Bee Simulator was released on 14 November 2019 for the PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. It was developed by Varsav Studio and published by BigBen. As a bit of a fun fact, and perhaps the reason why I love this game so much, they partnered with Yann Arthus Bertrand’s GoodPlanet Foundation to raise awareness of protecting bees and the environment among players. As part of this collaboration, €1 out of every game sold will be donated to the foundation.
The game was played by myself and Avril Jooste (my 4.5 year-old daughter), so this review is from both of us.
I guess the one question I should answer is, ‘Is this really a Simulation game?’ So many games these games are getting the ‘Simulator’ appendix to their names, and I have been playing a handful of them for review this month: Farming Simulator 2019, American Truck Simulator, Construction Simulator 2 (review coming soon). It almost feels like developers are desperate to get us to feel what it feels like to live these type of lives. Which is exactly what us gamers want.
I will answer that question at the end, once I have been through this review, since many points in my review actually aim towards that view.
So Bee Simulator has been named a Family Educational game in the press releases and having played through the game, that is exactly what it is. Everything you do and learn in the game aims at teaching you the value of bees and their role in the world. It also teaches how bad humans are for trying to destroy them, and shows us just how hard bees have it in life sometimes. Not just from humans, but from other creatures, insects and mother nature itself.
You start off as a young worker bee, who is given the title of honey bee by the queen. She expects you to go out into the park that you live in, which is located beside a large zoo in an urban park, which was inspired by Central Park in New York City. You spend the beginning of the game exploring the park, finding pollen and returning it to the hive.
Just as you start getting comfortable, some of the park people decide to cut the tree down. The tree is busy dying and they need to get rid of the bee colony within it. Terrified, you want to help save the hive by finding a new home. But the queen insists that you perform your job and find pollen. However, that doesn’t really stop you getting involved and becoming the hero.
Avril was horrified when this started to happen, which just shows the effect that the game has on the young gamer. It does a good job of working on your emotions, actually feeling something for the characters in the game while teaching you a valuable lesson about bees and their role on our planet. Avril, who was always scared of bees, actually came outside to our rose garden to stare at them collecting pollen from the flowers and had quite the discourse with me about them.
Back to the game, there is more to it than the six small missions that completes the main story of the game. There are several small challenges too. You can race around the park against other bees, or take on a hornet in a button-sequence battle. You can dance with bees in a button-memory game in order to find the location of super flowers, or take on some side quests.
One of Avril’s favourite elements is Bee Vision. You switch to a different view mode where you can see different colour pollen. Their colours reflect their type, such as common, uncommon, rare, epic and legendary, which reminded me of Elder Scrolls Online, Diablo 3 and some other RPG games out there adopting the same kind of system.
For myself, as an author I love play on words. So when they create words that have ‘Bee-‘ or ‘Buzz-‘ in them, I find it very creative at times. But even more than that, I absolutely love the Archive. It serves as a sort of Bestiary and Herbarium (collection of preserved plant specimens and associated data used for scientific study), where information on every plant and animal that you find is collected and stored inside. You simply collect pollen from the flowers or stare at the animal long enough and it is added to your Archive. I have always loved this aspect in games and really wish more would incorporate it.
The gameplay is rather easy enough. The challenges are mostly timed events, and some challenges take part in the main story, so it serves you best to learn to master them early on. You can also rise and lower yourself vertically like a helicopter. The only real challenge I had were the races and trying to catch other bees, which becomes rather tricky, especially if you don’t turn the sensitivity down a bit. Other than that, everything in the game is easy to play (thank goodness! > Avril).
When it comes to graphics, the game is absolutely stunning! The images I am sharing here do NOT do the game justice. I am shocked that a family game can look this great and perform so well. Sure, there are the odd movements sometimes where humans walk around like robots (mainly the Flower lady), and some weird jerky movements in video sequences (one of the people trying to eradicate the bees suddenly vanished and teleported somewhere else during a movie), so there are a few bugs (haha) that need to be fixed, but these are so few that they do no lessen the enjoyability of the game.
I want to spend another paragraph just stating how gorgeous the game is. There is a beautiful river that you can fly over, as well as some stunning flowers you can collect pollen from. Even the animals are pretty well done. Something I also rather enjoyed was the Trophy Room in your hive where you can unlock and store statues of animals that you have found. This was another remarkable touch.
If anything in the game let me down, it’s how short the game is. Playing by myself, I managed to finish the main story in under 2 hours, and I could have probably done it in less without some side missions and exploring the park. However, keep in mind that this a family game geared towards children. Avril spent the whole day ( a good seven hours) playing the game. She was more interested in collecting pollen and finding animals than actually playing the main missions. The only parts I had to assist her with were the races, but everything else she pretty much had down herself.
As short as the game is, it is still a brilliant game. The voice acting is well done, even if I could tell that the same actor changed her voice for some other characters. Her voice is very pleasant to listen to, almost like a mother reading a bed time story to her child. She even has that same energy in her voice. I would definitely enjoying listen to her if she has any audio books.
Finally, we get to the Split-screen Multiplayer mode. You can play up to 4 players on one screen, something more games these days need to do. You can take part in challenges, such as racing each other through the park. This is a fun thing to do with family members, and just adds to the pleasure of the game.
Now let’s get to the Title of the game. I’m not so sure this is a Simulator or simulation game. Yes, very much a family adventure game that teaches you about the lives of bees. However, having played many simulator games of late, I don’t see how this fits into the Simulator category, or even should be in the title. Perhaps “A Bee’s Life” or “The Tale of a Bee” would have been more apt. Even though you provide a new location for a new hive towards the end, you don’t actually construct it yourself or take part in expanding the hive with new rooms as such. You can’t choose one of the other roles and only take part as a honey bee. Nor can you be the queen bee and manage your hive, sending out troops and making new bees like a true simulator game.
Bee Simulator is a fun, family-orientated game that aims to educate. If ‘Bee Movie’ failed to teach just how important bees are to this planet, this game makes up for that. The graphics and voice acting are superb, and the inclusion of an Archive is something I personally love. There could have been more story, and I wouldn’t class this as a simulator, but the action and a story that keeps you intrigued until the end is enough to make this a game that the family will want to play over and over again.
Avril would be very disappointed if I gave this a low score, so it deserves a high 9.5 / 10 from the both of us.