Ever wanted to be a bee?
No, me neither, in all honesty. But that’s not to say that I didn’t find some joy in buzzing through the skies in Varsav Game Studios and Big Ben’s latest release, Bee Simulator.
This isn’t a Something-Simulator game in the same vein as Bus, Airport or Car Mechanic. It’s an altogether lighter, quirkier affair, and there are no simulation mechanics to be seen. It’s a short adventure game that puts you in the role of a brand new bee, born to serve her queen, and her hive. You’ll be exploring the world, collecting pollen, completing challenges, and even stinging children if you feel so inclined.
The world that Bee Simulator is set in is fairly open, although you’ll occasionally find yourself running into invisible walls. It’s not comparable to any other open world game, but for the size of your buzzy protagonist, the area you’ve got to explore is rather vast. It’s a map based on New York’s Central Park, so you’ll find ample parkland, flora to take pollen from, plenty of people milling around, and even a funfair and a zoo. It’s a nice enough looking world, but playing on Xbox One X, it’s hardly pushing the hardware to its max. Its design is beautiful and vivid, but it’s sometimes let down by poor textures and jagged edges.
It doesn’t detract from the game itself, though. Although very short – I completed the single player campaign in around three hours – my time spent with Bee Simulator was quietly enjoyable. Flying isn’t the smoothest action in the world – your bee jolts and twitches through the air, which can make getting close to particular objects tricky – but it’s still fun. There’s a sense of freedom in Bee Simulator that few other games provide; taking control of a centimetres-long creature careening through the air is joyous. Ignore the game’s main missions if you like; the simple art of bounding from flower to flower, filling up your pollen store will warm your heart.
Better still, Bee Simulator is designed to be a tool of education. Bees are important to our ecosystem, and the game implores that you understand that. It’s filled with lots of trivia about bees and other aspects of nature. Of course, it isn’t all just a science lesson – not unless bees compete in turn-based battles against wasps, gather in groups to gossip about the neighbourhood, and refer to the queen as ‘mom’. I mean, they might. But probably not.
It’s a nice touch that the entirety of Bee Simulator‘s narration and dialogue is voiced (even if the acting quality varies somewhat) and while the short story told by Bee Simulator is rather basic, it does enough of a good job at propelling the game forward. Split into eight main missions, you’ll be collecting honey, investigating animals, fighting off threats and searching for a new home. How you progress through the game is up to you: you can rush straight through all eight chapters, or you can complete some side missions, free exploration or challenges along the way.
Annoyingly, if you start a side mission in the middle of a story mission, you’ll lose your progress of the story mission once you’re done with the side activity. It breaks the flow of the game somewhat; side mission markers appear while you’re in the middle of a story mission, and so it makes sense to complete any while you’re passing by. But if you do, you’ll find yourself having to backtrack to wherever the story mission started from.
The tasks on hand in Bee Simulator are basic and will likely get repetitive if you try to complete every side activity, but for the purposes of the main story they’re fine. You’ll relay messages to other bees by “dancing” with them – which means watching their movements, memorising and copying them. Fights with wasps come down to well-timed presses of two buttons, and you’ll also take part in ‘races’, where you’ll need to fly through hoops without getting caught up in obstacles. That’s about it.
Outside of the short story mode, Bee Simulator also has co-op play, allowing up to four local players to enjoy the game in split-screen mode. There are different maps for this, which means you get to explore slightly different environments. There’s not much longevity here, but if you have a friend to play with, challenging each other provides a bit of entertainment at least.
Providing you’re not expecting too much from Bee Simulator, you’ll have a good time with the game. The educational aspect of it definitely lends itself well to younger players but regardless of age, tearing through the air as a bee is entertaining while it lasts. The shortness of the main campaign means it doesn’t have time to grow stale – but it also means it doesn’t offer particularly great value for money. Bee Simulator isn’t going to blow you away, but wait for a sale and you’ll have a pleasant enough little adventure.
At the very least, it’s made me think twice about swatting any bee that ends up inside the house from now on. Not wasps, though. They can still go right to hell.
Bee Simulator is available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and PC. We reviewed the Xbox One version.
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