other words I would probably throw in “adorable”, “Muppet”, and “body horror.” 

Like this, but waaaaaaaay cuter

In Bugsnax, you play as a reporter who has been tasked with seeking out Elizabert Megafig, a disgraced explorer who claims to have discovered a new form of creature known as a “Bugsnax.” These beings are half bug, half snack, and have many strange properties.

So, In order to save their career, the reporter heads to Snaktooth Island to investigate. 

While that sounds like a semi-reasonable plot for a game, Bugsnax goes above and beyond in a lot of ways.

A Cavalcade of Characters

One of the best aspects of Bugsnax is it’s diverse cast of characters.

There is Filbo Fiddlepie; the self proclaimed (and self deprecating) mayor of Snaxburg; Snorpy Fizzlebean, a conspiracy theorist who believes that a secret organization is out to get him; Chandlo Funkbun, the chillest of dudes and lifter of heavy things; and many more. 

Now, if you didn’t notice already, I’d like to point out that every one of those names is delightfully ridiculous. That’s because the characters in Bugsnax are not human. They are Grumpuses.

For all intents and purposes, Grumpuses are basically Muppets. They are adorable and look like they are made of felt. However, this does not diminish them as characters in any way.

Each grumpus has their own issues and problems that they need to deal with, and each wants something that they think they will find on Snaktooth Island, whether it’s answers to life’s greatest mysteries, fulfillment, or inspiration.

Residents of Snaktooth Island be like…

Over the course of the game, you help the islanders not just to find snax, but also to handle their own individual shortcomings. 

Another laudable aspect of the game’s cast is its inclusivity. There are same sex couples as well as one character refered exclusivly with “they” pronouns. While it isn’t the first game to do this (see Ikenfell), it is heartening to see more games with this kind of character diversity.

Like Cronenburg… But With Food

A question you might be asking yourself at this point is: “What are Bugsnax, anyway?”

Well, Bugsnax are exactly what they sound like. They are bugs that are snacks… or snacks that are bugs. 

Either way, it’s weird. 

An early example of a bugsnak (or is it a bugsnax? Whichever…)  is the Sandopede, a centipede that is also a sandwich. There are also such bugsnax as the Bannanoper (a grasshopper that is a banana), a Bopcicle, (a popsicle that is a beetle) and countless others.

If all of that wasn’t weird enough, it’s about to get much, much weirder.

Whenever a grumpus ingests a bugsnax, a part of their body takes on the properties and shapes of that type of bugsnax. So if a grumpus eats a Rootle (a snake carrot thing), their arm might look like a carrot. If they eat a Cheepoof (a Cheeto with wings), their leg might become a Cheeto… and so forth and so on.

This leads to some REALLY messed-up-looking Grumpuses

Fortunately, or unfortunately, you do gain the ability to choose which body part changes, so you can at least have some control over the madness. 

Gotta Catch Em’ All 

Bugsnax plays an awful lot like a weird version of Pokemon Snap (which is good considering that was one of the games that inspired Bugsnax). 

Essentially, you are given a specific set of tools, and you wander the island in an attempt to catch the different types of bugsnax. Most of the time the justification is that a grumpus is hungry for a specific type of bugsnax. Other times, you might just want to prove that you are the Ash Ketchum of Snaktooth Island. 

What makes this task more difficult than simply setting a trap is that most of the bugsnax are either too fast or too tough to be caught by your simple starter trap. Some require you to lure them into other, more aggressive, bugsnax in order to incapacitate them. Others might have an elemental affinity that you need to exploit, such as a flaming bugsnax that you can put out with a bugsnax that shoots water.

While this is pretty fun most of the time, it can lead to some very frustrating gameplay loops where you are a split second late and have to start your whole Rube Goldberg machine of traps over again. 

I worked hard on that!

One pleasantly surprising aspect of Bugsnax gameplay is that there is no damage, and therefore no way to die. Sure, you can catch on fire, be frozen in ice, or get punted across the map, but you can’t actually die, which is a refreshing change from most of the games I play. 

The Game is Afoot 

The main story of Bugsnax is broken into two distinct mysteries. Namely, “What are bugsnax?” and “What happened to Elizabert Megafig and her girlfriend, Eggabell Batternugget?”

While most of what you do is feed grumpuses too lazy to catch their own food, there are also interviews you can conduct to gather more information about the island’s inhabitants and learn what happened to Elizabert Megafig.

Because, remember, you’re supposed to be a reporter. 

Most of the grumpuses have their own theories and opinions about exactly what happened to Elizabert, and they all have their own ideas about what bugsnax really are. These diverging opinions have led to a societal fracture on the island that you are attempting to repair.

While finding clues or exploring areas is never very hard, the story is intriguing, entertaining, and occasionally disturbing.

One for the Road

Overall, Bugsnax is a whimsical–if somewhat off-putting–indie title that offers far more than meets the eye. Its gameplay is simple to learn, yet often difficult to master. The characters truly shine through, and the story will keep you interested until the credits roll and you are staring wide-eyed at the screen wondering what the what you actually just saw. 

I’m giving Bugsnax a delicious 7.5/10

…and now my arm is a large seven with fives for fingers… what the heck am I supposed to do with this?

But it’s still so delicious. 

Video Game Reviews

Immortals: Fenyx Rising – A Legend is Born

Immortals: Fenyx Rising is an open-world action-adventure game from Ubisoft, the developers of everything from Assassins Creed to Rayman. I remember seeing a couple of pictures from the game a few months before it was released and, honestly, I was not impressed. It looked like something from the early 2000’s with updated graphics. So, I mostly ignored anything to do with it. 

Then, shortly after its release, I read a short review that compared it to Breath of the Wild—one of my all time favorite games. I was still a little hesitant, but I had just managed to secure a PS5…

Bingpot!

I needed a couple of launch titles to test the system out, so I grabbed Immortals: Fenyx Rising on a lark. 

It was one of the best decisions I’ve made (game wise) in a long time. 

So, if you were on the fence, as I once was, let me try and convince you that the grass is indeed much greener on this side. 

A Mythic Tale…

The story of Immortals: Fenyx Rising begins with Typhon—the biggest, scariest monster in all of Greek Mythology—being released from his subterranean prison. He subsequently defeats all the gods standing in his way and begins gathering power so that he can corrupt the world and remake it in his image.

Zeus, the last remaining holdout of the gods, goes to seek help from Prometheus. 

Now, Prometheus isn’t in any kind of mood to help Zeus, especially since Zeus chained him to a rock to suffer for all eternity.

So they weren’t exactly “friends.”

He does, however, propose a wager: If a mortal hero can defeat Typhon, then Zeus has to release Prometheus. If the mortal is unsuccessful, then Prometheus will help Zeus by speaking to the Titans. 

Zeus takes the bet because he has no faith in mortals, and either way it’s a win for him. So, Prometheus begins the “Tale of Fenyx, the mortal who will defeat Typhon.”

..And A Godly Heckler  

The whole game is, therefore, a story being told. 

This is one of my favorite aspects of the game for a number of reasons. The first is that, while Prometheus is trying to tell his story, Zeus continuously interrupts with little asides and anecdotes about how awesome he is and how terrible everyone else is. He constantly questions why mortals suck so hard…

Our creations give little evidence to the contrary

…and he’s pretty much out to ruin a good story in the most hilarious way possible. 

This dynamic is also an interesting way to introduce the various myths and legends of ancient Greek mythology. Prometheus usually gives you the standard version of whichever myth you happen to stumble upon, and then Zeus will chime in with his two cents. This injects a huge amount of personality into the story, which it would have lacked otherwise. 

More Than a Copy

The gameplay in Immortals: Fenyx Rising is eerily similar to Breath of the Wild In a lot of ways. You can climb just about anything, you have a depleting stamina gauge, you have a set of wings that are functionally the hang-glider that Link uses, and I could add about a dozen other ways in which it is similar. However for all the ways it imitates Breath of the Wild, there are a dozen more in which it sets itself apart. 

The first is combat. In BOTW, fighting enemies required an amount of strategy and preparation that wasn’t exactly tedious, but could border on it from time to time. This was especially true since your weapons could break. 

Fenyx dumps all the tedium and focuses on letting you run wild. The parry and dodge mechanics coupled with your godly powers and rudimentary skill trees make combat an ever evolving ballet of blades.

The second way Fenyx separates itself from BOTW is the previously-mentioned skill trees. While Link is basically the same throughout BOTW, Fenyx is constantly improving in significant ways. Her progression is similar to that of a Metroidvania protagonist, except your new skills aren’t required to beat the game. Her glide gets a movement speed increase. You even get a double jump.

Or triple or quadruple jump, if you’re good enough

The last difference (that I’ll bother to mention) is the potion system. While BOTW had a staggering amount of potions to make and foods to cook, which had varying effects, Fenyx opted to streamline this process. There are only four items you need to gather in order to create the potions that sustain you. 

That’s it. 

You don’t have to remember any complicated recipes or spend your time trying to figure out the right amount of ingredients. You simply take one of your four ingredients and create a potion out of it. You can increase the potion’s effectiveness by upgrading your cauldrons, but it is simple and wildly effective.

Got My Mind on My Puzzles and My Puzzles on My Mind

My absolute favorite aspect of Immortals: Fenyx Rising is the puzzles—and there are a lot of them.

The most fun I had in the game was going up to a high point, locating all the nearby challenges and puzzles, and then systematically completing each one. 

Sometimes a puzzle was as simple as pushing a block onto a switch. Other times you’d face an interconnected series of puzzles, each of which required you to scour an entire area for every rock, tree, and block in order to solve them.

Now where’s that switch?

Now, I will say that the variation on puzzles wasn’t extensive by any definition of the word. They were essentially the same handful of mechanics over and over. However, what they lacked in variety they made up for in execution. 

Sure, most puzzles involved moving blocks or shooting arrows, but the amount of diversity that was displayed within these confines was enough to keep me searching for more. 

I also found that there was, sometimes, more than one solution to a puzzle. While most were straightforward, others allowed for wiggle room. Can’t find the block that you’re clearly missing to hold down a pressure plate? Look for some rocks nearby and use them instead. Can’t find a large block to stand on to make a high jump? Exploiting your Ares’s wrath ability could give you the boost you need. 

This leniency where puzzles were involved led me to try increasingly obtuse methods to solve them… and it was an absolute blast.

A Hero Risen

Overall, Immortals: Fenyx Rising is an amazing game. The story, while simple, is entertaining, and the characters are hilarious and quirky. The combat is fast paced—even if it does eventually get a little stale once your enemies reach their difficulty cap—and the puzzles are plentiful and on-point. 

So, if you are looking for a game to really sink your teeth into, I recommend you do yourself a favor and pick this one up. 

I’m giving Immortals: Fenyx Rising an epic 9/10.

Zeus: What? you couldn’t just give a ten.

I mean, it was really really good, but it wasn’t perfect.

Zeus: Well, we’ll see how you feel once I turn you into a swan or a tree or something.