Sneaking in its well-written and simple to grasp science and nature lessons in little bits over time (the loading screen and ever expanding journal are excellent), Vasrav Games Studio and publisher Bigben Interactive have a superb and beautiful game in Bee Simulator ($39.99). It’s not without its flaws, but it’s definitely a game worth a few plays in single and couch co-op modes. Come into this with an open mind and you’ll bee pleasantly surprised and even perhaps learn some important things in the process.
The main story is a bit of fluff where you’re a new honeybee who has to help save her hive’s tree from being chopped down, but here’s a game that gets more mileage out of its basic gameplay than its more basic plot when all is said and done. That loose flight control you’ll discover takes a bit of getting used to (you’ll likely bounce off and into many things at first), but it’s entirely doable once you practice (go watch a few real-life bees do their thing if you’re safely near any and it’s bee season). The attention to detail is phenomenal (well, despite the talking insects and a few other “game-y”elements) and enough to make me think a certain two Japanese developers could make their own insect-filled and far more explosive bug and ‘bot-based series a bit more impressive it they added more realistic giant bug nests to the levels. But I digress (EDF! EDF!)
Back to the game at hand, it starts in and around a honey bee hive with a few tutorials that get you buzzing about and pulling off a few moves, learning to fly and boost, use a bee sight power that allows you to see and locate certain flowers and other items you’ll need to progress. If you’re not in the bee camp because you think they’re somehow awful or terrifying menaces to humanity (you’d be wrong on the honeybee front, at least), the tutorial drops enough info on you to get you curious and the main game will have you beeing so much of a helpful bee that you (and the kids, if you have them play) might bee-come bee cheerleaders each time you boot this up. I think the bees would like that, by the way.
While the main game can completed in about four hours (it’s less a simulator that suggested, but that’s actually OK), collecting everything will take some players far longer and co-op mode race and collecting hijinks are fun to blaze through with fellow bee fans who take to the controls. As this is more or less a kid’s game or a very family-friendly one at least, the game might not bee one hardcore gamers appreciate much. But I say kudos both to the developer and publisher for making a game that’s educational and gorgeous while also having appeal outside the box in this day and age. I was hooked in right from the start and yes, didn’t want the experience to end. That said, play at your own pace, please. This sort of game is one that while brief, is worth every second you’ll play it.
While it’s an open world you’ll navigate here, the Central Park-like experience is limited to a few types of gameplay. Yes, it’s a slight disappointment, but considering the target audience, it’s a case where the game is just enough without beecoming too overwhelming. You could also say that Beesides the brevity and repetition, the educational aspects make this go that extra mile in that I’d bet you wouldn’t find much of this info outside poking at a bee-related website, reading books or an encyclopedia entry (remember those?), or raising or speaking to someone who raises bees.
As for presentation, well, those screens and trailer presented above show off a really nice looking game, don’t they? There’s a good deal of love here for stuff like this that goes the extra mile in how things are portrayed. Most voice acted moments are charming as well (that Queen Bee is a hoot) although there’s a slight delay when there’s spoken dialogue. That’s not a game killer at all, but there are a few moments when you think you won’t hear speech until it kicks in with a slight delay. The game supptrts multiple languages as well, at least as far as text options. I was too occupied playing this for my review in English to test the dialog in other languages, but I’ll come back later post-review with a report.
At the end of the day, this is a niche game for sure. But it really can’t bee criticized for it’s overall appeal to that niche when it does what it does so well. The game is very well made overall and one that deserves to be played for both its educational value and its lovely and quite colorful look. The music is also of note, but the whole package here is so well done that I’m sure most bee lovers will bee pleased. This one’s a “Goldilocks” game for me in that it’s not too hard, not too easy (on the collectibles front) and just right for those that appreciate it and/or find it educationally sound in learning about both flora and fauna on a few fronts. Let’s hope there’s a sequel in the works, as this sort of game beecomes more and more an entry level experience and fun means to spread learning around for some folks.
Score: Bee (80%)
-Review code provided by the publisher