Bees have had a hard rap in the past. Sometimes due to their own political views, and other times it’s related to those swines, the wasps. But, thanks to people like Mark Wahlberg and Jerry Seinfeld, public perception has changed and now it’s ok to like bees. Good job guys, now step aside for the gaming industry’s turn: Bee Simulator by Varsarv.
I had my fun with fish puns with The Fisherman – Fishing Planet, so I’ll beehave with this one. Bee Simulator focuses on the lives of bees as a standalone story, not some tie-in on a new Pixar title. I’m with you on ‘how can you make a game out of a bee that isn’t a cartoon?’ so let’s take a look at what it’s all about and whether it’s worthy of your pennies.
The opening reminds me of one of those Disney interactive storybooks you get on the iPad (other tablets are available): illustrations are warm with soft edges, and the soundtrack is like the aforementioned Mouse House’s Blu-Ray menus. It’s all very… nice. Even the narrator, who gives a brief history of bees wouldn’t be out of place as a kids presenter of sorts. So when it got to the actual bee models, I was mildly surprised that they weren’t this magical representation where they’re wearing bows and drink lattes from Star Buzz or something else with a play on words. Instead, they’re accurate portrayals. Not that I’m an expert, but they’re quite the contrast to the intro.
You see, this is an educational game and is very much from the bee’s perspective. Duh. If you want to side with the bees, they need to be likeable and relatable. Unless bees also read, chances are we don’t share that much in common with them, so the game makes attempts to humanise them with feelings and motives for their part in making the world go around. Interestingly, the facts in the game – often through loading screens – are very informative and give an insight into a species I don’t know enough about. My wife argued that’s not the only species I don’t get, but I wasn’t really listening at the time.
Bee HQ is located in a tree in a busy park. Your bee starts out as a honey bee and must venture out into the big wide world to collect pollen for the hive. Early on, the bee notices some humans in constructor gear hanging around their tree. Clearly, they aren’t taking selfies, so your bee goes back to the queen to report this. I was hoping for a Fantastic Mr Fox type retaliation, alas the queen is a pacifist and suggests they find another home. Cue your role in scouting about for a new place to migrate to.
The gameplay in Bee Simulator revolves around flying, avoiding humans and other dangers, collecting the pollen by flying into it. When you receive enough, you return to the hive to deposit your loot and awarded knowledge points that can be used to unlock a series of goodies including the appearance of your bee. There’s a wardrobe option on the menu screen, and while everyone knows bees don’t wear Prada, you’ll be able to choose a few different species. Did you know that there are at least 20,000 different types of bee? Bee Simulator taught me that.
Considering bees are more well known for their flight rather than walking skills, a good deal of time will be spent in the air, and you have to get the dynamics right. From the outset, I had to switch from the inverted style as I couldn’t get on with it. Early on in the tutorial stage, I found myself losing control as your bee can stick to the walls, and everything then turns upside down. I don’t get motion sickness, but it was very confusing and equally frustrating to level things out. Similarly, if you’re going full speed and crash into a picnic or kids bike, your bee will occasionally hit the deck, and you have to fiddle with the camera angles to get your bearings again. However, once you can get up in the area and away from obstacles, it’s a pleasant experience.
The idea of free-flight around the park appealed to me, and you can do that almost immediately. On my first playthrough, I looked for victims to sting while humming March of the Valkyries. I for sure know I’m not the only one to do that. Human characters and objects are well modeled and look the part. When characters speak to each other, they mumble like The Sims meets Resident Evil 2. It doesn’t spoil the game but was a tad irritating if you overhear the grumbles.
Flying through the park up and over objects is a lot of fun. In principle, though, you collect the pollen by diving into the circles that hover by them. You can locate better flowers (for more knowledge points) noting their colour and finding them through your bee vision that can be accessed with R3. This is the bee’s equivalent of Predator as the screen turns blue and you can pinpoint flowers of interest, as well as sweets humans have dropped that give you Beetro. That’s bee nitro. Yeah… Bee Simulator is not without its puns, and being a dad, I exhausted mine before writing this. It doesn’t get so annoying in-game, but get’s old from the first ‘be/bee’ tricks.
And that jumps back to the presentation once more. After 10 minutes in the air, I liked the visuals; the subtle nuances in the park, but not so much the controls. When they worked, they were great, and that’s one of the reasons I didn’t like the hive so much. You must return there each time you fill your pollen sack and also for the story to develop. Navigating in the tight space is a little problematic with the camera movements, and I couldn’t wait to get out. It didn’t help that all the bees have human names prefixed by a feeling or state. You get to name your bee as well. The default was Beescuit, and I couldn’t bear it, so switched to Barry and subsequently was referred to she/her from then on. Whoops.
Replay value? It’s an interesting one. Based on the storyline and facts, I’d say this is a game aimed at kids, but get out of the hive, and this will appeal to a lot more. For me, it was the freedom of flying around – doing stunts around inanimate objects. There are mini-games such as fighting a wasp or hornet, or even dance moves but they are pretty much an afterthought in my opinion and not really needed. I have a different view of bees now, so the game has been effective there, though don’t expect me to become a honey rustler anytime soon. However, I’m going to have to break it to the kids that we’re going to have Pooh put down. For the bees.
Bee Simulator PS4 Review
Overall - Good - 6/10
Another surprise of a simulator that is entertaining. On an educational basis, it hits the spot, and free-flight is a lot of fun. The controls can be somewhat frustrating, though, and the mini-game encounters feel like filler.
- Charming presentation
- The free-flight aspect is a lot of fun
- Fascinating facts in short bursts
- Not that much variety
- Controls can be overly sensitive
- The difficulty can be a challenge for little ones
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.