Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling wears its inspirations like a big shiny badge of honour, with the Paper Mario vibes on show from the very moment you begin the game. We’re talking about the old Nintendo 64 and Gamecube style of Paper Mario though… you know, the RPG-style escapades that fans have eagerly wanted the series to return to. I’m sure that alone would be enough to get a LOT of gamers excited about Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling, but the fact that it also offers a charming and enjoyable adventure with its own merits probably helps too.
The tale of Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is quite a simple one, with the game’s three bug heroes (Vi, Kabbu and Leif) sent on a journey across the land of Bugaria to seek out the Everlasting Sapling – a special treasure that grants its owner immortality. Sounds like something that both the good guys and the villains would be after, right? Well, that’s certainly the case here and it leads the trio of heroes on a wacky adventure across a bug-filled world.
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling’s narrative is presented in a quirky and fun manner, with the light-heated nature of the game ever-present when interacting with the many characters of the world or during exploration. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a whole lot of depth to the tale and it is a little predictable in design, but it offers enough to draw you into the whimsical world and you’ll enjoy seeing the trio of bug-heroes’ plight through to its conclusion.
There’s plenty of exploration to be done across Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling’s wonderful pop-up book style world, with the player leading their small bug troupe through an assortment of colourful and creative locales as they look to solve puzzles and traverse through varied platforming challenges. The puzzle-solving was particularly neat, with it requiring the use of each character’s abilities in co-ordination in a similar manner to that seen in games like The Lost Vikings – each puzzle you encounter is pretty simple in design, but presented in a clever way that’ll require a fair bit of thought to get through at times. The platforming on the other hand could be a bit hit and miss, with a lack of precision making some of the trickier jumps you have to pull off feel more awkward than they need to be. A lot of this is owed to the disparity of the 2D character models within the 3D world, with it sometimes proving a little difficult to judge the movement of your character. It won’t ruin your experience with the game and the instances of these frustrations are few and far between, but it can be a bit annoying when you miss a jump and it doesn’t feel like your own fault.
Outside of the puzzling and platforming, there are plenty of little mini-games to dive into as well as an assortment of side quests to complete to help out your fellow bugs across Bugaria. These are all jolly little endeavours that flesh out your adventure that little bit more, with Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling certainly going all out in making Bugaria feel like a living and breathing world that offers plenty for the player to indulge in. It’s all fun stuff and adds an extra dose of charm to the overall experience.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games in Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling and there are plenty of enemies for players to beat up during their adventure too. Battles play out in a turn-based fashion, with the player’s party and their enemies taking it in turns to dish out some attacks. You have all three party members with you in battle throughout the game, with each armed with varied move sets that are effective in different ways depending on the enemy you’re facing off against. These moves all utilise a QTE-style approach to perform, with the player’s accurate timing of hitting buttons imperative if you want to unleash more effective attacks… you know… like in Paper Mario. You’ll also earn Teamwork Points when in battle which can be used to perform team attacks that are a bit more powerful, whilst the Turn Relay ability allows you to sacrifice one of your character’s turns to give it to someone else. That last ability could make for some pretty strategic moments during combat, especially when you needed to use ranged attacks against flying enemies or wanted to ensure that one of your characters with a higher HP count was targeted by your foes.
You can also block incoming attacks with a well-timed button press and also get the opportunity to decide the order in which you attack with your characters, which all add an extra element of strategy to each encounter. Whilst the mechanics of battling themselves are simple enough, there’s enough depth and variety there to ensure that the player doesn’t tire of them by the time they reach the latter stages of the game. They’re just good fun and offer a firm test of both your strategic thinking and your QTE prowess.
You’ll earn experience points in battles that can be used to level up, but more significant are the medals you find that can be equipped to each character to give them special bonuses and buffs. Each medal you equip uses up some of your medal points, with a set amount given to the party to prevent you going overboard with the medals you equip – again though, it adds an extra strategic element to Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling where specific medal buffs will prove particularly useful depending on the character that has them equipped and the enemies you’re facing off against. They can really change up the flow of the game’s battling in your favour if you’re clever with the system, so it’s something that you can expect to find yourself tinkering with until the very end.
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling offers an enjoyable and charming adventure that fans of Paper Mario are sure to adore. The battling is surprisingly strategic and fun, the puzzle-solving is clever, whilst the world itself is super creative and vibrant in design – it all comes together to make for a very jolly bug-filled escapade that Nintendo Switch fans shouldn’t ignore.
Developer: Moonsprout Games
Publisher: Dangen Entertainment
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC