I love simulators, casually working my way through the addictive and slightly monotonous tasks helps me relax as time passes by without even realising. However, Bee Simulator isn’t really a ‘simulator’ in my eyes, it comes with a narrative, tasks, mini-games, and a plot, something your standard simulators don’t have. As such, I’d bee more inclined to class this game as an exploration-adventure game aimed at younger gamers and those who like the furry little insects.
Developed by Varsav Game Studios and published by Bigben Interactive, Bee Simulator sets out to educate you whilst offering you the chance to see the world from the perspective of the tiny Bumblebee. Although not perfect in both its delivery and mechanics, the game was a pleasure to play and keep me hooked all the way through to the end (
although I’ve not got the platinum yet I got the platinum shortly after publishing the review). I’d say I’ve spent about 12-15 hours flying around the park, looking at everything there is on offer.
So, what did I think of this edutainment ‘simulator’? Let’s find out…
Bee Simulator starts at the very beginning of our young bee’s life, which in my case was called Bee-atch. After you’ve hatched and learned the basics, you set out into the world to perform your duties as a newly designated ‘worker bee’, gathering pollen which can be used to make honey for the hive. However, after a few trips out into the wild, you see something very worrying, the humans are planning to cut down the tree which you live in! It’s now up to the ‘scout bees’ to set out and find a new location where you can relocate to before you’re all left homeless.
Although you really want to help out, your role is to simply supply pollen to the hive, not go out on a grand adventure and look for a new home. But, beeing the curious and adventurous type, you aim to kill two birds with one stone as you both perform your duties whilst also keeping an eye out at at the same time. You’ll find yourself helping out a number of creatures, fighting off the evil wasps, helping stray bees find their way home, and even racing other insects, all whilst gathering information and intel on your surroundings.
Can you help the scouts find a new place to call ‘home’ before the humans come and destroy your hive, or is it too late?
As stated above, although the name of the game is Bee Simulator, I can’t really refer to it as a pure simulation game. My idea of a Bee Simulator would simply be a game where you buzz along, collect pollen from the flowers, then return to your hive to drop it off. Rinse and repeat with a few challenges like having to seek out certain flowers or gathering enough pollen before winter comes so you have enough to survive on. However, this game expands the gameplay with fun edutainment facts, a generic but enjoyable narrative, and a bunch of side-quests and collectables to seek out.
Once you get the chance to leave the hive, the world’s your oyster. You have a set mission, which pushes you through the narrative at a steady pace, introducing you to new mechanics and areas of the overworld, and a bunch of alternative side-quests to interact with. Regardless of whether you pick easy or hard, the vast majority of these quests are very easy (perfect for younger children) but the racing segments can be a bit of a pain.
Flying itself isn’t bad but it does take a while to get used to as it’s quite sensitive. You can fly in all directions and even activate a boost you gain from collecting the pollen from the same quality flowers, or by eating human food. You also have the ability to activate ‘bee-vision’, a mode in which the world turns blue and the various flowers are highlighted based on their level of ‘epicness’ – like the loot system from games like Diablo. This mode also puts you in first-person, a mechanic which you can’t actually activate outside of entering this mode, which is a shame as I felt like I was moving around faster whilst in first-person (or is that first-bee?) and it further enhances the ‘simulator’ name.
Before too long, you’ll begin to see a variety of side-quests appear on the map as you fly around. Well, I say map but it’s really a compass-like dial on the top of the screen as there isn’t a map in the game (where would she keep it, she’s a bee!). These activities help pad out the game and they offer you things to do whilst you’re out exploring, flying around post-game, or if you just want to take a break for a while. These side-quests are split between mini-games and missions for you to complete, missions which vary from finding nuts for squirrels to giving pollen to a spider.
The problem is, there are only a few different types of mini-games, meaning you’ll be doing the same thing over and over again. For some people, this isn’t an issue – especially those who like simulators and don’t mind monotony, and children, but those looking for variety may get bored or see it as being too repetitive.
Most of the mini-games offer very little challenge as you work your way through them. These include a ‘Simon Says’ dancing game, QTE operated fighting, QTE spider web escape game, pollen collection, and others. Then we come to the chase segments – the events which will make anyone who grew up playing Superman 64 simply curl up into a ball and cry. You’ll either be chasing another bee or simply following them, by flying through a set of rings. If you’re following them then it’s not too bad – just ensure you don’t fall too far behind and don’t miss more than three rings and you’ll be fine. If you’re chasing them then you’ll go round and round a circuit, again with a requirement to not miss three rings, only this time you have to pick up boosts and use them to catch the other insect.
This may sound easy but the flying can be very sensitive and if you miss a gust of wind or bump into the side of an object, it usually means it’s impossible to catch up – requiring you to do the entire race again from the start. I can’t describe how frustrated I was when doing these segments, not only for the six scattered around the world for a trophy but also the mandatory ones you have to do as part of the story. However, after a while, the flying does get a little easier as you become accustomed to how it feels and you’ll breeze through the later ones with little issue. But, don’t be surprised if you give the game to a young child to play and they ask you for help with some of these races.
Bee Simulator contains a few educational facts for you to read as you fly around. I wouldn’t say this is the best educational game in regards to bees, as it doesn’t really go into too much detail about everything there is to know, but it does offer some snippets into their world. First of all, the loading screens (which are really only when you go in and out of your hive or when fast travelling) offer random facts where you would usually see tips about the game, giving you something to read whilst the game loads in the background. I thought these were fun and there are a decent number of them so you shouldn’t start seeing the same ones until you’ve progressed a fair bit into the game (or at least I didn’t).
Secondly, you can find various objects as you fly around which unlock ‘bee facts’. I’ve only found a few of these, as they don’t seem to appear on my ‘dial-map’ and can be a bit tricky to find. It’s a shame as they offer more info into the creatures so I would have liked it if they were easier to find, allowing the gamers to discover more about the furry fellas.
Finally, the big chunk of information you’ll gain without even realising will be whilst flying around and going about your usual business of taking pollen from the flowers. Every time you bump into a flower, you’ll make a note of what flower it is and jot down some info on it in your handy notebook (again, where does she keep it?). Similarly, as you look at any of the animals, either in the zoo or in the wild, you’ll also make an entry for them along with some facts for you to read. So, although there isn’t a lot of education shoved in your face, it does have a decent amount of animals to find and factual notes to read about each one.
Bee who you want to bee
As you may have seen in a few of my images so far, Bee Simulator doesn’t take itself too seriously. Every time you return home with pollen, complete a task, finish a mini-game, or discover a new animal or flower, you’ll gain points. These points can be used to buy yourself a bunch of customisable unlocks. Not only can you buy yourself a snazzy new hat, such as a mini traffic cone or a wizards hat, but you can unlock new skins for your bee and also the colour and design of the trail you leave as you activate your boost. Sure, it doesn’t change the gameplay, but I found it amusing as I flew around with a traffic cone on my head!
2 bee or not 2 bee?
Bee Simulator also comes with a multiplayer mode for up to four players on the same console locally. You have the choice of three maps (which are specific to this mode) that offer a bunch of challenges based on the same mini-games we saw in the single-player mode. I’ve not personally played this other than having a fly around a few of the maps on my own with two controllers, but I can see it appealing to a few younger kids if they want to fly around together and explore the new areas. It’s a shame there’s no single-player aspect within these maps though, seeing as they’re already built, as one is a small portion of a city with cars and street-life, something we don’t get in the main storyline.
I know I’ve referred to younger kids a few times now but that’s because I believe they are the ones who’ll get the most enjoyment out of this game. Sure, as a 35-year-old man, I enjoyed playing the game, but from what I’ve seen online (especially in other reviews and the Steam Forums), it appears people don’t understand the target audience. It’s a game in which you take control of a bee as you gather honey, perform simple mini-games, and search for a new place to live as the story progresses… The target audience is younger gamers and those who just want to play something casually in short bursts (or, I suppose, trophy hunters as the trophies aren’t too hard).
As of writing this review, there’s been no update to the PS4 version of the game. So, these observations and issues are based on version 1.0.
The majority of the game runs fine, aside from the learning curve for flying effectively and completing the race segments. However, once you’ve finished the main story (which took me around six hours or so as I completed the mini-games as they appeared), the game introduces a lot of bugs – not the in-game definition of the word. First of all, a few creatures wouldn’t scan into my notebook, the frog and spider, meaning I couldn’t complete that trophy. Also, all markers vanished off my dial-map, resulting in no events popping up despite me having a few more to complete in order to get another trophy. I also had a few instances of clipping through walls and one time I reloaded, I was outside of the game world in an area which I shouldn’t have had access too.
However, despite the game becoming impossible to platinum, the game also has a mechanic you can abuse in order to get the platinum – carry-over progression. If you start a second save profile (you can have up to three), you can play the game on there and anything you collect/complete will be added to what you’ve done in your first save. So, if you have to do six races but the mini-games vanished at five, completing one in the new save profile will give you the trophy.
It’s a workaround at the moment for those looking to get the platinum, as I have informed the developers of the issues, but it does mean the game is 100% completable, even though it’s a bit buggy post-game.
I personally like the visuals within Bee Simulator. Sure, the character models of the humans aren’t the highest quality and the depth of field is a bit too aggressive at times, blurring the distance to disguise the pop-in and texture load, but I’ve seen worse. I liked the various bee designs and even the animals you scan as you fly around, all of which look realistic from a fair viewing distance (up close they are a little ‘dead inside’). Also, something I wasn’t expecting was the use of some real-time reflections. If you sit on the screen of the laptop, for example, you’ll see the humans hands as they type and even your own reflection on the glass.
My main problem with the game, in terms of its models, is that there’s no life within the entire game. The animals rarely move and the humans are all set on short paths, stand still, or dance on the spot in a loop. It’s as if you’re the only living thing and everything else is simply a wax dummy or an animatronic. This is a shame as the game would have felt a lot better and more like the ‘simulator’ it claims to be if the game had life and people went about their business, animals roamed around freely, and birds flew in the sky rather than sat on the ground. A ‘simulator’ should simulate that which it’s imitating, not set out to create a clearly artificial representation of the concept.
In terms of the audio, nothing to complain about here. I enjoyed the music throughout, coming from Mikołaj Stroiński (The Witcher III, Age of Empires IV and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter), and the voice acting was pleasant to listen to, even though there were only a few voice actors. If I’m being honest, I was surprised there was any voice acting at all as it’s a game about a bee, so I was expecting a lot of ‘buzzing’ and subtitles, so having actual voices was a nice touch.
Despite not technically being a ‘simulation’ game, Bee Simulator is a fun edutainment title which was enjoyable to play through. Although there are many side-quests to complete once you’ve finished the main story, there are only a few mini-game formats included, meaning you’ll quickly grow tired of them unless you really like the games they offer. Visually I thought the game looked okay, for a ‘simulator’, but some of the assets are a little basic and the game is deprived of life – it’s like you’re within a theme park full of models or animatronics. If you have a few kids, the multiplayer mode will entertain them for a while as up to four players can play at the same time – which is a welcomed addition.
Although I’ve brought up a few issues present within version 1.0 of Bee Simulator, it’s still possible to obtain the platinum by using two save profiles within the game. Sure, this isn’t the best way to work around the issues, but it’s a valid one whilst we await an update to the game. It may not be the best game in the world but I can honestly say that apart from the racing segments, I had fun playing the game and I would love it if the developers brought out another game with a similar concept in the future.
- - Good voice acting and a fun narrative
- - Colourful environment which is quite big (considering you're a bee)
- - Decent length if going for the platinum without any guides
- - Good variety of side-quests as well as a bunch of mini-games (which can get repetitive)
- - Almost every creature and flower has some factual information to read about to enhance the education within the game
- - The flying (and chasing game) can be a bit sensitive and fiddly at first
- - Trophy-blocking bugs in version 1.0 (post-game) that requires a second save file to 'fudge' at the moment
- - The mini-game variety isn't that big, meaning you'll be soon repeating the same events
- - The game is dead inside, nothing has life or moves around more than an animatronic does