A light snack
With a catchy theme song and colorful characters, Bugsnax “incherritoed” its way into the hearts and PlayStations of early adopters back in 2020 when it launched alongside the PS5 as a PlayStation Plus title. When I reviewed the PlayStation 4 version of the game, I found it contained a vibrant world worth exploring, even if the gameplay driving the experience sputtered out long before I got my Grumpus butt off that rock. Like many games with great casts in recent years, I haven’t been able to get this little excursion out of my head. In fact, I’ve been looking for a reason to return to Snacktooth Island and see my old friends again. And, this past week, I found that reason with The Isle of Bigsnax expansion.
Turns out, I really didn’t need to return to this world as much as I thought I did.
Bugsnax: The Isle of Bigsnax (Mac, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S [reviewed], Xbox Series X)
Developer: Young Horses
Publisher: Young Horses
Released: April 28, 2022
MSRP: Free update to Bugsnax ($24.99)
It’s important to know right off the bat exactly what The Isle of Bigsnax is. This isn’t post-game DLC that expands upon the well-told story of the original game. It’s more of a side-story squeezed into the narrative. At a certain point in Bugsnax — after you’ve completed all the requests from Snorpy and Chandlo — a mysterious island will rise out of the ocean off the coast of Simmering Springs. Snorpy wants you to investigate this new rock, and after putting together an expedition team consisting of petite muscle daddy Chandlo, less-than-ethical Floofty, Mother Naturae prophet Shelda, and Fargonian archeologist Triffany, you set off for this mysterious isle to see just how it connects to the Snacktooth Island.
On The Isle of Bigsnax, (the actual locale is named “Broken Tooth”) you can expect to see some huge creatures. True to its namesake, there are some mighty big Bugsnax here: 11 different kinds in total, most of which are wonderfully designed and wholly distinct from those found on Snacktooth Island. I was excited when I first caught sight of a big Bunger, thinking about what type of new gameplay elements this expansion was about to throw my way. So imagine my disappointment when it was revealed that catching these bigguns would only require one extra step: shrinking them down with a vase of Shrink Spice. Peppered across the island are shrines containing this respawning spice you throw at the big Bugsnax to shrink them down to a more manageable size. Once they’re no bigger than the other Bugsnax you’ve seen thus far, catching them is just a matter of using all the tools and AI know-how you’ve obtained up to that point.
It’s honestly a major bummer that catching these big Bugsnax isn’t all that different than how I’ve captured every other googly-eyed edible in this game. That’s not to say there isn’t anything new here. Broken Tooth Island is sprinkled with a few environmental puzzles that’ll utilize your Buggy Ball, Trip Shot, and Snakgrappler in new ways, plus some Bugsnax interact with objects around the island if you can manage to bring them together. This is the type of variety I would have liked to have seen more of in the original game and it feels all too fleeting here.
Most players will be able to complete all the objectives on Broken Tooth Island in about three hours. I managed to get off the rock in a little over two, given that I had to play through the entirety of Bugsnax again on Xbox to reach the new content. With all my ‘snax catching skills sharp as a tack, most of my time on this isle was spent engaging with my fellow explorers as they expanded upon their already memorable story arcs from the main campaign. Sadly, I don’t think much is added to each of their individual narratives with this adventure, even if I appreciate the message of some of their stories. Furthermore, the overall mystery of this island doesn’t add much to the Bugsnax universe other than more questions and some pretty predictable revelations. It does set the stage for more to come in possible future installments, but so did the ending of the original game.
It’s the fact that The Isle of Bigsnax is interjected into the central narrative that is my biggest issue here. By the time people unlock Broken Tooth Island, they’re going to be nearly done with the game outside of the optional side quests. Being that close to the conclusion means the writers are limited in what type of story and information can be given to players so as not to spoil an ending they may not have yet experienced. Had this new island been added as post-game content, with a bearded Snorpy begging you to go back like Jack crying to Kate, I think it would have worked better than it does here because the writers would have had a lot more freedom in the story they could tell.
Outside of Broken Tooth Island, there are some added features for new and returning players to enjoy with this update. First of all, fast travel is in, making completing all those Grumpus requests a breeze. Speaking of requests, there is a new mailbox system in Snaxburg where residents will give you further demands, rewarding you with furniture you can use to decorate your new home. There are also Bugsnax wearing hats you’ll want to find. For anybody who thought the original version of Bugsnax lacked replay value, these added features amount to a few more hours to the playtime if you want to nab that platinum trophy or secure all the achievements.
For anybody planning to pick this up for Xbox, I played the game on my Series S and it plays just fine. There will be a Day One patch to fix some physics issues, which I only encountered once or twice while trying to get some shrunken Bugsnax to cooperate with me.
This is a weird review to summarize because while I have reviewed DLC before, this is the first time I’ve been tasked with rendering a verdict on a free, mid-game expansion that’s launching alongside a host of new features. I guess the best way to sum this up is to say, as a returning Bugsnax player, I would have greatly appreciated all of the new features found on Snacktooth Island during my original playthrough of the game. As for The Isle of Bigsnax, it’s a decent diversion, but not much more.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]