Bee Movie Game Review
Written : Sunday, January 27, 2008
By: Alan Baxter (GT: Bax x360a)
As I carefully placed the Bee Movie Game into my Xbox 360’s patiently waiting disc drive, I did not know what to expect. Should I be excited about a groundbreaking new title, or should I be cringing about the thought of even playing this game for more than ten minutes? I had literally never heard of the game, and especially the movie made by DreamWorks Animations that this here video game is based upon. However, there was one thought niggling at the back of my mind; that being the fact that so far, games based upon movies have been below average and certainly not worthy of carrying the “Next-Generation” tag. Eragon, King Kong and Cars, amongst others, have all failed to deliver the goods and have been quickly dismissed into the depths of people’s game collections. Is the Bee Movie Game another title that will face a rapid decline in the gaming market or will you find yourself preaching how good this game is to everybody who will listen? Pull up a chair and find out.
As the game loads, I quickly learnt that an unheard of company known as “Beenox” developed the title, and the world renowned gaming company Activision chose to publish the game. These two bits of information did not help to fill my mind with confidence, due to a developer with little experience making the game and Activision seeming to throw their name at every game all of a sudden in an attempt to advertise themselves further and take the coveted prize of being the number one gaming company in the world. Games such as Soldier of Fortune and History Channel: Battle for the Pacific have recently been published by Activision, and they both turned out to be very lacklustre titles; I began to fear that The Bee Movie Game was going to follow this abysmal trend. With the Publishers and Developers out of the way, the menu screen was loaded. To my pleasant surprise, the menu system was beautifully presented to me. The screen flaunted a honeycomb effect which was often animated, giving the thought of honeycombs jumping out of the screen. Gameplay videos appeared in the corners of the screen, showing what you could expect from the experience you are about to indulge yourself in. The videos blend with the honeycomb effect and the actual menu itself, resulting in a very neat and tidy looking layout. As I browsed the menu to see what different options were available to me the menu helped to entertain my needs by producing clever disappearing animations everytime you went to choose the next option; nothing huge, but every little touch counts, and as they say, first impressions are everything. The Bee Movie Game menu helped to give me a very good first impression, and motivated me to press the “New Game” option. As the awesome interactive menu screen went black, suspense took over my mind as the game loaded and immersed me into the mind of a Bee.
I found myself watching what appeared to be some sort of news cast, which was announced to be “New Hive Tonight!”. The presenter of the show is questioning a young looking Bee, whose name is Barry B. Benson. The presenter asks the cleverly named character how he got to the position he is in today, this being the que for a real-time cutscene to begin. The opening dialogue of the game made me laugh on more than one occasion, using humorous lines such as “Your mug is on a mug!” and other little gags. This opening cutscene allows you the first view of the Bee World known as “Hive City”, and begins with Barry and the Bensons talking in their living room. Barry’s dad proclaims how proud he is of his son for graduating the local school, known as “BU”, with straight grade B's; this being the best grade available in the land of the bee, and therefore an extraordinary accomplishment. The cutscene develops to the point where you learn you are starting a new job at the famous company called Honex, and this is where honey is produced by the bees. Barry doesn’t look very enthusiastic at this prospect as he trudges out the front door and into Bee Hive City. You are now able to control Barry the bee for the first time, after being led through a very short and simple tutorial that is.
The graphics are below par in Bee Hive City.
Tutorials are an extremely common addition to games these days, but are not normally as short or basic as the one found within the Bee Movie Game. The tutorial begins by explaining the simple-sounding control system, and has you practicing jumping by pressing the A button and hovering off the ground by pressing the Left Trigger. These straightforward controls will ensure the game is accessible to the younger generations who are obviously the game's main target audience. The control layout is followed by an explanation of your map which is located in the bottom-right hand side of the screen, and explains what the star on the map resembles; that being your current objective, a similar idea found within the Call of Duty series. With the tutorial nearly over, the last thing I learnt was how to handle the vehicles found within Bee Hive City. To jump in a car and begin driving, all you have to do is venture up to the automobile and tap the Y button. Barry will hop straight into the drivers seat, and nice little feature allows you to venture around Bee Hive City at a faster pace, and reach your objective in no time at all. As I accelerated the car by holding the A button down, I realised that there was a whole lot of fun to be had roaming around in this odd looking vehicle. The handling is extremely simple, with handbrake turns effortlessly happening by simply turning in the direction you want to go. The only controls you’ll have to worry about are the A button to accelerate and the X button to brake; possibly a little too easy? The game is aimed at children though so I’ll let the developers off on this occasion.
As I travelled to the star shown on my map, skidding and swerving all over the place, I discovered the cars are not as fun to use as first thought. You’ll end up fearing collisions with other cars and objects in the game, due to a terrible hit detection system being present. You’ll often get stuck against a wall, stuck to another car, and my personal favourite, getting stuck when attempting to drive in-between small gaps or alleyways. In fact, this unfortunate event happened to me on my first time trying to get to my objective, and I had to reset my console and reload the game in order to continue. This did not amuse me in the slightest and bought upon a pessimistic image of the game. Nonetheless, I continued and finally reached my first objective.
The objectives are easily found in the game due to them being identified by a beam of light towering into the sky, identical to those found in The Simpsons Game which you need to enter in order to start a new mission. The same applies to here in the land of bee, and it works well to help avoid confusion when you appear close to your objective and the star on your map. Without hesitation, I entered the beam of light to embark on the next stage of the adventure. A cutscene progresses where you learn that the company Honex makes honey constantly, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Without the honey that Honex produces, the Bee world would not be the same, and therefore Barry is undertaking a large responsibility.
Not your usual choice of weaponary!
As you gain control of Barry, you are told to travel to a machine located on the map, in which a mini game takes place where you can complete trials to become a honeycomb collector within the Honex company. This mini game is extremely easy to complete, which unfortunately takes away from the enjoyment you could potentially have from completing it. The goal of the honeycomb collector game is to catch falling honeycombs from a machine called “The Waffle Iron”. The Waffle Iron consists of objects which when hit, change the direction of the honeycomb falling through the maze. As the honeycomb reaches the bottom of the iron, you must be there with a tube to catch it and secure it for Honex. However, not all honeycombs will be wanted by Honex due to some of them being burnt and therefore useless. You will be punished if you collect a burnt honeycomb, with the goal being collecting a certain amount of crisp honeycombs in order to meet a quota given to you. As the saying goes, “Yes to shiny, no to crispy!”. The game is easy to play and satisfying to complete although it has nothing to do with the main storyline of the game, and therefore appears to be a pointless procedure.
You’ll find approximately five more mini games throughout your adventure, and they are mostly fun to play and are a nice distraction from the main storyline but perhaps too easy for the average gamer to get a sense of achievement from. The mini games would have been a much better addition to the game if the gamer was given a choice of whether to participate in them, without being forced to. During my extensive mini-game testing sessions I encountered one of the many graphical glitches in the game as I saw three bees just walking into each other and making no headway whatsoever. I sat there in amazement and watched this happen for around thirty seconds, with nothing changing what so ever. This glitch gave me the feeling that the game was incomplete and that Beenox had released an unfinished product. Regarding the difficulty of the mini-games as a whole, for an adult gamer who likes a challenge with their games this gameplay will be very dull and won’t help to motivate you to carry on playing the adventure.
The game has some pretty fun sequences!
The Bee Movie Game excels in tying each part of the gameplay into the next. An example of this is after an extremely fun tennis ball sequence where you must press the correct button in order to avoid Barry getting squashed, the ball eventually lands over a fence and in to a stranger’s garden. To Barry’s horror, rain begins to poor from the sky; if you don’t know already, Bees aren’t the greatest fans of rain and that could be why you barely see them flying about when it’s raining. A joyful expression appears on Barry’s face when he spots an open window in the distance which he could fly in to and escape the rain. Although the Bee who taught him how to pollinate flowers screams to Barry to stop and not go in the window, he is too mesmerized to listen and begins heading towards the house. This is where you take control of Barry as you attempt to guide him towards the safety and warmth which he desires so much. Due to Bees not being able to get hit by the rain, you’ll have to stay under cover and also use Barry’s special ability known as the “Bee Reflexes”. This is where time stands still, allowing you to fly around without need for shelter to avoid being hit by the rain. However, the Bee Reflex only lasts a certain amount of time before you have to wait to recharge it, so the timing is crucial for success in these types of missions. The Reflex is simply activated and deactivated by pressing the B button, and is a nice feature of the game. Objectives similar to this one may take a while to get used to, due to the Bee Reflex being a tricky feature to master; the chances of you being far away from cover when your Reflex runs out are pretty high and might happen on frequent occasions, and this can be frustrating due to having to start again from a checkpoint.
Flying in to the window is really where the Bee Movie Game adventure begins, as you break the one rule that Bees should always follow; do not interact with humans. You’ll speak to a woman called Vanessa who teaches you the ways of human life, but Barry does not accept all of the human’s morals; especially buying the Bees honey! The games story-line follows closely to that of the movie, and therefore fans of the movie could find hours of enjoyment through playing and recreating their favourite scenes from the motion picture. For those who haven’t seen the movie, the storyline is interesting enough to keep you intrigued along the way, and often leaves you wanting to know what happens next in Barry B Benson’s adventurous little life. The big problem with the Bee Movie Game is how it presents this storyline to you. Repetitive gameplay will make many gamers stop playing the game before the single player campaign is completed, and also that events in between the main story line can become very tedious and hard to navigate. You’ll often find yourself back in Bee Hive City after you’ve completed a level in the story, and this is where you are made to participate in the job finding mini games before you can renter the story and play the next chapter in Barry’s life. The mini games are at first fun, but with a minimum of ten trials for each game and around 5 games being present, fifty mini games may be a little too much for some people. Navigating around Bee Hive City can also be a pain due to the map the game provides; by pressing the start button whilst in Bee Hive City, you are able to access a map. The map is not really a big help though, due to the map having no key, and therefore you having to guess at what the objects displayed represent. This can be infuriating when you have impatience or a time limit and just want to progress through the main story-line in the quickest time possible.
The Bee Reflex is a nice addition to the game.
Although travelling around Bee Hive City can often drive you insane, the quirky place also has its plus points. As you complete missions throughout the game you will unlock concept art. The concept art can be viewed within a museum located in Bee Hive City, and this can give the gamer an incentive to play through the game in order to unlock and view all of the concept arts and other features you unlock. As well as a museum, there is an arcade room located within the city. In this room you can find arcade machines which you can access and play mini games relating to animals. An example of this is a game based on Space Invaders, where you control a bee located at the bottom of the screen and attempt to shoot enemies falling down from above and attacking you. These games are certainly not ground-breaking in terms of achievements and will not keep you entertained for long periods of time, but they can provide a nice alternative to the single player story on the odd occasion. If you become bored of the single player campaign or have a buddy round, there are also multiplayer games that you can access from the main menu. Again, these games are not anything new or overly exciting, but they can provide a few minutes enjoyment here and there with a few friends over, and add a few hours of gameplay to a reasonably short single play campaign. The main disadvantage of these multiplayer games is that they can not be played over Xbox Live; both players must be present on the same console. This can be a bummer if your friends want a game, but can’t make it round the house for some reason.
The graphics side of the Bee Movie Game are the same as the gameplay; a mixed bag. Bee Hive City looks notably poor, with not much detail at all to the environments. I didn’t expect a huge amount from a game based on a movie and designed for kids, but certainly expected better than what I was given. The graphics present in the city are definitely not worthy for an Xbox 360 game, and would be more at home on the original Xbox from Microsoft. The graphics do improve however as the game progresses, with the human world looking reasonable. Missions where you must collect and pollinate flowers look particularly good and provide a wide range of colours; Bee Movie Game is certainly not a dark game as most missions display bright, playful colours which help to attract the gamer and brighten the mood. After all, Beenox and Activision did not want to depress the gamers did they?
On the achievement side of things you’ll be rewarded for completing both easy and hard tasks along your way to completing the game. Easy tasks such as activating your Bee Vision and Bee Reflexes will bag you five gamerpoints, and completing the game will award you with a sweet hundred. Most of the achievements in the game require you to meet a certain target in a level. These are usually completing a sequence such as the tennis ball rally described earlier without taking damage, or reaching your objective in a certain amount of time. While these are not mind blowingly hard, they may be missed on your first play through and therefore you’ll need to replay the level again. Thankfully this is easily done due to a level selector being located in Bee Hive City, but can be a nuisance having to replay a level especially if you did not enjoy the experience the first time around. The full one thousand gamerpoints are achievable in the Bee Movie Game, but are certainly harder to acquire than other children and movie games.
Jerry Seinfeld is a famous actor and lends his voice to Barry the Bee for the animated movie. Not only does Seinfeld’s voice appear in the Bee Movie film but also the Bee Movie game. This is a nice touch and helps to add enjoyment to the game for those who have seen the movie. The voice acting and dialogue is done notably well, with some funny lines that will make you chuckle every now and again.
The graphics are a mixed bag, with Bee Hive City looking like a catastrophic mistake, but in contrast, the human world looking reasonably good with some bright, cheerful colours. You could never expect Bioshock-esque graphics from a title such as the Bee Movie Game, but it would have been nice to have seen some better textures and an overall better effort displayed.
The gameplay does provide a fun factor which is not seen in many other titles currently available on the Xbox 360. However, the gameplay does not vary enough and can become very repetitive in a short period of time. Multiplayer is included in the game, but is let down by no Xbox Live component and therefore will not appeal to many gamers.
The menus of the game are done very nicely indeed and give a good first impression of the game. Sadly, this impression is not likely to last for long. The delivery is let down by the game making you play mini games in between the main storyline missions.
The Bee Movie Game consists fully of single player achievements which can be acquired in approximately fifteen hours of gameplay, depending on the gamer’s skill level. The achievements are not stupidly easy like some other movie and child games featured on the console, but similar to the gameplay, they are repetitive. A large percentage of the list is taken up by achievements where you need to avoid damage or beat a level in a certain amount of time. If you miss these in your first play-through, you’ll have to replay the levels again; this could be an annoyance if you did not enjoy the game the first time.
Games which are based on movies never tend to light up the gaming world, and the Bee Movie Game unfortunately follows this trend. If you’re looking for something different then the ever-present first person shooter in your collection, you might want to give this game a shot. The colourful graphics style brings something different to the Xbox 360 system much as Viva Pinata did and will certainly appeal to the younger audience; your kids are bound to love this game. Unfortunately though, I doubt you will feel the same way, and will dismiss it to the bottom of your growing game collection after you’ve completed it and acquired all of the achievements. A reasonable effort from Beenox, but nothing to break the mould.