One of the things I love about Indie games is that, just like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. In a time where most of the top games on all platforms are all very similar to one another, it’s refreshing to get the chance to play something so unusual and different to anything else out there at the moment. Where the Bees Make Honey is a Kickstarted game that I blindly requested to take a look at based on a single screenshot I saw. That one image intrigued me enough that I had to play it and see what the game actually was.
Where the Bees Make Honey isn’t a very long game, I think I finished my first playthrough within an hour, so I won’t get as detailed as I usually do as I don’t want to ruin the story. However, there are a few features currently omitted which I need to talk about…
Our protagonist, Sunny, is a young adult working in a dead-end office job that is going nowhere. She’s been there for years as she has seemingly lost sight of any aspiration and goals she had when she was younger. Instead of finding what she wanted to do with life and working towards that, she gave in and became a slave to the system, agreeing to do overtime alone simply because she had nothing else to do even though she hates it. She spends every second of her time working hard for what? So the people higher up can reap the benefits? Sunny is the human manifestation of a worker bee…
One night, whilst working on her own, Sunny begins to reminisce about days gone by and how she used to think and feel when she was younger. This younger version of herself was always full of life with a vivid imagination and no cares in the world. As long as she had her bee outfit on, nothing could get in the way of her fun and unique perspective on life.
So, as you transition from older Sunny to young bee-Sunny, you’ll play through various different gameplay styles as our older self narrates thoughts and experiences she had whilst we play through the imaginative worlds you created when you were younger.
Where the Bees Make Honey is very hard to describe, in terms of the gameplay. Initially, the game is first-person, along with some third and first-person narrative cinematic cutscenes, then it goes into a chibi-style 2.5D side scroller with some questionable controls – I really didn’t like the controls in this section as it felt quite buggy when I pinged into the air a few times. Then it swaps to an isometric top-down view which controls much better, followed by other various styles. It seems that every time the game takes us into another memory, the gameplay style changes.
The main gameplay mechanic is basically Captain Toad style. If you’ve not played Captain Toad, you move around a mini 3D world from an isometric perspective. You can then rotate the world using the shoulder buttons in order to see where the passages and secret areas lie. In Captain Toad, you were collecting coins (if I recall correctly), whereas in this game its honeycombs.
The difference here is the way these levels work. As you rotate them, certain elements will also rotate in the direction you pick – so rotating right may lower a platform so you can stand on it, then rotating left will raise it back up. It’s all very clever and some of them really get you to think as you have to collect all three of the honeycombs before you can move on. My only complaint would be that I wish there was more of them within the game. Maybe the developer would even consider making a game that is purely just these puzzles?
Jack of all trades?
Other than the above element, the game adopts a few rather strange and unusual levels for you to work through, some of which are only a few minutes long. One which I thought was rather silly, in a good way, was the Halloween level which is filled with pumpkins that chase you, zombies, and a massive pumpkin that will squash you if you’re not careful! I really enjoyed the music on that level as it was very catchy with its lyrics! I believe it’s a song made for the game as well, not one off the shelf, which is cool.
Another level sees you take control of a rabbit with tank controls (push up to move forward and left/right turns you on the spot) as you’re traversing quite a lot of platforming in search of your baby rabbit. Obviously, this is all a visual representation of what was actually happening in real life, but it’s spring and you’re both running around looking for each other so why not make you a couple of rabbits! This was probably one of my least favourite moments, purely because of the controls as it didn’t feel very responsive, especially when you’re expected to do quite a bit of platforming as well. I could say that the difficult controls and the sluggish movement were a representation of the mother rabbit losing control, becoming upset and anxious at the particular event, but I think it’s just sluggish tank controls.
All the levels seem to be based on the seasons and various things which happened within each period from the memories of an adventurous young girl. Remember, this was a time when you’re young enough to let your imagination go wild and simply putting on a costume allowed you to be whoever, or whatever you want to be.
Visually, Where the Bees Make Honey is a mixed bag in my opinion. It has it’s good and bad moments, from the bright and colourful puzzle segments to the overuse of motion blur and difficult controls when racing. It’s a very interesting game in that it presents the player with a number of different art styles and design choices as you progress through the various memories and narrative. You can tell the game has been developed by a very small team – not that that’s a bad thing – as there are certain things I would have liked to see as part of the overall final polish.
I would have liked an invert option for the y-axis whilst in first-person (although that mode is very short), subtitles so hard of hearing people can also enjoy the experience, and possibly the option to change the controls from tank controls to standard racing ones (unless that’s a design choice). However, not only are these options missing, but all options are omitted from the game entirely. There is literally no menu and no adjustments, not even for things like the audio levels.
That brings me to the next point, the audio. As a whole, I enjoyed the majority of the audio within the game – especially the music. However, there is a segment where you’re driving a toy car and it’s really, really loud. You can’t hear anything our protagonist is saying and, because there are no subtitles, it’s easy to miss what’s being said. I feel some sounds need tuning down and we need the option to adjust the audio levels (as well as the subtitles) so that the game becomes more accessible for a greater audience.
Also, for those out there who are wondering – yes, Where the Bees Make Honey has a platinum trophy which can be achieved within around 60-90 minutes if you back up your save, double if you don’t (as it requires two playthroughs).
According to Twitter, The developer is in the process of releasing a new patch that may or may not address some of the issues above – I’ll update accordingly if it does.
Where the Bees Make Honey is an interesting narrative puzzle game about childhood memories. It’s not the best looking or mechanically advanced game I’ve played this generation, but you can tell that the developer has put a lot of love into creating this game. I had fun throughout the whole experience, even though a few of the segments did frustrate me due to their control schemes and the lack of subtitles.
However, I put that down to maybe the game was providing symbolism with the controls and subtitles by making it harder for us. It makes us realise how hard life is when we ‘lose control’ and become anxious by providing sluggish controls and not allowing us to simply read what we missed, due to not focusing on what was being said at the time.
If you’re looking for a quirky puzzle game which likes to dabble with various gameplay mechanics, an interesting narrative, and a situation which we’ve all been in at some point, then Where the Bees Make Honey is a fun experience which will last you around one to two hours.
Where the Bees Make Honey$9.99
- - Interesting story which everyone can relate to
- - Experiments with various visual modes and gameplay mechanics
- - The 'Captain Toad' segments are well done
- - Catchy Music
- - Platinum trophy
- - The controls in the car and rabbit stage are a bit unresponsive
- - Missing a menu, so no subtitles, audio options, control changes, or manual saves
- - Rather short at around 60-90 minutes long