It was quite a while ago that I heard of Bug Fables. At first, I was hearing that it played like the classic Paper Mario games, but with some small twists. Sometimes I find out about indie games that play like classic games that aren’t made anymore, and that always makes me curious as to weather the new game is any better than the old game. Going into Bug Fables with fresh eyes meant that the only thing I was anticipating was that it was probably better than the modern Paper Mario games (which for some underexplained reason Nintendo sticks with the newer formula, as opposed to the old formula). Was this the case? Let’s find out in this review.
Since this game features new the characters Kabbu the beetle, Vi the bee, and Leif the moth (as well as a cast of sentient bugs), it might be best to start by covering what this game is about. In this game, the queen of the Ant Kingdom is seeking the Everlasting Sapling, a plant that grants immortality. As such, explorers like the previously mentioned main characters are assisting the Ant Queen in her search for the fabled plant. There are quite a few twist and turns to the story along the way, but most of this is good if standard fare for an RPG.
My first impression of the gameplay is that it is almost exactly like classic Paper Mario. Press specific buttons at the right time to deal more damage and to reduce the power of incoming hits. Each character has specific enemies they can target. For example, Kabbu can only attack the first enemy on the ground, while Vi’s main attack can hit any one target, but is usually a little weaker than Kabbu’s main attack. The paper thin visual character design followed by the whimsical music track add to this main impression.
As I continued to play, I noticed minor details that set it apart from classic Paper Mario. The level up system granted a choice between 1HP per character, 3TP (teamwork points, the equivalent of Paper Mario’s FP, or most other RPG’s MP systems), or 3 MP (medal points, which are equivalent to Paper Mario’s BP system). These rewards are a bit smaller than in Paper Mario games, and makes the difficulty scale in a somewhat odd way later on.
You also only play as the three main characters in Bug Fables the entire time, whereas in Paper Mario, you have 2 active characters at once, one of which has to be Mario, and you can switch between one of about 8 different helpers in those games. Particularly interesting in Bug Fables is the twin relay system and how party formation alters gameplay. The party formation determines who deals the most damage, but also who is most likely to get hit. Meanwhile, the twin relay system can exchange one character’s turn to give another character an additional turn. The character with an extra turn does less damage with the extra turn, but it might be strategically useful for another turn for a particular character. Mastery of both systems become vital later in the game for defeating the enemies you encounter.
The last distinction from Paper Mario is the medal system. In Paper Mario’s equivalent badge system, Mario was the one to wear badges. In Bug Fables, you equip medals on individual characters, even though the party shares medal points. In both games, this form of equipment gives varying bonuses to the character who wears it. I found I was equipping medals much less often in Bug Fables than I was in Paper Mario games. This is due to there being fewer easy to find medals in Bug Fables than in Paper Mario, and it felt like for the majority of the game, I didn’t need medals a whole lot.
Bug Fables does have a lot more side quests, from the looks of it, though I also ignored them for most of the game. Some of the quests I attempted were a bit more cryptic than I would have liked. While Bug Fables does share the cooking feature with Paper Mario, I felt it was underused in comparison to its inspiration. Additionally, each of the three characters can spy on an enemy for tips and to reveal their HP for the rest of the game. Again, this is a feature from Paper Mario, but in that game, only one particular character could do the same thing.
Oddly, this game’s form of special attacks, teamwork skills, were underused in my playthrough as well. I was saving the shared Teamwork Points (TP) for healing the party throughout the entire game, and seldom tried out the stronger attacks that rely on these points. It seemed to work on my end, but I would have preferred to use these points to attack and defend with more often, particularly in the major boss fights.
The puzzles are mostly simple in this game, although there were a few that were a bit obtuse, such as getting frustrated with one or two puzzles only to find out I could jump on an object that looked too high to reach. These cases are thankfully rare, but did take away some enjoyment from the first time playing the game.
Bug Fables overall was a good game, but as my review makes quite clear, it is way too easy to compare it to Paper Mario. While not quite as polished as its inspiration, Bug Fables does scratch the classic Paper Mario itch, and does prove that more can be done with the familiar formula, with the help of some ingenuity.
- Learn the quirks of the battle system quickly.
- Level up carefully, don’t leave too little in any one stat.
- Spy on every foe.
- Go on a few side quests, if you like.
- Play through the game’s main story.
- There are some post game challenges, if you like.
- May want to explore more of the game after it’s over.
- Plays like Paper Mario.
- Looks like Paper Mario.
- Sounds like Paper Mario, at first.
- Some nice adjustments to gameplay.
- A simple but decent story.
- Level up bonuses are too small (possible con).
- Very similar to Paper Mario (possible con if you don’t like that formula).
- Can get through the game with few medals (possible con, based on playstyle and tastes).
- Can get through the game using TP only to heal (possible con, based on playstyle and tastes).
8.4/10 A great Paper Mario Clone
Range: 8-8.7, based on if you like clones of popular games. Bug Fables brings some new things to the Paper Mario formula, but mostly gives you more of what Nintendo isn’t (currently) making. Those who might not like RPGs normally might still like this game, due to timing button presses required for extra damage. Still, these players are usually turned off by turn-based combat, and may rate this game a little lower based on their tastes.
Did you like Bug Fables? Did you try the hard mode options? Do you prefer this formula, or the modern Paper Mario formula? Let me know why in the comments below! If you enjoyed this review, then click that like button, and share on social media. To keep up with That’s All Games, you can subscribe via email or WordPress. Until next time, have fun gaming!