Over my many years playing and thinking about video games, I’ve pinpointed a feeling, that games alone can inundate me with. I don’t know if this type of game has an agreed-upon title, but I love games about fostering communities. Animal Crossing is the classic baddie that brought kids like me into the love of tight-knit community living, and that type of game has exploded on the indie scene with games like Stardew Valley, having basically become a religion among its millions of fans. One of the newest dives into the genre I will call community-building games is Young Horses Inc’s Bugsnax which launched on PlayStation 4 & 5, PC and Mac in November of 2020. Bugsnax does everything I love about community-building games like letting players rebuild a village and make friends with colorful townsfolk, but the game has secured a place in my heart alongside the genre’s best because of it’s clever story and soothing gameplay.
Young Horses Inc actually stole my heart months before Bugsnax ever saw store shelves. The game’s Kero Kero Bonito tie-in song and album art single-handedly turned me over to the sentient-food-bug-animal scramble before I even knew the game’s plot.
Bugsnax‘s story hits a bit close to home, centering around a down-on-their-luck reporter hunting for a new scoop. Your desperate need for a story leads you to the deserted Snaktooth Island where you promptly discover the island is full of sentient food rhythmically chanting their names similar to Pokemon. Soon, a mystery is afoot and it’s up to you to bring the game’s several characters together to see it through.
Armed with your camera, it’s up to you to document all of the island’s bugsnax creatures and interview the several expats who’ve made Snaktooth island their home. This amounts to some engaging and one-of-a-kind gameplay as you explore the game’s several biomes and discover the 100 species that live on the island. Using your camera is intuitive and straightforward, and snapping pictures of new species for your journal never gets old.
I played Bugsnax on PC and was a bit disappointed that the game is locked at 60 FPS. Especially now that the PS5 is making way for 120 hertz support, I’m hoping the frame cap may be updated in the future. PS5 players can take advantage of the DualShock 5’s haptic feedback technology to feel resistance on the right trigger when snapping a picture which is super cool. Us lowly PC players have to settle with normal, non-haptic feedback. PC controls from a keyboard and the Xbox One controller I used worked perfectly and intuitively.
Bugsnax‘s title (created by me) of a community-building game rings even more true than games like Animal Crossing, and closer to Suikoden II, as the “community” has actually fled Snaxburg and you need to actually rebuild it. The personality of each of the game’s characters rise above the one-note tropes of the Animal Crossings of the world and instead are nuanced and consistently funny. Each character has their own reason for leaving Snaxburg and learning each person’s story was less of a chore and ought to be a selling point of the game, as the writing is uniquely lovable and human.
Every one of Bugsnax‘s creatures and characters were crafted with love from the iconic strabby, the living strawberry that scurries around the forests to each of the villagers known as grumpuses; they look quite a bit like if Oscar the grouch had no can and was much more friendly and homely. The game’s art is truly what shoots Bugsnax‘s into my personal hall of fame.
Uncovering the mystery of Snaktooth Island is a whimsical joy I recommend to (as I’ve grown to say more and more on the site) any person with a heart. If you’re like me and find happiness fostering communities, Bugsnax sparks the feeling as strong as genre-greats like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, but finds its own home among modern, progressive themes, devilishly cute presentation, and a story and script sure to make you laugh and cry on your hunt for Bugsnax Island’s most coveted secrets.