Indie Review RPG

Bug Fables – Review | A Paper Bugs Life

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is a vibrant RPG that’ll have you relishing in its beautiful imagery. A game that surprised me and took all expectations and blew them out of the water. I got a chance to check it out thanks to the lovely folks at Dangen Entertainment. After several, several hours – more than I care to admit – here is my in-depth review with novice opinion sprinkled in. It has nit-picking, lots of praising, and my ear also gets sexually violated. I promise it was consensual.

Join me as I review Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling by Moonsprout Games!

A JOURNEY FILLED WITH WORDS!!

I’d like to preface this by shining a spotlight on the main characters. They’re simply delightful. I’m confident in saying MoonSprout Games nailed the charm. Allow me to introduce you to them;

  • Vi is a female bumblebee that’s driven to be part of an explorer team. The best way to describe her would be feisty and blunt. Pretty sure she has a money addiction. Every job she and the others pick up, her only worry is the payment.
  • Lief is a moth with a rather mysterious past. As soon as you meet them, you’ll find they can speak in a different dialect than you. The intrigue mounts further once you realize they refer to themselves in the plural. This is by far the most interesting aspect to me.
  • Kabbu is a beetle that’s well-mannered. He’s a gentle bug and isn’t one to be confrontational. He’ll normally go with the flow, doing whatever is suggested. Kabbu strikes me as a peacekeeper, always trying to make sure Vi doesn’t upset anyone with her fiery temper. That poor bugger.

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling has been called a Paper Mario spiritual successor, and I couldn’t agree more. However, there are a few key differences that still make it it’s own thing. For one, unlike its inspiration, the humor has no semblance of self-awareness. No character is privy to their papery existence. Instead, the humor is solely based in the banter. And it usually comes at the expense of Vi. I really appreciated just how genuine the dialogue felt. Like three friends exchanging verbal jabs. However, I do feel that puzzling choices were made elsewhere.

Bug Fables - Sting

During interactions with NPCs; Vi, Lief, and others will react to what’s being said. While this clearly was meant to breathe life into the world, it only proved to be a distraction. Each time I saw a bubble in my peripheral vision, it broke my concentration as I gazed over to find it disappeared almost instantly. For that brief moment, I was taken out of the journey. And this happened fairly frequently. Thankfully, it never seemed consequential to the overall plot. So, I never missed anything. 

There was also a certain incident a few hours in. I was tasked with finding a Bandits hideout. To do so, I needed to speak to the townspeople. As told, I did exactly that, and here laid the problem. One of them told me an individual in the commercial area had some information. Upon turning up though, I was unable to locate them. Now, there’s a chance I was looking in the wrong spot. However, this brings about another problem. Signs aren’t always clear. While moons clearly indicate an inn, a leak is harder to clue into.

After experiencing everything Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling has to offer, three things especially stuck out. The first is just how jam-packed it is. I went into it expecting a 20-hour romp but instead, I got a beefy, long-form adventure. The second is it’s just so gosh darn cute. And the third is how great this is for a child. The aesthetic, colors, and simple vocabulary definitely appeals. In fact, I played this around my niece. She absolutely loved Vi.

What? In her words;

”Uncle Fern, I like that bee”

A BUGGY COMPARISON!

I came into this prepared for a plethora of Paper Mario mechanics. A bit surprised to find that it seems the Moonsprout Games guys have a thing for Mario in general. I feel you. I have a special place for the Italian Plumber myself.

Back in the DS/3DS era, just like most, I had a lot of Nintendo’s offerings. One particular franchise I enjoyed was the Mario and Luigi titles. Like them, you’ll be able to control all three of your bugs in the over-world. Simply by pressing a button, you can adjust their order. You’ll be doing this often as each one has tools that are specific to them. And only the one in the lead can use theirs. These tools are used to solve puzzles, access new areas, and daze enemies for an ambush.

The combat itself will be familiar to Thousand-Year Door fans. For those uninitiated, before you execute an attack, a mini-game will pop up. Either a button prompt, holding a certain direction until the right moment, or stopping a square in a colored section. Nail any of these and watch as your character inflicts maximum damage. Fail and damage output will be low, or sometimes nonexistent. As someone that‘s never played TTYD, this was new to me, and I loved this. It did well to keep me engaged.

Bug Fables - Rank Up

Finally, the leveling system isn’t conventional. Taking a page from Super Mario RPG’s book, you won’t see a consistent increase across all stats. Instead, you’ll choose between three options. Hit Points (HP), Technique Points (TP), or Medal Points. Actually, speaking of that…

A MEDAL FOR EVERYTHING!

Seems that Medals is the common commodity of Bugaria. Throughout the entirety of your journey, you’ll literally be tripping over them. For real, you can obtain one by simply walking around. Upon doing so, you’ll notice that each medal has a unique perk. These range from +1 to either HP or TP, to a 50% resistance towards a select status ailment. I felt this gave Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling a sense of strategy. By simply adapting to an enemy’s strengths, you can make battles a breeze. If you’re worried about medals making the game too easy, well…

Like an iPhone ad in the early 2000s, you bet your booty there’s a medal for that. It’s also cleverly called “Hard Medal”. Enemies will not only hit harder, but their hit points will also be higher. Bosses too will see enhancements. Oh, but that’s not all. If you keep in touch with the bug that gives you this medal, he’ll hand over even more for each boss you defeat at that higher difficulty. By the end of your journey, you’ll be drowning in them. 

I do feel Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling has a few half baked ideas. For example, there’s a medal that’ll instantaneously murder the weak. The issue is it garners no reward. See, early on, you’ll be frequenting the shop. So, it’s pretty vital to have a healthy chunk of change. The only way to earn berries – the currency of Bugaria – is to battle. See where I’m going with this? I ended up having to retire the medal, never to use it. Papa needed a new pair of shoes.

Bug Fables - Battle

While on the topic of berries and balancing, I found it was a bit off. There was never a set amount that an enemy gave you. In this regard, it felt like RNG was always changing. Determining how much you needed to grind was impossible since you were at the mercy of luck. It’s assuredly not a huge issue, but it’s something I’ve grown used to, and I’d have liked it here.

TAKE A BREAK FROM THE MAIN PLOT!

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling has plenty of activities to do on the side. Because Kabbu and the others make up an exploration team, you’ll be able to accept requests. This is probably the weakest mechanic. Some of them are your standard “Bring me this” type of quest. Then there were other times when I’d be given a location but upon arriving, I couldn’t find whom I needed to meet. It would’ve been great to have a waypoint of some sort. Something to guide me. While I would eventually find them, it took longer than it could have.

If you find yourself rather bored of questing as a whole though, there’s a card game. I admittedly didn’t dive too deep into it. I was so focused on making sure I beat the game. I do plan on one day returning. For what it’s worth, the little I did try was fun.

Lockdown Dialogue

SQUISH’EM ALL!!

I’m actually fairly surprised by the depth on display. It’s nothing complicated mind you. As you progress through the game, you’ll come to find enemies that require certain attacks for them to become vulnerable. For instance, Vi has a boomerang. As such, she’ll be important in bringing down flying foes. Lief on the other hand is a master of ice. If an enemy is under the earth’s surface, an ice pillar will thrust it above ground.

Since no one has an attack or defense stat, it’ll all come down to reflexes and positioning. To start, pressing the “block” button at the correct time will either negate or reduce an attack by 1 or 2 points. While it doesn’t seem like much, the way battles are balanced means it could be the difference between life and death. In order to maximize damage output, you’ll want to leapfrog your allies. See, your positioning in combat is a horizontal row. In order to inflict the most, simply move the character to the leftmost side. Keep in mind that once they attack, the others will be unable to leapfrog. So plan accordingly.

Bug Fables - Eliminate

ORGASM TO MY EARS!

I’m in love with the music in Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling. Every staple and instrument that‘s synonymous with environments are here. Desert melodies are accompanied by deep strings. The village tempo is always cheerful, with quirky sounding instruments. I couldn’t help but smile, and I can only attribute this to the soundtrack. Hearing such high quality left me curious though. So, I laid my Nintendo Switch down, laid back, and shut my eyes. It felt like my ears were being gently caressed before sweet love was made. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought I was playing a Mario game. Simply put, this was phenomenal.

Bug Fables - Royalty

THE FINAL VERDICT!

Despite my nitpicks or what I feel are balance issues, I still absolutely loved Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling. In fact, this’ll be one of the few that I go back and play through again to experience it not with an analytical mind, but as a gamer. I also look forward to not only challenging myself with the Hard Medal but really sinking my teeth into the card game. That fantastic soundtrack will go far in assuring a replay is enjoyable.

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling has an aesthetic only rivaled by its inspiration. While I would‘ve loved to have self-aware humor, it didn’t hurt the overall silliness. The game runs flawlessly, and the banter while not laugh out loud hilarious, was still full of under the breath chuckles. Until Paper Mario is released come this July, this is the quintessential paperized adventure.

BUG FABLES IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The game can be purchased digitally for PC via Humble Bundle or Steam. It can be purchased digitally for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch or XBox One via the console stores.

If you would like to see more RPGs, please check out our review of Children of Zodiarcs.  

Many thanks go to the publisher Dangen Entertainment for a review code for this title. 

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