I am often presented with a dilemma about how I should operate this review site. For the most part, I am a firm believer that a game should be played in its entirety before I review it, or at least played for a large amount of time in the case of longer titles. Herein lies my problem. Bug Fables is an incredible game, and I want to commend it for everything it does right. That said, I have only played through about half of it because my fat thumbs are not capable of seeing it to its conclusion. I believe this game should be played by a large audience. It’s rather niche, but I feel like a ton of RPG fans that would not normally consider it would have a ton of fun. This is what is driving me to write this review, if you could call it that. Perhaps it is better suited as an impression piece, I don’t know. Suffice it to say, Bug Fables is a must play for any fan of the old school Paper Mario games, and would be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone looking for an RPG-Lite experience.
The primary thing that stands out with this game is the art style. It draws heavy inspiration from Paper Mario, and that is not a bad thing. It ensures the game will still be looking great 10 years from now. Most things are paper, from the two dimensional characters, to the buildings that are seen throughout your journey. It is a three dimensional world however, and there is actually a little bit of a contrast between everything that is paper, and the lands you traverse. At its best, when you enter a building, paper is folded back so that you can get a view of what the interior looks like. At its worst, you are trekking across a world you do not quite look a part of. Overall, there is more good than bad to be said about this art direction.
The gameplay is also a nod to Paper Mario on the N64, from the occasional, albeit weird platforming segments, to the straight rip-off of the combat system. I’m not saying it’s a rip-off in any bad sense of the term. It takes everything that was great about combat in Paper Mario, and fine tunes it for a more mainstream feel. Timed button presses, unique character abilities, it’s all on display here. Where it strays from the source material is in the combatants themselves. You are given three characters to play with throughout the entire game. There are no characters that pop in and out of the story. What you get a little ways into the game is what you get for the duration. Basic attacks remain the same between these three characters, but special moves are unique and require different button presses to perform.
To my pleasant surprise, combat differs through the ability to swap characters on a whim and to give each character the opportunity to give their turn away to someone better suited for the task at hand. For example, Vi can hit flying enemies, Kabbu can hit enemies out of their shell, and Leif can unearth burrowed enemies. When you are facing an enemy that suddenly flies in the air, and Vi has already taken a turn, Kabbu or Leif can give their turn to Vi so she can work her magic. The stipulation being that upon every additional turn any one character takes, their power is reduced. All in all the combat system is enjoyable, and never got old in my 10 hours of playing.
The music once again, you guessed it, is inspired by Paper Mario, with some tunes sounding eerily similar to the source material. Again, not a bad thing. Paper Mario was an incredible game with incredible music, and that is not lacking in this spiritual successor. I found myself enjoying the music so much that I went back and played the soundtrack a couple times. It is incredible, seriously, go listen to it. Sound effects are spot on too, with every boomerang knock to an enemy’s head inspiring cheers within my soul. This game was, simply put, very pleasing to both eyes and ears. Bug Fables does have one issue that I need to point out. The story is uninteresting to me, but I do see how some could come to love it. Again, I never finished the game, so I don’t know how it all plays out, but it seems like they played it very safe with many of the story elements. What it lacks in overarching story it makes up for in sheer talented writing. The writing in this game is incredibly charming. I never felt the need to button mash A through any of the dialogue, and it was very enjoyable. Each character gets developed through what they say and how they react to different situations, and it all just seems very believable. Like, if there actually was a rag-tag team of a bee, beetle, and moth thrown into a power struggle, this is exactly how they would speak and act. I’m just going to leave it at that.
As far as replay value goes, I feel I would be hard-pressed in finding people who desire to play it through multiple times. Heck, I couldn’t even get through it the first time. This was in large part due to a certain gameplay sequence that had me creeping around enemies, trying not to alert them to my presence so they don’t throw me back in jail. It was THE WORST. I typically hate gameplay segments that use a terrible stealth gimmick, where you have to stay out of enemies’ fields of view. It’s terrible. It sucked in Ocarina of Time, was worse in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on the original Xbox (look it up), and is terrible here. I would need some divine intervention to play through that again. No thank you.
Overall, Bug Fables is amazing. It hits all the right notes in most of the important aspects that make a good video game, but fell short for me in a very specific sequence. I still wanted to get the word out there that this game exists and is, for the most part, enjoyable. I loved it, until I hated it. End rant, end review.
Replay Value: 1/5
Total: 19/25 or 76/100