Developer Young Horses’ latest title, Bugsnax, has been a relatively popular conversation piece and meme throughout the games industry ever since its reveal announcement earlier this year. After some developers listed their inspirations when making the game, including titles like Ape Escape, Pokémon Snap, Viva Piñata, and even Dark Cloud, I realized Bugsnax also reminded me of a number of different things from my childhood and as I played through it, it reminded me of my own life experiences and allowed me to reflect on how I’ve improved as I’ve grown up as well.
Grumpuses & Muppets
Grumpuses, the stand-in characters for humans in Bugsnax, are the first characters you’re introduced to in Bugsnax. These Felt-looking monsters remind me of something that I myself was introduced to early in life — Sesame Street and The Muppets. Grumpuses remind me more of the latter, since I’ve continued to watch Muppet-related shows and throughout my life and still to this day. With this significance throughout my life, I also have developed a great appreciation for Muppet-adjacent or Muppet-inspired content.
The side-effect of Grumpuses limbs turning into food after eating Bugsnax reminds me of Muppet Monster Adventure in particular. Muppet Monster Adventure is a PlayStation game where you play as Kermit’s Nephew Robin and get abilities based on Muppet versions of classic movie monsters, and using said abilities causes you to change form temporarily. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I feel like the Grumpuses were pretty clearly inspired by Muppets with how they look (before their limbs turn into food). For me, both will also have little things I’ll always remember, such as the sounds Robin would make before activating a monster ability — the one that comes to mind is Robin going “Wakka Wakk-awooo” when activating his werebear (Werewolf Fozzie Bear) ability to climb a nearby wall, or how in Bugsnax one character would be sleepwalking and making weird noises if you wander around late at night, or how some Bugsnax have more nasally sounding voices than others (like Cinnasnail).
Bugsnax & Foodons
After first seeing the titular creatures in the first reveal trailer, something else from my childhood that I was reminded of was Fighting Foodons— the English dub of the anime series Kakutō Ryōri Densetsu Bisutoro Reshipi or Martial Arts Cooking Legend Bistro Recipe (Bistro Recipe for short)– which aired on the Fox Box on Saturday mornings back in 2002 (back when I was in grade school). The show primarily revolves around Foodon Chefs — basically, Pokémon Trainers — who make Food-based creatures out of the meals they cook by using magical cards called meal tickets, and then they battle with them. Whereas all Bugsnax names are usually a combination of a type of bug or bug-adjacent creature and a type of food, Foodons usually have names that are a pun or a play on words such as Hot-Doggone-it, Cowboyritto, or Spaghett-about-it, and have a much larger variety in appearance, including human-like foodons with food for heads. There’s even a Power Rangers/Super Sentai inspired team called the Burger Brigade, who are all different types of burgers!
At the time, my childhood best friend and I would always watch various 4Kids anime dubs on Saturday mornings and then talk about them either that night if we were having a sleepover or the following morning when we saw each other at church. The latest Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes were usually the main topic of discussion, but of course from liking those two series we felt Fighting Foodons was both too similar and too unique for us to ignore. I guess what I mean to say is that the titular creatures in Bugsnax remind me of simpler times in my life, where I didn’t have to worry about finances or a career quite yet.
Hey, I Know That Voice!
Something prevalent through both the Jim Henson productions and 4Kids dubbed anime is recognizing familiar voices. As I’ve grown up consuming plenty of cartoons, anime, and video games, I’ve come to really appreciate the art of voice acting. With The Muppets, one of the most prolific voice actors is probably Frank Oz, who was Yoda, Fozzie Bear, Cookie Monster, and a number of other iconic characters throughout the last few decades. With Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! having been very prominent in my life at the time that Fighting Foodons aired, I recognized a number of voices, from Tara Sands (Mokuba in Yu-Gi-Oh! and the main character Chase in Fighting Foodons) to Wayne Grayson (Joey Wheeler in Yu-Gi-Oh!, Spaghett-about-it and additional voices in Fighting Foodons) and the late Maddie Blaustein (original voice of Meowth in Pokémon, Burnt Meatballs and Oslo in Fighting Foodons). At the time, I would just say “Oh! That character sounds like this other character from another show;” not really understanding how voice acting works at the time. Growing up appreciating the art of voice acting more, I’m now more familiar with who a number of voice actors are, and Bugsnax helps show that. From the character of Filbo Fiddlepie being voiced by Max Mittelman (Saitama in One Punch Man, Ryuji in Persona 5), Yuri Lowenthal (Sasuke in Naruto, Peter Parker in Insomniac’s Spider-Man) voicing friendly jock Chadlo Funkbun. Even Bugsnax has a familiar voice from my childhood with Barbara Goodson, the voice of Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, voicing Clumby Clumbernut, one of the first and last characters the player talks to.
Spoiler Warning: The following section contains spoilers for the ending of Bugsnax
Accepting Your Mistakes, Improving, and Moving On
Near the end of Bugsnax, you finally find Elizabert Megafig, having turned into a giant Bugsnak herself but keeping her own consciousness and being the only reason the island is still being held together. Filled with regret after realizing the danger she put her and the other visitors in, she decides the only thing she can do is give them some extra time to help them make their escape. She assumes it’s something she has to do alone since she’s the one who brought everyone there in the first place. Her girlfriend Eggabell says otherwise and decides to become part of the island with her, so no matter what happens they can still be together. Something I’ve learned repeatedly in my life is you don’t have to take on difficult things alone, and as long as you have people who care and are kind enough to help you, you’ll be able to make it through. Elizabert and Eggabells relationship once again helped remind me of that.
Once everyone has escaped the island, they talk about what they’ve learned and how they can go back to their regular lives but also improve them and make them better. Gossip-addict Beffica realizes she can make new friends and doesn’t have to go back to the old ones if she doesn’t want to and can improve herself by treating them better. Making new friends was something I’ve worried about several times in my life, from going to a different middle school and high school than the friends I grew up with, to going to college and being around my high school friends a lot less, and even after I graduated college. Every time I’ve always been able to make new friends despite my fears (while still also keeping some of the old), and while I didn’t like Beffica as a character at first, I learned to appreciate her and was glad that she was able to learn from her past experiences. Speaking of treating others better and being yourself, scientist Floofty decides to try to understand Grumpus-kind instead of treating other Grumpuses as just mere test subjects, while paranoid inventor Snorpy and friendly jock Chadlo realize that what’s really important is their relationship and that they’ll always have each other to lean on when things get tough. Once again reminding me about the people in my support network and treating people better in general.
Now that I think about it, something that specifically happened in my playthrough really got my feelings going. During my time with the game, not all the Grumpuses survived, and Wiggle the musician and former one-hit-wonder ate too many Bugsnax during the final level and turned into them herself. Gramble, the object of Wiggle’s affection, is devastated that the Bugsnax he kept as pets (or his kin as he liked to call them) are parasites and while he’s sad that the things he loved and the one who loved him are now gone, he decides to honor the love Wiggle had for him by continuing to spread that love to others. Not to get too personal and sappy, but both of my parents passed before I turned 24, and while it could’ve been a lot worse, it still has not been the easiest adjustment. But accepting that their love for me will always still be present in my heart, even if they aren’t present themselves, is something I’ve come to learn over the past few years.
All of these revelations also reminded me of how I’ve learned and improved a lot throughout college as well as the last few years. While I do have plenty of regrets such as wishing I had treated others better in the past, including those who are no longer with us, I can improve on things like that and make my life better in the future by doing so. Accepting our past mistakes and improving ourselves is a constant process, and we should always strive to be better. I didn’t think Bugsnax of all things would remind me of that.
When first starting to write this piece and playing Bugsnax, I planned for it to just be nothing but a silly comparison piece between it and Fighting Foodons. But like I said at the beginning, throughout the course of playing it, interacting with the characters has caused me to reflect more on my own life and how past media consumption and life decisions led me to where I am today. I’m very grateful that there’s a game this year that helped me do something like that, even if it was completely unexpected.
Bugsnax code provided by the publisher