The Bug Fables demo took me 17 years to the past


And not only to teach me a lesson about Christmas

Crowdfunded games are a gamble. We’ve seen the likes of Mighty No. 9 go from extreme anticipation to an underwhelming launch. We’ve even seen games that fail to release altogether. That’s why I’m always on the lookout for projects that offer prototypes, demos, or other forms of early gameplay. It’s nice to see evidence that work has already been put into the game, that it has a clear vision and that it’s heading in a direction I personally enjoy. Having tried Bug Fables’ demo, available on its Indiegogo campaign, I can safely file that game under the “I’m excited” category.

See, Bugs Fables is the most Paper Mario a game has ever been since The Thousand-Year Door. Turn-based battles, platforming, quirky characters, cooking, it has it all.

One thing immediately struck me as I began playing Bug Fables. The visual effects are on point. The characters flip while moving just like you’d expect, houses come undone when entering just like you’d expect, transitions between screens are from lone platforms just like you’d expect. It’s impressive, seeing how close the game gets to Paper Mario‘s vision, and its polish as well.

The gameplay felt like the original Paper Mario‘s more than its sequel. There’s no Super Block by default (you need a medal for that), and I haven’t encountered stylish commands either. Don’t worry, this simple yet effective battle system still has a lot of charm. A few tweaks to the gameplay let Bug Fables stand on its own too, even in this early form. There are three characters in your party of roughly equal importance, instead of the main + partner system from Paper Mario. This puts more options into the player’s hands every turn, both for positioning and move selection. The lack of jumping as an attack move also makes it more challenging to get the initiative on foes, which I appreciated.

Bug Fables looks a lot like Paper Marioand plays a lot like Paper Mario.Some may complain about that… But I personally think it’s a wonderful opportunity to give that game style some time in the limelight, considering The Thousand-Year Door released 13 years ago. In any case,I had a great time.

Despite my praises, it’s still clear this isn’t the final build of the game, and members of Moonsprout Games have their work cut out for them. Beyond their promise of delivering roughly eight times the amount of content in the demo in the final game, I also had a few issues with the controls that I hope will get fixed before the final game:

  • The activated abilities in the overworld, as they are currently, need some work. They don’t activate if you hold the button beyond a fraction of a second. This already causes problems with the timing required to use abilities on the environment and moving enemies. On top of that, you can’t use an activated ability while the animation from a previous use is playing… Because these rules are so restrictive, I repeatedly found myself expecting a horn strike to come out while it never did.
  • I find it a shame that you can’t keep scrolling through menus in a direction when you keep a button pressed. It’s a minor thing, but I notice that kind of stuff!

The game is currently funded 73% of the way. There’s little doubt in my mind that it will get there in 17 days, even if it is only planned for PC so far. Yes, there’s work ahead of the developers after the game is funded, but my worries are minor compared to the delightful experience I had overall with Bug Fables.It definitely convinced me to take that gamble and pledge to the project myself.