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Bee Simulator (Switch) Review

November 23, 2019 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Bee Simulator
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Bee Simulator (Switch) Review  

I’ve always had a bit of a soft-spot for games like this. Games that put you in the perspective of a toy (Toy Commander, various Army Men games, some Unreal Tournament levels), or games where you play an insect (Mister Mosquito, Spider: The Video Game). So, when I saw the initial trailer for Bee Simulator, I was hooked. It looked great, and playing a bee is a fairly novel idea. After now having finished the game, I still think it’s a good idea but a few things certainly could have helped.

Bee Simulator starts you off as a newly born bee. You’re given some tutorials on how to fly and your various bee abilities, and told to go off into the world and collect pollen for the hive. Seems simple enough, but there are factors that are threatening your colony.

The biggest predator, naturally, is man. There’s a park crew that is coming down to cut down the tree that your hive is in, so the main goal is to try and either find a new hive or fend them off. Aside from that though, there are other invaders like hornets, and wasps to contend with, as well as rival bee colonies as well. It’s a fairly earnest story, which takes some queues from Ferngully or The Secret of NIMH, to give you an idea. The area you’re in is basically a park with a lake, zoo and carnival next to it, to have some variety.

The biggest boon to the game are the controls. Controlling your bee is responsive and intuitive, up is forward, down is backward, left is left, right is right. To vertically fly up or won is ZR (up) and ZL (down) on the controls. The actual flying just feels good, although it can get almost too fast in spots. You can land on most any surface, which is a tad awkward, but can be helpful to get your bearings. Just flying around though is one of the highlights of the game.

Alongside flying, you have three other abilities as a bee. The first is “Bee Vision”, which is almost akin to Detective Vision from the Arkham games. You go into a first person mode with the world tinged in a blue color. You are able to see the different pollen qualities that flowers have, which range from white (common) to purple (epic). And “No”, I’m not kidding, they have somewhat loot-ified pollen. You may have some missions where the requirement is like “Pick up 10 red quality pollen”, so this is where this comes into use.

Your second bee power is basically a booster for when you fly. You have a blue meter on the screen that governs this. You use it just by holding down the R button as you fly around for a small speed boost. To replenish the gauge, you can either collect pollen in the world, or you can land on sugary foods (highlighted in blue) to eat some and refill the meter very quickly.

Lastly, you gain the ability to “sting” about halfway through the game. I put sting in quotes because the move is really wonky. It seems to barely work most of the time, and the only thing you can really do with it, is pop balloons. That’s it. You can’t even sting people even though one of the side activities you can do is stinging this bratty kid. When you do sting someone, a few cartoon stars appear but that is it. I do realize that they can’t portray stinging in a realistic sense, since the bee would die during the sting, but some dramatic license could be taken here, considering in the game bees can talk and wasps have the voice acting of Russian gangsters.

There are about four main activities you do in the game, just repeated for the 4 to 6 hours it may take you to finish it. They go:

Pollen Collecting – This is obvious, but you fly through rings that surround flowers to fill up your pollen meter. Once the meter is full, you have to go back to the hive and drop it off by landing on the honeycomb.

Battle – Occasionally you have to fight against other insects. This basically is a rhythm mini-game where you have to press X or Y when the cursor is highlighting the right button. X is for attacking and Y is for defending. If you fill the lightning meter enough, you can do a power attack which will heavily damage the opponent. Harder enemies generally require a lot more button presses, or a faster pace, than weaker ones.

Dancing – Dancing, as in real life, is a Simon Says mini-game. The other bee will move in four directions (up, down, left or right) and you have to replicate it. This goes up to around 5 steps, so the sequence could be, Up, Up, Down, Left, Right, or something like that. This is basically PaRappa The Rapper/Space Channel 5 stuff.

Racing – This is probably the thing you’ll do the most of, aside from collecting pollen and it’s…not good. There are two types of racing, one is just following another insect through rings. You’ll only really fail if you miss too many rings, which is usually 3.

The other race type is basically this, only you have to “catch” the other insect, which…sucks. The other insect will occasionally just get a crazy amount of speed, like it has some rubber-band AI powering it. There are obstacles and power ups in races but none seem to do much, they are slow you down or speed you up. One race, a little more than halfway in the game, was so maddening that I almost stopped playing. Flying is generally responsive, but you can’t turn on a dime or if you do bump into something all your momentum is gone, so you really have to pay attention during these segments.

This is…kind of about it. There is a small mini-game to escape spider-webs (which I encountered like 3 times), but 99.99% of the game is a mixture of the above events.

Honestly, there are two big problems with the game and they are both kind of structural. The first is that there just isn’t enough here to justify the price. If it was like $20, that would make it easier to swallow, but at $40, that is a much tougher pill. Aside from the “stinging” mechanic, which I’m being generous about, you’re basically doing the same things as you do in the first hour of the game as in the last. There’s no character upgrading or sense of real accomplishment in the game at all.

The other problem is that this is an extremely static game. One of the big story goals is to collect enough pollen for a winter stockpile. In one animated sequence, a literal gust of winter air blows into the hive and other bees patch over it. I thought “Hmm, neat, I might have to fly around in a snowy landscape for a bit” but no. You go outside the hive and nothing has changed at all. Humans also barely move, and other animals seemingly don’t move at all, except in a few specific cases.

Really late in the story, you get sucked into a building, into an apartment. I thought this might be the most Mister Mosquito-like part of the game. You might have to hit a light switch to get the attention of one of the residents, or knock something over to make them angry to open the window and shoo you out.

You want to know what this entire apartment experience is? You meet a Spicoli-esque house fly who tells you to follow him. After following him on his route for about 2 minutes, which also goes in an oven and open refrigerator, he leads you to a heating vent and goes “Well, you can leave through here.”

Uh…what? WHY EVEN HAVE THIS ENVIRONMENT AT ALL, WHEN YOU HAVE LITERALLY ONE THING TO DO IN IT?! I’m not even sure you can go back to it, so it is literally a small apartment you fly around in for around in for about 2 to 3 minutes and then you can go. It is baffling.

This last issue isn’t related to all platforms, just the Switch version. This game looks like it got hit with an ugly stick. I know the game looks better on other consoles and PC but the porting to the Switch hasn’t been kind. The game does keep a decent framerate, to its credit, but the textures are really muddy, especially on the bees themselves. You know in certain Unreal Engine games where you load into an area and everything is blurry for a few seconds until the detailed textures pop-in? Well, this port looks a lot like that only the details never load in. There is one bee fight you can do, against a carpenter bee, that I literally thought the texture didn’t load in at all, given how bad it looked. If you are going to get this game, I implore you to get it on the PC, PS4 or XB1.

One final thing to mention is that I do kind of feel for these sincere Polish developers. They do seem to care about bees, the ecosystem of bees, how important they are to nature, etc. Loading screens tell about the history of honey, bee factoids and the like. You can even dress your bee hero with different bee skins, hats, or have glowing trails as you fly around, purchased with “knowledge points”. The music is also pretty pleasant and mellow. The voice acting is somewhat funny, unintentionally so, but not as bad as in some other games. On the whole, it’s kind of charming but just doesn’t have enough to really support it.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Had I received the game on a more competent system, this score might be a 6.0, at the very least. It looking awful doesn’t help matters, but the game is just too slight to really recommend. You have more environmental impact in Mister Mosquito than in this game, which is a game that came out 18 years ago. The idea for Bee Simulator is great but maybe the life of a bee is too simple to be put into game form.

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Bee Simulator, Marc Morrison