Though its announcement trailer might not have made it completely obvious, it turns out Bugsnax is something of a narrative puzzle game. As you encounter grumpuses, the Muppet-like characters inhabiting the game’s world, you’ll pick up tasks to complete from each. Those tasks usually involve catching the titular bugsnax, creatures that are basically food with legs, by figuring out their behaviors and tricking them into traps.
Though the game that Bugsnax has become is mostly about catching bugsnax and using them to feed grumpuses, that wasn’t always the case. Developer Young Horses has been working on the game for about six years, and president Philip Tibitoski said in an interview with GameSpot that a whole lot of gameplay ideas have come and gone during that time. Some of them sound funny, some interesting, and some a little disturbing.
“Initially, there were always grumpuses and there were always bugsnax and you were always foraging for them,” Tibitoski said. “And over time the mechanics have changed a lot. We’ve gone the Pokemon Snap route of actually being on a track and riding a little cart and capturing bugsnax as you go, we’ve had bugsnax preparation mechanics, Cooking Mama-style thing, because some of the mechanics we were looking into had to do with, like, sticker-peeling. And then we were talking about peeling parts of bugsnax to prepare them to eat, which was horrifying. And after a while we realized it didn’t really fit even besides just the fact that it’s multiple games’ worth of mechanics.”
As it exists now, Bugsnax is somewhat simpler than some of the ideas Tibitoski described, although there’s still a lot of depth to it. There are 100 different varieties of bugsnax and it seems like most of your time in the game will be spent learning about each one so that you can effectively catch it. To get a strawberry-like strabby, you have to set a trap and then hide so the strabby won’t spot you and flee. To catch a shishkabug, you use a slingshot to spray ketchup all over the bush where the bug is hiding, so that a ketchup-loving bunger (which looks like a hamburger) will charge into it and force the shishkabug out.
Some mechanics from the games that inspired Young Horses are still in the game, too–you get a Pokemon Snap-like camera that lets you scan bugsnax so you can see the paths they travel, for instance. You’ll also have to contend with the passage of time, as Bugsnax sports a day-night cycle that determines when some bugs and grumpuses will be out and about, and what they’ll be doing.
As often as you might be hunting bugsnax, you’ll also be dealing with grumpuses. Completing tasks for the characters earns you the opportunity to interview them, helping you to fulfill your actual job as a journalist (as opposed to bugsnax hunter) and find out the story of what’s happening on the island. The grumpus characters are actively going about their lives while you’re busy, particularly once you convince them to return to the defunct town of Snaxburg. There, we saw characters wandering around, conversing with each other, and even sleepwalking during the night. Tibitoski said the developers considered social mechanics like you might see in The Sims or Animal Crossing for dealing with the grumpuses, but eventually pared them back.
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