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Bug & Seek Review

Bug & Seek Review

Collecting bugs is a summertime hobby many young kids take up and some adults continue. The world of insects has so much variety and mystery, it’s no wonder a gigantic franchise such as Pokémon can trace its roots to the childhood hobbies of Satoshi Tajiri! Now, insect hunting is all well and good in itself, but what if you combined it with Stardew Valley-esque mechanics, like rebuilding an old building and getting to know the locals? Bug & Seek aims to answer this question with an added hint of mystery! But will this title by So Peculiar be the centrepiece of our collection, or will it scuttle betwixt the floorboards?

The basic premise of the game is that you, an enterprising bug-catcher, have sunk your final pound and pence into the Insectarium of your local town, Buggburg. Once the lifeblood of the town's economy, it has since gone into disarray as someone stole all the insects on display! It’s now up to you to get the Insectarium — which you can name as you please; mine is The Bug House — back to its original glory! Renovation like that isn’t cheap, however, so it’s off to the fields! From here, we get into the game proper.

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A bit of a fixer-upper, huh

Bug & Seek is, at its heart, a bug-catching simulator. With your trusty net in hand, you roam the town and poke every bush, patch of grass, table, tombstone, and rock to see if something pops up, after which you try and catch it! If you are successful, a silhouette of a bug will appear, which you add to your backpack on a successful swing and keep on catching! If you catch a new insect, you’ll be shown some info on it, and each successful nab will award you with experience toward catching the same type of bug in addition to finding rarer variations! Ok, so you’ve caught a fly, a moth, and a wasp… now what?

Once you’ve caught a few crawling and/or flying friends, you have a few options ahead of you. You can take said crawlies into one of the two stores in town to sell them, take them to your Insectarium for display (assuming you have the room), use them to fill jobs and requests — more on that later — or you can take them to the local research centre and place them on display! Donating the bugs to the research centre is similar to a fusion of the museum and community centre in Stardew Valley: each type of bug (wasp, bee, moth, beetle, and so on) sans “other” has its own room with four display cases. Each case represents a bug of a certain rank of rarity, so one common, one uncommon, one rare, and one extremely rare. You get rewards for completing a set, but additionally, any bug you add will increase the value of said insect whenever it is sold! Be careful, though, as once a bug is donated, it cannot be changed. So consider wisely which one you donate!

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Collectin' bugs for SCIENCE!

Donating, selling, and displaying bugs is all well and good, but it’s not really a good way to make an income. This is where the jobs and requests come in! Both stores in the town offer a set of jobs for you to undertake, usually consisting of you collecting bugs to meet certain criteria, such as collecting five insects from under rocks during the day. Once you complete a job, you simply slot the bugs — marked in your inventory with a handy symbol so you don’t sell them like I constantly did — into the task and bam! A fair chunk of change.

Requests are slightly different, as they are given to you by the local townsfolk. Talk to them and ask if they have anything you can help out with. If you’re lucky, they’ll give you a small task with big rewards! Unlike jobs, which usually have a time limit of a handful of days, requests can be done at any time within the current season, which lasts 15 days. The rewards for requests vary, though they usually boil down to either monetary or aesthetic prizes! In some cases, however, fulfilling a quest will allow you to get to know an NPC a bit better or help you uncover the mystery.

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You read that right; there is indeed a mystery to be solved in this game! As mentioned before, the previous Insectarium was brought into disarray due to the theft of its insects. By talking to the townsfolk, you can gather clues and hints on who could have been behind this horrid act and what their reasoning was! Though this may sound intense, the game is very laid back about it, allowing the player to do as much or as little as they like.

“Laid back” may be a keyword here, as the game has few stressful factors. Sure, the deadlines for requests and jobs can be a bit worrying, but you’re usually given more than enough time to complete them, and there is no stamina bar or need to sleep. You can keep diving into bushes and knocking on wood to your heart's content! The only real annoyance in the game is the randomness factor of when a bug will or will not spawn, as sometimes it feels like none of the rocks I prod produce a many-legged friend for me to catch! Oh, and inventory space limitations, but the first upgrade is relatively cheap.

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You can also open up the Insectarium once a week for a bit of extra cash!

In addition to catching bugs and doing quests, you are also able to fund multiple construction projects from the town hall; ranging from clearing up a landslide to rebuilding a bridge, these projects are used to open up new areas of the map for even more bug hunting and to improve and expand your Insectarium. The local shops even sell furnishings and insect tanks, so you can make the place feel like home!

In terms of visuals and music, the game is pretty simplistic. Your walking animation is a fun little shimmy; most characters have one face and stay very still, and the music is mainly a few tracks on repeat. I personally didn’t mind this, as the background music was relaxing in a lo-fi way and looped well. The lack of emoting on the part of the characters was a bummer though. While they do have distinct styles of speech via text (no voice acting), the fact that their faces, which are pretty simplistic in general, don’t change at all to convey emotion left them feeling a bit lifeless and dull.

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The changing seasons offer some variety in visuals, thankfully

The gameplay itself may also become quite repetitive after a while. As it takes time to unlock the other areas, you may quickly wind up collecting the common insects in the beginning area, falling into a rhythm of filling your inventory, selling them off and repeating. As I stated before, each catch increases your proficiency, so there is no such thing as a wasted catch, but either there could be fewer days between seasons, or the days could have been shorter. You are able to skip to the next night or day at certain points, of course, but it feels like a waste to not catch every bug possible for that sweet experience!

A final niggle is the fact that the game does not indicate if you have interacted with a bug-searching object already. You can only bonk each tree once per day, you see, and I lose track of which ones I’ve investigated very quickly! I also keep selling the bugs I was saving for a quest because I’m an idiot like that. Some quests also seemed to be fulfillable with bugs outside of the specifications. For example, I was able to get a bug from a tree during the day, which I was able to use to fulfil a job requiring bugs found under rocks at night. But honestly, these are minor quibbles.

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Despite my ramblings, the game has charm

The game was made by a pair of devs and is actually surprisingly fun and even educational; each insect comes with a little description, which often contains interesting facts while keeping the tone light! As an adult who's at best wary of all things insect and playing this with my review pants on, I believe I am far from the intended audience. I can imagine this game doing well with a younger audience or even as a teaching aid, as the simple controls and relaxed goals are approachable.

To summarise, Bug & Seek is a very laid-back bug-catching simulator with a bit of mystery and Stardew Valley-esque questing and rebuilding thrown in. While the simplistic style, slightly repetitive gameplay loop, and somewhat buggy quests may turn away gamers looking for a more substantial game, I think it's not a bad game to pick and play every now and again or even play with your kids. If nothing else, it’s never too late to learn about one of the more numerous creatures we have on our little ball of water and rock.

7.50/10 7½

Bug & Seek (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

 While a bit repetitious and simple, Bug & Seek is a relaxed and informational game about collecting bugs, solving a mystery, and getting to know the town. It’s not for everyone, but it is a good game for a spot of casual gaming or a younger audience.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

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