Almost everyone will be aware that bees are suffering from an extinction crisis. There are constant news reports about the fact that their numbers are dwindling and how the extinction of the striped insect could cause disaster for wildlife and plants around the world. Bee Simulator wants to teach you about this plight and how you can help.
Bee Simulator is not merely an educational game. It is very much an action title, where you freely explore the world and carry out tasks on behalf of your hive. There are mini-games and side quests in addition to the main campaign, as well as four player co-op for those who want to start up their own swarm of bees. While it does occasionally try to teach how humans are negatively affecting bees, it focuses more on gameplay than learning for the most part.
A few quests have themes about conservation but they aren’t shoved in your face. Instead, the educational elements are filed in the library and the menu, where you can access them at your leisure once they are unlocked. This way, those who want to use the game as a learning experience can do so while everyone else can stay focused on playing. It ends up being a good balance that will not put people off by being too sanctimonious.
Bee Simulator has a clear influence from the likes of Goat Simulator and Surgeon Simulator. Rather than attempting to simulate the life of a bee in an authentic manner, it instead takes some aspects of what a bee does and incorporates those into an action-orientated experience. Other games might attempt to faithfully recreate real-life activities as closely as possible but the developers made the right choice to focus on action rather than simulation here.
This way you should get the best of both worlds, as no one wants to spend their time as a bee going about their day-to-day life. Yet, you do get a general idea of what it might be like if you were transformed into such a creature.
At the most basic level, Bee Simulator tasks you with going out into the world to collect pollen. You do this by flying through circles that are located around flowers; different flowers provide different amounts of pollen. Using a scale like the weapon ranking system in Borderlands, each flower has a colour. White is the most common type of pollen, but there is also uncommon, rare, epic, and even legendary. Once you have filled up your sac, it is time to go back to the hive and deposit your collection.
Bee Simulator offers a pretty short main campaign, which involves carrying out some tasks on behalf of your hive. Most of them involve either collecting extra pollen or doing something beneficial for the queen bee. This could be as simple as rescuing a bee that has become lost out in the world, protecting the hive from attack, or scouting out areas for a potential new home. There isn’t much in the way of a story, though, and you can only interact with a few characters.
The real meat of the action comes from side quests and challenges. Scattered throughout the rather large open world are various additional tasks to complete. Fights involve squaring off against other insects, which includes hornets and wasps. To win a battle, you must press the right button as it shows up on the screen, although with only two buttons in play, it is far too easy. Dancing is as dull as fighting, requiring the player to memorise a dance pattern that adds an extra move with each stage. Think Simon Says but with thumbstick movements rather than coloured lights.
Both of these mini-games are boring as gameplay mechanics. They are so simple that it removes any challenge whatsoever and you will soon skip them rather than waste five minutes of your time. The third mini-game, which involves racing through checkpoints, goes too far in the other direction. It is frustratingly difficult because of the way the controls work. Moving your bee around is an imprecise process at the best of times, while the camera tends to get stuck behind objects so you cannot see where you are going. In a race where you often have to fly through tight areas, it becomes a nightmare.
The reward for doing these extra tasks are knowledge points. You get these for doing any positive action out in the world, whether it is collecting pollen or completing challenges. They can then be redeemed to unlock cosmetic items and additional entries in the library. Unfortunately, these are not worth it as all the extra skins are boring and realistic, rather than something more fun or wacky to personalise your bee.
I feel that even a few basic upgrades might have been a bigger incentive to get as many knowledge points as possible, such as speed boosts or the ability to carry more pollen. As it is, what you start with at the beginning of the game in terms of skills is all you’re given.
There is also a multiplayer component to Bee Simulator, allowing up to four people to play together via split-screen. Although it is nice to see developers supporting split-screen in a world dominated by online multiplayer, the option might as well have not been included at all. You don’t even get to explore the main world in this mode but rather one of three much smaller environments. To make matters worse, the multiplayer action is the same as in the single-player campaign with more people. No attempt has been made to make the multiplayer different or worthwhile.
There are fewer complaints when it comes to the presentation. Bee Simulator doesn’t look great but it is better than many other simulators that have come along over the past few years. Everything is colourful and vibrant, giving a genuine sense of warmth to the world, even though there isn’t as much detail as you might like. The same can be said about the sound design. Performances from the voice artists are quite good and enthusiastic, though a little condescending at times. It’s just an issue that so few characters have speaking roles.
The only real gripe is that the various areas in Bee Simulator don’t feel truly alive. Characters and animals hardly move, they mainly stand in the same position doing the same action over and over again. Everything becomes predictable and stale after a couple of hours because of this. That sums of Bee Simulator pretty well, to be honest. Considering the hefty price tag, it doesn’t offer great value for money.
I’d say that Bee Simulator is better suited to children than older players. It is an ideal way to get kids playing a family-friendly game while also learning about conservationism. Most adults would be able to breeze through the challenges in a couple of hours, but children are likely going to have to spend a bit more time.
The cute graphics and almost cartoon-like voice acting are also well suited to a younger audience. Add in the fact that you cannot be killed while exploring and this is as close to a relaxing and gentle experience as you can get in a video game. But, adults picking this up expecting something akin to Goat Simulator or Untitled Goose Game are going to be bitterly disappointed.
A copy of Bee Simulator was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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Only children are likely to find Bee Simulator an enjoyable experience as it offers very little value for money with its short campaign, lack of stimulating challenges, and repetitive gameplay.
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