Monday, January 18, 2021

‘Bugsnax’ allows me to continue (and that might help you too)

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My story is not really unique, especially this year. Animal Crossing: New horizons brought so many players at home. We all enjoyed the simple pleasures of this calming game, allowing it to offer you comfort and escape as the world seemed to fall apart. I know a lot of people keep logging in and playing for hours every day, but I’m not one of them. Once I completed the main storyline and outfitted my island the way I wanted, I was done. I need a goal with my game. I love exploring and seeing the full scope of a game, but at some point I need a certain sense of completion. I also really enjoy a good story.

As a result, I was looking for a game that would give me the same comfortable feeling as Animal crossing but with more satisfaction; an emphasis on the narrative and more structure around it (sometimes a blank sheet of paper is too much freedom for my brain). Then, just in time, I found Bugsnax.

The hype around Bugsnax was real. But shortly after developer Young Horses finally released it late last year, he quickly passed out. Much of that probably has to do with its release date – November 12, the same day the PlayStation 5 hit the internet. It’s no exaggeration to say that this year’s next-gen console launches have been an absolute disaster, and player news cycles have been dominated by people trying and failing to secure a console. Bugsnax seems to have been forgotten in the midst of all this (understandably) frustration.

It doesn’t help that either, while Bugsnax was available as a free game for PlayStation Plus subscribers, only the PS5 version was included. This means that a lot of people who were interested in playing the game and intended to buy a PS5 didn’t have the option to play it.

I was lucky enough to get a PS5 for pre-order, and after it arrived, Bugsnax was the first thing I started. The principle is deceptively simple: you are a journalist, invited to the mysterious Snaktooth Island by the explorer Elizabert Megafig (the names of this game are fantastic) to discover the puzzle behind Bugsnax, local insects that taste absolutely delicious. You arrive on the island, but Lizbert is nowhere to be found, and it’s up to you to figure out what happened.

I’m a sucker for a good mystery, so I was hooked right away. What I didn’t expect, however, was how sweet this game would be. You are introduced to a wide range of characters – Filbo, the mayor of the city who feels like he has failed. Wambus, who is narrowly missed by his wife Triffany. Snorpy and Chandlo, the gay couple I was ready to die for for about three seconds after meeting them. These characters made my heart feel full and I wanted to learn more about them, spend as much time as possible in their world and fill them with delicious Bugsnax.

Bugsnax focuses on strategizing to catch the different insect pieces in the island quest style. As new areas unlock, the puzzles (and Bugsnax) get more complicated. But the game makes it easy for you and it is always possible to know what to do. When you get stuck, Google can always help. (I am a huge supporter of trying to figure it out yourself – but then just figuring out the answer before it stops being fun.) And the pace of the game means it’s easy to do one thing and take care of the other areas of your life. (In total, the game only lasts about 15 to 20 hours.)

Games that are not based on battles often present a real difficulty as most of the time there are no level settings. If you can’t find the controls to be intuitive, there isn’t much you can do. (That’s why I couldn’t make much progress The wilderness, although I will try again.) But luckily I didn’t find it to be a problem with Bugsnax; the gameplay was simple and easy to understand quickly.

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