After a delay of over a year, Bee Simulator has been released for Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. We played the Xbox version.
Bee Simulator, by Varsav Game Studios, had been on our radar for quite a while now. Part of that’s the delay we already mentioned, but it’s also been a title that not only looked great in the screenshots we saw. Its premise, of course, is one of the more unique ones in gaming. Playing as – you guessed it – a bee, this Bigben-published game is part game and part educational.
The main story campaign (yes, there is one) takes place inside an open world that was inspired by New York’s Central Park, and it’s filled with animals, vegetation and humans. You can freely explore and spend a lot of time doing so, or you can stick to the story missions. The narrative is fully voiced, which makes things easy to follow for a younger crowd but also feels a tad strange considering the ‘sim’ in the game title. I kept thinking they could have reached a similar effect by just using a narrator instead. With the game’s educational undertone, I almost pictured David Attenborough telling me about bees as I went about my bee business.
Gameplay starts off with a tutorial that teaches you how to fly, which is of course the core dynamic in the game. Over the course of your adventure, you also learn about checkpoints, fighting and consuming sugar and nectar. Doing so charges up your “Beetro” meter, which is bee for nitro I suppose and can give you a short speed boost. This isn’t just fun, but also very practical when a task involves a point-to-point race of chase.
There’s a great story here that mixes up different gameplay mechanics while at the same time teaching you a lot of things about bees and the world they live in. The “simulator” portion of the game’s title is a bit misleading though, as the voiceover works and some of your objectives feel more like they were implemented for entertainment purposes than anything else. While this isn’t an issue in itself, there’s a big downside to the campaign in that it’s only two to three hours long if you don’t lose yourself in exploration.
Bee Simulator doesn’t go full “Bee Movie” though – there is a lot of game in which you are engaging in collecting pollen for your hive and performing the kinds of dances that bees use to communicate. As you’re playing and exploring the map, running into new species of plants and animals, you also gain knowledge about them – including plenty of stuff you probably never knew before. If you’re a nature lover, there’s a real hook to the game where you unlock fun little tidbits of information as you play.
The game’s visuals are a bit of a mixed bag, both in terms of style and in terms of quality. There are comic book style intros, and then there’s the 3D open world. In it, the parts where the camera zooms right up to your little bee are absolutely gorgeous – there are tons of details on your tiny little insect and the world around you is vibrant and often colorful. Some of the other animals, as well as the humans, don’t fare as well – they’re much less detailed and not always animated well either. Still, exploring is a joy to do thanks to the impressively detailed world design.
Although it has a conservation-heavy message underneath it, the story of Bee Simulator is an interesting one to play through, and I had fun doing so. It’s terribly short for the asking price (40 euros/dollars at launch) though, which I feel is going to hurt the game. The game supports local multiplayer so it should be a lot of fun to play it together with family members in split screen, but don’t expect a ton of lasting appeal.