When I walked in the front door of my apartment carrying a freshly delivered PS5, I jokingly said to my fiance that “my Bugsnax machine has finally arrived.” When I carefully opened the box, unsheathed it from the plastic, and stood it on my coffee table, I jokingly said to myself “I can’t believe they fit all those Bugsnax in such a little device.”
There are actually two jokes in there. But when I finally plugged it in, booted it up, and had to make the decision about which brand-new title was going to be the first to thrust me into the world of next-gen gaming…
I went with Bugsnax.
Bugsnax is, without a shred of humor, exactly what I needed to introduce myself to the Playstation 5. For the last few years, I’ve been a nearly exclusive PC Gamer: sitting in a chair, at my desk, keyboard, and mouse. I’ve been playing deep strategy games, long-winded RPG’s, competitive esports titles. I took a year off Rocket League because I had become so frustrated with high-ranking toxic players that I had turned into a high-ranking toxic player– video games had begun to lose their magical ability to relax, comfort, and refresh me. And even when I had attempted to get back in the swing of things with Animal Crossing on Switch much earlier in 2020, I found the act of sitting down to play intensely laborious, to the point of giving up on it after only a few weeks.
Enter, my Bugsnax machine: gateway to the most casual video game experience of the next generation.
What’s cool about Bugsnax is that it’s incredibly care-free, and I mean that in both the sense of whimsy and in the alternative interpretation of “without care” … in a good way. Let me explain. Bugsnax is advertised as a game about capturing semi-sentient hotdogs with legs, called “Bugsnax,” with characters who eat the semi-sentient hotdogs with legs, who then become part-hotdog and develop “weenie hands.” Then when you actually play the game, one of the first characters you meet is named “C. Clumby Clumbernut” and the game is exactly as advertised. That’s the experience!
The developers, Young Horses Games, don’t promise much beyond that, and it’s not expected either. They don’t care that all the names for the Bugsnax didn’t need a second draft. They don’t care that Bugsnax has PS3-era graphics. They don’t care that Cyberpunk 2077, a game promising to be incredibly deep and feature-rich, is the most talked-about game of the last few years and isn’t even out yet. They don’t care, because they know they don’t have to. The imaginative concept of the game is all they needed to get me to play it. And then when they clearly triple-commit on all fronts by including a ranch-dressing slingshot and missions that require giving someone “Bopsicle legs,” Bugsnax feels like a very on-purpose journey into what makes a video game more like a “video game” and less like a blockbuster experience.
Which is exactly why I beat it.
The whole thing is like six to 10 hours depending on how long it takes for you to figure out how to catch a Cinnasnail for the first time– I googled, sorry– but even at its most confusing/repetitive moments, it never became frustrating enough to sour my playthrough. I think this is because of two factors. The first and the easiest to understand: the game is free with PS Plus. It’s so low-risk that it can only be reward. The second factor: it’s not promising to be the most incredibly deep and feature-rich game of all time! I stopped playing Red Dead Redemption 2 the absolute millisecond it asked me, for the second time in one sitting, to brush my horse in order to avoid penalties to its health regeneration. That’s a true story and one that I’m not super embarrassed about. Some people are into that and want the most realistic gaming experience possible, some people’s attention span doesn’t go beyond holding down the X button.
And honestly, being able to forget about tracking stats or weapon durability for a little while is actually pretty fun. I played over half the game before I encountered a cliff I could fall off of. I realized I had yet to die and that’s when a cliff you could “fall off of” became a cliff you could “jump off of.” I didn’t care if I died because I had no health, no inventory, no set amount of lives. So I jumped and the screen faded to black for a second… and just spawned me right back where I lept. Fantastic.
Bugsnax isn’t a kid’s game. The amount of off-beat sexual innuendos, tumultuous marriages, and dark moments of humor in the game should let you know that pretty quickly. But it is remarkably easy, pretty silly, and enough fun for a couple of afternoons. It’s also my first and, as of this moment, only “must-play” recommendation for those of us lucky enough to have a PS5 right now.
Kinda bug and kinda snack, try to catch ’em in your trap… Oh-oo-oh talkin’ ’bout Bugsnax…