This game is the bees knees!
Okay, out of the gate, Bee Simulator is:
- not a simulator
- likely a kid’s game
None of those are bad things, mind you, but since I went into this game blind, I was surprised to say the least.
Bee Simulator, developed by VARSAV Game Studios and published by Bigben, is currently available on Switch, XBox One, PS4, and the Epic Games Launcher (with a Steam release date set for the end of year 2020). With gorgeous graphics and a glorious soundtrack tapping talent from the Witcher 3 OST team, Bee Simulator is as sweet as honey both visually and audibly.
The game starts with a super-saccharine narration detailing the importance of bees and the urgency of their dwindling numbers. Setting an ominous tone with such a cheerful-sounding narrator was definitely a bit jarring but all the more intriguing (think Viva Pinata, honestly). After that, the opening cutscene ends, and I, a baby bee, am born into the world.
After naming myself Bea (get it) and learning how to be a bee, I met with the queen, who told me my life was to be one filled with pollen-gathering — I’d spend all my days visiting flowers and collecting their yields. Seems pretty obvious, but of course, there are other jobs, such as nanny bees, that I could have taken.
My meeting with the queen over, I buzzed off and out of the hive and into the vibrant, colorful world. It’s here where the major mechanics of Bee Simulator open up, which are segmented into different missions or “mini-games” of sorts that drive home what a day in the life of a bee might be like. This is where it started to feel more child-friendly, with overly sweet voice acting and mini-games akin to those from the N64 catalog.
With that being said, the mini-games are spot on and really drive home the edutainment value when it comes to learning all about bees. Case in point, one of the possible mini-games is a dancing sequence a la Simon Says — you’ll meet up with another bee who’s practically drooling over a super special flower but, for whatever reason, can’t collect the pollen herself. She’ll tell you where it is by dancing, though, and you’ll mimic her moves to learn the location. Since this is an actual thing bees do, it reinforces fun facts while legitimately being fun.
As I was zooming through Bee Simulator (both figuratively and literally, as the story mode can be beaten in about two hours), I couldn’t help but notice how disjointed the game was despite calling itself a simulator. Any missions you want to take on can be done by buzzing through different colored lights scattered throughout the worlds. Most of them are mini-games with mechanics we’ve seen before — there’s the aforementioned Simon Says, but also flying through rings which gave me Superman 64 flashbacks (shudder) and fighting off bad bugs like wasps through quick-time events. It was less Bee Simulator and more “Bee Story”, which, once framed this way, simply made more sense.
Where I found myself frustrated by the flying through rings levels, I was utterly delighted by the educational material sprinkled throughout Bee Simulator. Activating bee vision allows the bee to discern which flowers yield a higher quality pollen through the use of different colors — a nod to the fact that bees perceive color differently than we do. There’s an encyclopedia to fill in of all the different flora and fauna species found throughout the game with detailed drawings and insightful information. Beautifully illustrated loading screens become teachable moments as they feature fast facts about bees — an oft-overlooked opportunity which was wonderfully utilized to its full potential.
Bee Simulator hits the sweet spot when it comes to educational games — a legitimately fun, albeit short experience, it’s meant to be played thoroughly through hours of collecting encyclopedic knowledge. With the couch co-op mode, players can grab their honey and start a split-screen game together, learning all about bees and spreading awareness about this all-too-important species. Although the youth are likely to get more enjoyment out of this, that shouldn’t stop older gamers from supporting such a buzz-worthy cause.
If Superman 64 meets Viva Pinata sounds like the bees knees, be sure to pick up a copy of Bee Simulator.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC (reviewed); Publisher: Bigben; Developer: VARSAV Game Studios; Players: 1; Released: November 12, 2019; MSRP: $39.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of Bee Simulator given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.