Bee Movie Game

Almost Worth Buzzing Over

Bee Movie Game actually cobbles together some decent ideas, but game-stopping bugs eventually ground the experience.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: November 18, 2007
Oh, the horrible puns on bees and flight that are swirling in my head right now. I'm not above making a comment about wings being clipped or revoking a flight license, but I'll stop short of actually using 'em in this case beyond poking fun at myself despite the fact that Bee Movie Game actually had the basics for a solid game.

Unfortunately, it also has a massive bug in the form of a crash that can happen mid-save (you know, that part where all PS2 games ask you not to turn off or reset the system?). It happened twice, and the second time, the corruption finally took hold, wiping out all of my hard work in collecting the hidden bee snacks and severely killing my buzz about the game's frankly solid execution of some of the main bits of the movie. And no, that really wasn't meant to be a pun.

If one were to strip away the fact that the game liberally uses the cast of Dreamworks' animated movie in the game or even that it's built around the premise of a bee wanting to be more than just another drone in a honey-making plant, it would actually be rather decent, which is the litmus test for any licensed game. It's even more impressive when you factor in the obvious aim toward the younger crowd, meaning Bee Movie Game is actually something both kids and adults can enjoy equally.

Chalk it up to the game's generous use of Die Hard Arcade or Shenmue-style quick button press sequences. Developer Beenox (yeah, I know, the name is just so fitting it's scary) sprinkled on-rails sections that have you darting around traffic and obstructions, button mashing to escape vehicles and frog tongues and so on, and so on, and did it all while aping major moments from the movie.

Best of all, they're fun -- just difficult enough to have you trying them once or twice without getting stuck, but not so needlessly hard that you groan whenever they pop up (which is often). These reaction-based sections serve to break up to the game's other main bits of action, relegated to using a bee's apparent ability to slow time to turn normally disastrous falling rain into near-static droplets that can be zoomed around while exploring the outside world, and pollinating flowers with a gun that sucks up the good stuff from healthy flowers and shoots it into dying ones.

These are exercises that take place outside the hive, though they do share a basic item collection aspect for those aforementioned honey snacks, making for a great amount of replay value for completists out there. When you're actually in the hive, either by sheer irony or actual conscious decision, the game becomes rather monotonous. You can engage in basic jobs like racing cars (yes, that's apparently a bee job), playing mechanic, and a handful of other menial honey-corralling tasks like collecting falling honeycombs in a Plinko-style peg-filled mini-game, but none of them really stay fun all the way through to the end, not even when they help to unlock a bunch of extremely simple arcade games.

What makes the game work is that the outside world is delivered with tons of scale. Barry, the game and movie's hero, explore a simply textured playground littered with enemy dragonflies and wasps (they can be shot down with a basic lock-on-and-fire mechanic), air currents that guide bees around objects on a set path at high speed, and of course all those honey snacks. To make finding them and flowers easier to spot, Barry can flick on Bee Vision, which plunges the world in a sea of purple with interactive objects glowing a soft pink.

It's a great way to root out things you may have missed, and again, makes the collecting aspects that much more fun. Actually pollinating all the flowers in a level or getting all the snacks nets you a medal, which can be viewed back at the hive. Think of them like little Achievements like on the Xbox 360... without any of the cross-game bragging rights. But hey, again, obsessive-compulsive collectors out there will have plenty of motivation. Y'know, until that crash bug happens, so make multiple saves if you don't want to lose it all.

Though the framerate can be a little sloppy at times thanks to the game's scale, the clean look of the CG movie actually benefits the overall look of the game. No, it doesn't look nearly as good as the next-gen versions of the game, but otherwise they're identical, and zipping slowly around busy downtown streets and languid, sunny parks is all done very well indeed. So too were the game's voices for the most part, but then Activision managed to land most of the movie's cast to reprise their roles, and they do so nicely. Throw in some plucky music that does a good job of providing a backdrop to things without interfering too much and you have a game that actually does a decent job of presenting itself.

Again, though, it's the game's incorporation of scenes from the movie like trying to survive a game of tennis or exploring a hose filled with people hell-bent on squashing you that makes the game so fun. Beenox used the source material not as a crutch, but as a foil for some solid little mini-game experiences and plenty of healthy exploration. If not for the game-ending crashes that took place, I would have happily finished the whole shebang, which honestly doesn't happen with most licensed games.

For that, the developers should be proud; Bee Movie Game is far, far better than the odds would suggest, and though it's not all perfect, what's there is certainly worth picking up if you enjoyed the movie and want something to play with the kids. Just, y'know, make sure you save in a couple different slots.
The Verdict