After playing Paper Mario: Color Splash back in 2016, I was really craving something to satiate my appetite for a cute RPG with a story I could get into. Not long ago, the announcement for the latest addition to the franchise, Paper Mario: The Origami King was made, but the July 17 release date was just a little too far away for me. Enter Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling, originally released for PC on November 21, 2019 and then released for Switch, PS4, and Xbox One recently on May 28, 2020. Advertised as a product directly inspired by the Paper Mario franchise, I was sold immediately and picked up the PS4 version, so I could tide myself over with a cute little RPG experience. Does the game hold up on its own or is it a silly rip-off of a beloved franchise? Here’s our review for Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling for PS4.
Story – Big Adventures for Tiny Characters
In Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling, you will play as the spunky bee named Vi, the quiet brute beetle named Kabbu, and the mysterious moth named Leif, as they begin their quest to find the Everlasting Sapling and other treasures. The Everlasting Sapling is said to grant eternal life to any bug that eats even a leaf from it, so our little buggie adventurers set out on a quest, tasked by the Queen of Bugaria herself, to find it. In typical RPG fashion, the trio soon discovers that they have to collect a series of artifacts to be able to obtain this sapling. Join Vi, Kabbu, and Leif as they venture to the different kingdoms of the land, fight off spooky creatures, and maybe even eat a crunchy leaf or two!
Ultimately, the story is probably the weakest part, being kind of predictable at times and slightly shallow. Bug Fables mostly shines in the characters and clever writing when they interact with each other. Just like the games it takes inspiration from, every little interaction between characters and the environment are really what will keep you going through times that seem more sluggish. I found myself in awe while exploring all of the kingdoms for each type of bug, or seeing empty soda cans made to be like building structures. Bug Fables has charm and cuteness dripping off of everything it does and it really shines through the environment.
Gameplay – Cute and Clunky
The game mechanics are where most players of Paper Mario will see the direct inspiration. Bug Fables contain the typical RPG elements such as HP and leveling up, but there are also TP (Teamwork Points) that players can use to perform various special attacks and MP (Medal Points) that players may use to equip special Medals to give them perks. This is very close to and works similar to Paper Mario’s Flower Points and Badge Points. Because of the similarity, some players may find this makes it much easier to understand if they have played similar styled games. Thankfully, the tutorials do a fantastic job of explaining all of this so players do not get lost.
Combat in this game also takes a direct inspiration, being turn based with action commands for players to perform more powerful attacks or block incoming ones. While the action commands might take some time to master, they never once felt unfair or too difficult. The combat system definitely takes an “easy to understand but difficult to master” approach, and players will find joy in figuring the best order to attack in or finding out the most powerful skills to use. Players are also granted a “Hard Mode” medal immediately, which grants more experience points but ups the enemy difficulty. Any players that crave more strategy in their combat system will find a lot of enjoyment by this mode. There is a lot of detail to be seen within the fighting, such as when Vi misses the action command, she will actually trip and slightly toss her beemarang instead of the full attack. These animations are very smooth and easy to miss if you are not actively looking for them.
It is no secret that the 2-D art style of Bug Fables is charming and adorable, but it does create some problems when it comes to solving puzzles or anything out on the field. While the controls are responsive enough, performing actions like Vi’s beemarang at certain objects became difficult when it was hard to determine which way the character was actually facing. This kind of issue made simple things like solving the puzzles that much more tedious than it normally would have been. Thankfully, Bug Fables runs super smoothly on PS4 and I experienced absolutely zero lag or stuttering. Loading times are also short and non-invasive, despite the towns all appearing to be populated and feeling full.
Out in the field, each character can perform special tasks to get past obstacles or help solve puzzles. They do this by throwing the beemarang with Vi, chopping and breaking rocks with Kabbu, or freezing things in their tracks with Leif. This is actually another small issue when it comes to performance. There are two special things each that characters can perform and both moves are used by the same button. One is used by tapping, and the other by holding down the same button. This makes a lot of puzzles, in particular, that use these abilities really clunky and frustrating to navigate.
Graphics and Sound – A Bug’s Perspective
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling’s graphics is one of the places that I believe the game shines the brightest. Obviously like its inspiration, the game features a “paper like” art style with hand-drawn characters and buildings. Where Bug Fables differs is the ability to see the world from a little bug’s perspective. It’s so fun to see something mundane like a soda can become a whole building to our characters. The designs for each of the characters are all unique, even simple townsfolk have their own special look. I found myself wandering around the different kingdoms and seeing how different the bees looked from the ants or wasps. The color pallet, while bright, is not assaulting the eyes and really evokes a feeling of optimism and adventure through the whole game. It was fairly often I found myself meandering around a new area and loudly exclaiming through my apartment of how cute everything was.
The soundtrack is very bright and cheery to match the adorable graphic style. I found it was very fitting to whatever environment I was in at the time. There were several instances where I even found myself humming along while I was exploring the overworld. Each track was well composed, but not distracting from whatever was going on. Bug Fables do not have any voice acting, and the characters seem to talk in what can only be described as a “babble” that changes pitch based on who’s talking. Despite not having explicit actors for each character, the sounds do very well at keeping characters distinct and unique. Overall, the music and sound effects do a really good job of bringing an already adorable game even more to life.