Bugsnax: The Isle of Bigsnax Review - Secret Menu

  • First Released Nov 12, 2020
  • XBSX
Jason Fanelli on Google+

What seems like just another Bugsnax biome has a lot more crawling under the surface.

I find it interesting how much The Isle of Bigsnax mimics the entirety of Bugsnax itself. On the surface, it's just another area of Snaktooth Island, the game's original setting, to explore--even if this one is technically not on Snaktooth itself. When I'd finished exploring and completed all of the new missions, my initial thought was "that's it?" However, much like Snaktooth itself there is more than meets the eye in this update, What seems like fast food quickly becomes a multi-course return trip to the world of Bugsnax, including a brief taste of future additions to the menu. The longer you eat, the better this meal gets, but you will need to have patience in order to get to the good parts.

The Isle of Bigsnax itself is called Broken Tooth, though calling it "the isle of big snax" is a perfect descriptor. The inhabitants of Broken Tooth are all massive Bugsnax, grown to mammoth proportions, and you're again trying to capture them all, although they're impossible to trap through the normal means employed in the base game. Two of the 11 unique Bugsnax to this island--the Bunger Royale and the Deviled Eggler--are retreads of previous 'snax; the rest are brand new to the Bugsnax ranks. There's Spaghider, a spaghetti spider with a meatball for an abdomen; Cheddorb, a rolling cheese ball with googly eyes; and Millimochi, a slithering set of mochi balls that follows you around as you try to complete tasks, among others.

To capture these new creatures you'll have to resort to other means: Shrink Spice. Canisters of this spice are scattered throughout the island, and picking one up starts a 30-second countdown. At the end of that countdown the canister explodes, and any Bugsnak in its vicinity shrinks, allowing players to use normal traps to catch it. I like the idea of an added obstacle, and I like the idea of Shrink Spice. It's only found in specific places around Broken Tooth, and you can only carry one jar at a time. This isn't something like, say, the sauces in the Sauce Slinger where you can carry 20 at a time and reload whenever you see a plant. Shrink Spice is more precious, more finite, and therefore more important. Limiting the resource like this was a good idea, as it makes the resource seem crucial to success, and finding it near a big Bugsnak you haven't caught before is much more impactful. If you were able to throw it around on demand like Ketchup or the other sauces that are used in the base game, this new biome would have been much too easy.

However, even with the Shrink Spice mechanic, I finished Broken Tooth in around two hours, which feels a bit short. Ultimately it's just another set of food-based bugs to catch in a new area, with the goal of completing tasks and advancing a story, a story that begins and ends in Broken Tooth.

The story being told around these immense insects, while exhibiting the same lack of fear over tackling heavy material that the core game showed, doesn't leave the same impression as the core game's narrative. There are some serious matters addressed--science vs. religion via Floofty and Shelda, separation anxiety through Chandlo, etc.--but they feel underdeveloped and lack enough time to fully blossom. I wanted to hear more of Shelda and Floofty's debates, for example, and I wished this exploration had carried over to the main game when I went back to Snaktooth Island. I enjoyed the story of Bugsnax, one about a group of characters that begins broken but slowly works through their differences through discussion rather than destruction, eventually forming a bond that ultimately saves their lives. The brief tale told on Broken Tooth fits right into the arc, the aforementioned science vs. religion debate being a great example, but I was left wanting more. Thankfully, a wealth of new mechanics and features helps keep the DLC from feeling entirely underwhelming.

The biggest and most important addition in this update is, without question, fast travel. The amount of time saved by not having to run from Sizzling Sands all the way to Flavor Falls or Frosted Peak is invaluable, and it improves the game's pace immensely as a result. I reached the ending of the game in this playthrough in about two-thirds of the time it took me in my original 2020 run, and while the game dragged at times then, I did not feel that way this time.

The second major addition--though this one is admittedly less impactful than fast travel--is getting your own hut in Snaxburg. At long last, the Grumpuses have decided you don't have to go without basic shelter and have built you a place to live right in town that you can decorate however you please with decor earned throughout the game. While it's not the most involved house builder in the world--you're basically just placing objects in designated areas when you enter "build mode"--it's enough to give players their own little slice of home among the other Grumpuses in Snaktooth.

In order to earn decorations for your new home, you have to engage in the third major new element in Bugsnax: a mail system. A mailbox has appeared in front of your hut, and fellow campers will add letters containing missions for you to review. Some of the tasks are simple--feed X Bugsnak to Y Grumpus--but others range from menial to downright fiendish. There's one letter from Snorpy that asks you to catch five Snakpods in 30 seconds, a task that took some real planning (here's a hint: do it in Scorched Gorge). Fetching items can be a chore too, especially the one Triffany left on the very top of the mountain in Frosted Peak. How she got up there with barbecue ribs for arms I'll never know, but that's the beauty of Bugsnax.

These new tasks do a fantastic job of not only extending the life of the adventure, but also giving us more of the other Grumpuses' vibrant personalities that made them so endearing in the core game. Gramble is sending letters with greetings from his pets, Cromdo gives you decorations and then tries to charge you for them, and the list goes on. Each author's personality shines in each letter, even those you might not expect to hear from. My favorite part of the original game was spending time with each Grumpus, and this new mail system gives that opportunity in a smart and mostly fun way.

Finally, it should be mentioned that some wild Bugsnax can be found wearing hats, 10 of which can be collected and worn by any Bugsnak donated to Gramble's barn in Snaxburg. Other than giving you something else to find in your travels around Snaktooth, they don't really add much to the overall adventure. The snax sure look cute wearing them, though.

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My favorite part of The Isle of Bugsnax, however, is a new piece of lore that's tucked away among the big Bugsnax. There will be some detective work involved, as finding it will have you looking for clues in Broken Tooth, Snaktooth itself, and even the mail system. Getting there was challenging, but once I had put the pieces together they delivered an "a ha!" moment that was immensely satisfying and led to a fascinating discovery. If you're one of those players who gets sucked into a world through its lore, this is an incredible payoff...but that's all I'll say about it.

On the surface, The Isle of Bigsnax feels like just another Bugsnax biome. Arrive, catch new 'snax, complete missions and watch the story unfold, and then head back to Snaxburg. That's not bad, per se--it's more Bugsnax after all--but it's also not a reinvention. However, the quality-of-life improvements--like fast travel and the mailing system--make this update a fantastic addition to the core game. Now that the game is coming to all consoles, I expect a lot more talkin' 'bout Bugsnax as both new and returning players travel to Broken Tooth and figure out all of its secrets...including those hidden within the Snaktooth they already know.

Jason Fanelli on Google+
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The Good

  • The update is teeming with secrets, including some found in the core game
  • The new Bugsnax are just as unique and silly as the originals
  • The story told on Broken Tooth, while not as fleshed out, is still engaging
  • Quality-of-life improvements to the core Bugsnax experience are game-changing

The Bad

  • The story of Broken Tooth ends before you'll be ready, leaving a slight underwhelming feeling behind
  • Some of the mail quests are repetitive or a chore to complete

About the Author

Jason Fanelli ran through the core Bugsnax adventure, the Isle of Bugsnax itself, and the rest of the new content in about 10 hours on Xbox Series X. Review code provided by the publisher. He has one piece of advice: light the torches.