The one thing I love most about video games is the opportunity to experience life in someone else’s shoes. Whether that’s an elite soldier in the armed forces or a space marine hellbent on revenge. In either case, an elaborate story isn’t exactly necessary to convey a sense of immersion. What becomes most important is the overall feeling of becoming, controlling, and being that protagonist. Bee Simulator, on the other hand, provides you the opportunity to shrink down to only a few millimeters in order to dive hive first into the experience of being a pollinating, sugar-gulping bee.
Flight of the nav-bee-gator
Bee Simulator immediately introduces you to flight controls. Flight is your first task as a newly birthed bee. You start out exploring the inside of the hive, learning how to pilot your new skin and some of the minor mechanics of the game, like enacting checkpoint beacons. Early on, it’s very apparent that VARSAV Game Studios wanted the feeling of flight to feel authentic and natural. Because, let’s face it, unless you’ve become one-tenth of your normal human size like in the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids — you don’t know what it’s like to fly like a bee.
The most fluid and enjoyable part of Bee Simulator is the flight. Buzzing around people and through the brush is surprisingly fast and fluid. You can consume sweets or pick up pollen to fill your Beetro. When enacted, this functions as a speed boost in flight. You can get from point A to point B faster or help in race challenges to catch an escaping opponent.
The story of the game will only run you about two hours. This might be a deal-breaker for some, especially considering the $39.99 price tag. But you can stretch the main story length by exploring buildings and hovering into crevices and cracks. Flying around the map when not carrying out the main story missions is easily something to get lost in. You can discover new animals, plants, and gain Knowledge Points. These points can be cashed in for 3D trophies or new bee skins, providing another layer to the overall experience.
Honey, there’s more than meets the eye
There’s quite a bit that happens during the main story in Bee Simulator, and the game isn’t actually a full-on bee simulation title. There is a story that moves things along, showing you the ropes of what it means to collect pollen and watch out for the hive that you call home. You can also fight with other insects, like duking it out with a wasp or other territorial bees. However, you will probably spend the majority of your time mining pollen from flowers and doing dancing challenges with other bees.
This type of gameplay introduced in Bee Simulator might be a turn-off to those wanting a true sim experience. However, I can tell that the approach was to reach not only insect enthusiasts but also those looking to not take things too seriously. The story and small challenges do provide an entertainment factor throughout your time immersed in nature. This is a much wider net to cast than simply jumping in the shoes of a worker bee and hauling pollen all day long.
Catching a learning buzz
As previously mentioned, you can buy 3D trophies of insects and animals. These can be spun around and inspected. You’ll be able to find new insects and animals when out exploring the map. These also go into a logbook of sorts, providing facts and details about each new discovery. Outside of the bee facts on the loading screen, this was probably one of my other favorite learning posts. I found myself getting lost in the pages, learning things like bees have two stomachs: one for digestion and the other to carry nectar.
Distractions are ahead
Although there are a lot of positives about the bee simulation experience, I did often find myself pulled out of complete immersion. This was mainly due to the voice acting and NPCs in the world.
To tackle the first, Bee Simulator is fully voiced. Encounters with the Queen Bee and other insects, like a bro-fly named Kyle, have voiced dialogue. I don’t know if it was the quality or style of these interactions, but I felt like the same feeling could have been interpreted in scenes with dramatic music and animations. At times, they instead feel out of place. The same can be said about the game’s NPCs.
For the most part, the environment of Bee Simulator is impressively detailed and vibrant. There are nooks and crannies to stumble your way into, and each area of the park pops with color. This is most apparent in the small carnival area with rides and multicolored balloons. But when getting up close to animals or people, that sense of immersion and realism starts to fade. Humans have an almost plastic design, while fur from other animals looks stiff and unrealistic. The art style is almost like a children’s book. But that doesn’t mean its inhabitants get a pass.
I never thought I would have enjoyed an insect simulation game, let alone one that finds itself in the edutainment category. Although there is a slight lean towards it being a kids game, Bee Simulator has a wide reach in finding a little something for everyone to enjoy. The only distractions in the entire experience are NPCs. They come off many times as robotic or lifeless. This goes for both humans and animals. I wouldn’t have minded being swatted at or flying away in fear because a hen was hot on my trail. Instead, many of these interactions are stiff and harmless.
Bee Simulator has a reach in a few places. It seems like the perfect game to play with your little one, especially if they are enthusiastically into bugs, animals, and/or flowers. It should be known that it isn’t wholeheartedly authentic, like stinging balloons and not being swatted by pesky humans. But there are enough unlockables and challenges to provide some substance, even if the main story is only a few hours long. It’s the perfect place where you can bee all that you can bee.
And yes, you can sting things.
Bee Simulator is available Nov. 14 on the Epic Games Store for US$39.99.