Bee Simulator releases the 14th, and this allowed me to join the illustrious simulator reviewers. Gone were the days I had to slave away at running a dictatorship or adventuring with a slime princess. I could hobnob with Ben Kerry of Bus Simulator fame. I had arrived.
The game, designed primarily to be fun, is also an edifying immersive experience on the roles various types of bees play in the environment. “This could even prompt them to change their views on the balance between work, life, and the environment,” said Lukasz Rosi?ski, Co-Founder and CEO of VARSAV Game Studios. While this is great in theory, VARSAV doesn’t quite make the mark on this one.
Just Bee Yourself
At the start of the game, you hatch, surrounded by your family, because every worker bee and scout is exactly that: family. [I don’t know if you know this, but there’s one queen per hive. Execute math as you will.] Once greeted, you must choose your name, as we know all bees do. It’s science. I removed “Beescuit” and typed in “Beeyoncé.” I may be a worker bee but that doesn’t mean I can’t have #goals.
Once you apply your new bee identity, “Kind Bee Alice” walks you through the tutorial in a cave located within the tree the hive is in. [Introduce ‘Weekend Update’ Stefon voice] this cave has everything: flowers, ponds, frogs, ambient noise that prompts the question “when does Jerry Seinfeld show up?” You learn the basics: flying, pollen collection, flower differences (basic-legendary). Do not be fooled, however. While the game will tell you when you have successfully completed the tutorial, you will continue to encounter mini-tutorials on skills that will be used effectively within the storyline all but once. Being an educational game, the entire game is a bit of a tutorial, really.
Not All It’s Cracked Up to Bee
Bee Simulator has a PEGI rating of 7. Going off of the voice acting and narrative alone, this suits. Pop culture references function much like those in many children’s films: rewards to parents for persevering this far. Mechanically-speaking, however, this is more muddled. Even on “easy,” which I anticipated being able to play in my sleep. Pollen collection, even with the use of “bee vision” to seek out rare flowers, was relatively easy, if time-consuming. Chase and race challenges, however, unexpectedly ramped up the difficulty level. Suddenly I was leaning forward, aggressively cussing out the “sick bee” I was meant to be guiding back to the hive. During one such chase, Beeyoncé got caught in a wind and started spinning. A glitch, however, kept me spinning, unable to right myself and making me overwhelmingly motion sick.
I paused and, knowing the game to automatically save, rebooted my game. I expected the game to reset to the beginning of that challenge. Nope. The game set me back two chapters in the main storyline. If this game intended to cultivate empathy for the common honey bee, it was dramatically failing to do so at this point. Honey and produce viability and the avoidance of an ecological apocalypse is great and all, but, you know, priorities.
Join the Hivemind
After finishing the main storyline, the player can roam about the parks, zoo, and amusement park freely. There are enough sidequests to keep one occupied for a few more hours of gameplay. There is also a split-screen mode for those interested in playing with others and exploring new settings. I may have scored this game a bit higher if I was allowed to explore freely from the get-go. I was frustrated that the game limited me to an action-RPG storyline. In this way, it functions much less like the simulator it’s labeled as. There were several instances in which I found the next step in the game before the quest was triggered, and I had to “discover” the feature all over again. This made the game unnecessarily repetitive, even for a younger audience.
Ultimately, I successfully completed the main storyline in Bee Simulator within 2.5 hours. If given to the intended audience, it may take a bit longer, and cultivate unexpected existential parental angst. It took me as long as it did because I had to take frequent breaks due to nausea, an in-game experience I have never had before. It would be unfortunate if, say, a parent mustered the patience to play this with their kid, only to have to take a quick puke break. I eventually turned controller sensitivity down more than half to mitigate this but found it did not help.
Overall, I understand the intent, but I’m disappointed by the execution. Interactive educational experiences are, in my view, always worth the investment. Unfortunately, this one you may want to save your money on and take a tour of a local apiary or visit an arboretum instead.
Bee Simulator will be available for Xbox One, PC, PS4, and Switch November 14th.