Bugsnax: The Isle of Bigsnax Sadly Only Makes Small Changes

Games Reviews Bugsnax
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<i>Bugsnax: The Isle of Bigsnax</i> Sadly Only Makes Small Changes

By the time I realized I didn’t have to complete Bugsnax to play its recently released DLC The Isle of Bigsnax, it was too late. Like most players venturing to Snaktooth Island for the first time with the new Xbox and Nintendo Switch port, I set myself up to complete the main story — a task that, at first, I had approached gleefully before my enjoyment slowly drained into tedious entertainment. It’s no surprise then that when I finally approached the new content after 8-10 hours, I wasn’t exactly champing at the bit for more.

First announced at the PlayStation 5 reveal showcase, Bugsnax immediately captivated fans. The adorable Bugsnax — kinda-bug and kinda-snack creatures — and the ridiculously catchy theme song were enticing, and the trailer’s ending hinted at something far more sinister beneath the cutesy aesthetic. People questioned what exactly a bugsnax was and what the game would end up being, so much so that it evolved from fringe novelty into full-on excitement. When the game launched for the PlayStation 4 and 5 in November 2020, our very own Garrett Martin gave it a 6.0/10, stating: “When Bugsnax doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s a treat; when it does, it too often leaves a bad taste.”

A year and a half later, the team at Young Horses have provided the Grumpuses a new adventure and new bugsnax in The Isle of Bigsnax, a free story-focused DLC that adds more quests, more Bugsnax, and more Grumpus interactions. As previously mentioned, you do not have to beat the main game to play the DLC, although you do have to complete the side-questlines for five Grumpuses — Snorpo, Floofty, Chadlo, Shelda, and Triffany — to even set sail.

Setting aside my thoughts of the base game, I was excited to search Broken Tooth, an island that literally rises from the ocean and is home to behemoth bugsnax who rule a long abandoned society. With the aforementioned Grumpuses — save Snorpy who stays on Snaktooth — you must investigate to find answers about the lost Grumpus civilization and why the bugsnax here are just so darn big.

In terms of gameplay, virtually nothing is changed; leaning heavily into its Pokemon Snap inspiration, players must use gadgets and gizmos to capture the caloric critters. Every bugsnak on the island is new, and their enlarged nature ties directly into the only new mechanic: Shrink Spice. You see, bigsnax are simply too large to capture normally, so scattered around the island are pots full of a powder that can shrink them into a catchable stature. Other than this one change, it’s business as usual: talk to a Grumpus, catch their required bugsnak/solve their simple puzzle, rinse and repeat.

While there are the odd side missions, like shooting hoops with Chadlo or cracking eggs (again) for Shelda, the cyclical gameplay of capturing the bugsnax grows tiring after a while. Thankfully, Broken Tooth is at least designed to make your life as easy as possible throughout the two to three hours you spend there. Probably the largest biome within the game, the island is still small enough to traverse quickly, and though none of the areas are particularly memorable, they’re distinct enough to remember where you need to go while fulfilling your chores. An increased use of both the Trip Shot and Buggy Ball lends more cohesion to the puzzles throughout the island, but they’re all so easy that you never spend more than a moment thinking about them anyway.

The one place The Island of Bigsnax really shines is the same place Bugsnax itself did: character interactions. Your motley crew of Grumpuses are not exactly best friends, something they remind you of time and time again, but watching them learn to talk through their issues and forge deeper bonds remains the highlight of the adventure. The dialogue hits more than it misses by probing into each Grumpuses’ insecurities, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to mashing A after a certain point. Chadlo steals the show by exercising his emotions as well as his body; sadly, the rest of the Grumpuses aren’t afforded the same opportunities. It’s a major shame that just as they learn to truly work together, the final boss knocks them unconscious and forces you to face it alone.

The Island of Bigsnax is a digestif, a bittersweet extra bit of goodness that is gone before you know it. It makes the meal more digestible, sure, but it doesn’t really add anything to it in the process; junk food with a shot of sambuca is still junk food. When playing it after the main campaign, as many returning players are, the DLC’s story actually hamstrings itself, as its half-step developments feel unfulfilling compared to the emotional catharsis that the climax of the narrative provides. It’s more of the same ol’ Bugsnax, which you can take as you will.

The story does hint at further DLC to come — you can unlock something called “The Triplicate area” that answers a few questions left from the game’s cryptic ending while setting up more buglore. But, if this DLC is anything to go by, that adventure too might not be as filling as we’d like.