When I was young, I played an awful lot of Maxis’ SimAnt, a simulation game that put you in role of a single ant within a colony of black ants in the back yard of a home. The goal there was to spread throughout the garden, fighting the red ants as you tried to drive the humans out of their home. It was open-ended, and a little simplistic, but it was lovely, and I relished in being the sort of creepy-crawly bastard who could make somebody annoyed enough to acquiesce and move out of their home.
I hoped for a similar sort of thing with Bee Simulator, a game that I’d known little of beyond its name. I did know that it had an educational bent, and was billed as a bit of a family-friendly GTA-inspired game that focused on bees. I was fine with that, as long as it actually simulated the general live of bees, so my disappointment to discover that it didn’t was palpable. See, “Bee simulator” is a bit of a misnomer, in much the same way that Goat Simulator is one, though decidedly less silly.
I suppose it’s more of an action-adventure with bees in it, I just wish it was better. It starts off with you, bee newly born into the hive. The Queen has decided that you’ll bee a pollen-collecting honeybee, and you’re let loose into the world to do just that. While it’s a short game to begin with, much of what you’ll be doing is the repetitive task of flying past flowers to collect their pollen, then taking that payload back to the hive. there are other missions that’ll have you racing other bees through checkpoints (some of which are frustratingly difficult), copying the dance moves of other bees in a simple “Simon says” minigame, and also attacking wasps and spiders in another minigame that plays out like a simple timed press rhythm minigame if you’re playing on easy. On hard the combat controls are a frustrating mess of matched angles and attacks that’ll result in fingers that look like pretzels or controllers thrown out of windows.
Thankfully, the actual flying bits are good. Controls are mostly natural and fluid. The left stick controls lateral movement, while the right helps with directional turning. The triggers are used to ascend and descend, but there’s very little need for that. When you collect pollen you also fill up a turbo meter that lets you fly faster. There are instances where controls can become unresponsive, and when you’re inverted, the controls switch that way too, which can be disorienting. There’s a definite charm to being shrunk down to the size of an insect and being able to fly through a large park, exploring the environment in a Zen-like trance. It would just be nicer if there was more to do other than collect pollen, do those awful races and fly about stinging people. Unfortunately, the people and animals you encounter are completely unreactive to your presence. While you can thrust your stinger at them, all you’ll get on the screen are some stars. There’s a general lack of detail to everything. The Park – clearly modelled after New York’s Central Park – looks good enough from far, but if you fly in close to anything you’ll realise how little detail there is.
There’s a story here; stuff about keeping the hive going over the winter, preventing bears from making the hive a lunchtime snack and keeping humans from destroying the colony. It’s all told in an incredibly saccharine way, with what seems like a single voice actor doing different accents and voices. It frequently comes across as unbelievably amateur. There’s an overarching moral lesson of course, about how bees are dying out and how reliant we are on them for the continued existence on this planet as we know it, but it’s mercifully not too pushy about this. The story takes just a few hours to complete, but there’s a split-screen co-op mode that…well, it doesn’t really let you do anything other than fly around, which seems like a wasted opportunity.
Of course, I’m not really the target market for Bee Simulator. While I’d hoped for something resembling an actual simulator, it’s an action game that’s focused entirely at younger children, and it’s nice that there’s something that’s not a LEGO game available that’s family-friendly enough to be both educational and mildly entertaining.
Last Updated: November 15, 2019