Bugsnax is back with a new expansion, the Isle of Bigsnax, which adds an entirely new, additional island of mystery, puzzles, and, delightfully, big Bugsnax to the mix. The main addition with this new update is that titular new island players will travel to, which includes some more promising puzzle-solving, a better chance to get to know some of the wonderful ensemble cast, and more creative Bugsnak hunting.
But after going hands-on with a small portion of the upcoming free DLC, one of the biggest surprises is how developer Young Horses is also fleshing out the experience on the adventure game’s original hub, Snaktooth Island with a few new gameplay hooks. It’s shaping up to be a worthy reason to return to the clever world of Bugsnax, and should make for an even fuller experience for those going snak hunting for the first time.
The upcoming expansion (for which a release date has still not yet been announced) includes three major components to dig into, but let’s first discuss arguably the most prominent. Players will be able to sail off to a separate, small island to investigate alongside Shelda (Jedi Fallen Order’s Debra Wilson), Chandlo (Marvel’s Spider-Man’s Yuri Lowenthal), Triffany (Haviland Stillwell), and Floofty (Casey Mongillo). If you’ve already beaten Bugsnax and haven’t gone back already, the endgame save essentially drops you right back before its climactic final sequences.
The Young Horses devs overseeing my demo explained how the combination of Snaktooth denizens allows the player to spend some time with late-game characters like Floofty and Shelda, who may not get as much time with the player as others. Triffany’s archaeological leanings make her a natural fit for the investigation, and, let’s be honest, adding Chandlo to the mix makes everything better. Bugsnax’s hilarious but impressively emotional writing was a highlight of the experience my first time around, and it certainly seems the cast is as funny and endearing as ever.
The island is home to several larger Bugsnax, and my first encounter with a giant Bunger proved that you can’t simply try to snare these bigger bugs like you would their smaller counterparts. You’ll need to find a way to shrink them down to size, and thankfully the island has scattered around it mysterious pots that, when launched at a sized-up snack, will shrink it down temporarily. You’ll have to then execute whatever trap combination (like tricking a Bunger into a tripwire’s path thanks to the tasty smell of ketchup), to be able to capture it.
These beefed-up Bugsnax are as intimidating as they are amusing to encounter, and though I only saw a handful in my short time on the island, the extra steps needed to catch them can make snagging even a single foe a more involved and engaging process. Also notably more involved were the puzzlers I encountered in this new location (which you’re able to fast travel back and forth from to Snaktooth if you wish to). While on the island, you’ll essentially follow questlines for all four of your companions, and I saw a portion of Triffany’s as we explored a mysterious ruin on the island. It led me down a path of a few environmental puzzles, such as lighting a torch to unlock a door while contending with Bugsnax wanting to snuff out the flame, but I rather enjoyed a series of mazes found on the island. You’ll use your Strabby in a ball, one of the earlier pieces of equipment unlocked in the main campaign, but these trials are far more involved and satisfying to solve than past uses of the item, requiring plenty of precise timing as I maneuvered my Strabby across rising and falling pillars, rotating wheels of platforms, and avoided the occasional Bugsnak in the way.
These puzzles felt a step above the original campaign’s in terms of how enjoyably complex they are, and I hope what I saw is a sign of what’s to come in every questline in the DLC, as it managed to blend these puzzles with witty dialogue, endearing characters, and hilarious Bugsnax encounters while maintaining a pretty great pace. Young Horses said the DLC will take three to four hours to complete, and at least from what I’ve seen, the Bigsnax Isle content hasn’t missed a beat in evoking what I loved about the original campaign while adding more depth to hunting and exploring.
A Home for Your Snakcation
But the additions coming to Bugsnax aren’t only found on those new shores – a major new element is a customizable home for your character. While Snaksburg residents had bespoke huts, the player character never got the same treatment, but rather than speaking for each player, Young Horses is letting you build out your own abode.
Filbo will introduce players to their plot of land, which starts as a still-incomplete building but will become more fully featured and even expand to a second floor. (This will happen over a longer period of time for players who are starting from the beginning.) You’ll accrue new items through a new mail system – letters sent to the player will include new items (with many themed around whoever sent them). And while you’ll gain some of these from playing through the existing campaign and completing the sidequests already present in Bugsnax, there are over 100 letters to obtain, and that means you’ll encounter new challenges and objectives to complete for more interior decorating purposes. The more you do, the more furniture, wallpaper, light fixtures, and more you’ll have to work with, and the devs estimate these new quests will add even another few hours into the experience for players.
It’s nice to finally have a place to call home in Snaksburg, but the team has come up with some very clever decorations (including an adorable knitted Mayor doll, a Chandlo-lier, and more) that should allow for some wild combinations. It’s a nice additional layer that will either make the act of playing the full game more robust or give players a reason to explore all of Snaktooth Island, rather than just setting sail to the new island.
Last but not least, Bugsnax can now wear hats! Yes, you’ll find headwear on Bugsnax throughout the island (it’s effectively like hunting for a shiny in any Pokemon game), and they can be brought back to Gramble’s Bugsnax stable. There, you can see the hats you have, get hints for what you might be missing, and throw a cowboy hat or a Strabby beanie onto whatever creatures you’ve currently got in the pen.
While Bugsnax in hats is an immediate seller for me, I’m impressed by how thorough of an overall addition Young Horses has compiled for its memorable, surprisingly deep adventure. Like the main Bugsnax campaign, there’s a lot more to it than you might expect (and the devs teased some additional secrets will be included they don’t want to reveal yet), and that seems absolutely true of the Bigsnax expansion. I expected a new area and, hopefully, big Bugsnax, and I certainly came away with that hope fulfilled. But the surprising addition of the letter system and its new quests, and hunting for rare hats for Bugsnax, adds even more layers to a charming, funny, and unique world I’ve already grown to love.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s Senior Features Editor, PlayStation Lead, and host of Podcast Beyond! He’s the proud dog father of a BOY named Loki. Talk to him on Twitter @jmdornbush.