It shouldn't surprise anybody that Dreamwork's newest animated movie, Bee Movie, has been turned into a multiplatform video game. What may surprise you is that this Activision game is actually a solid kid's game with a great sense of humor and a lot of variety. It's not going to win any awards for being the most original game of the year, but it's definitely better than your average game based on an animated movie.
In Bee Movie Game you play Barry B. Benson, a young bee fresh out of college (at B.U.) and eager to join the work force making honey. Before long Barry realizes that the outside world (which is largely made up of scary human beings) has been taking the bee's honey for their own gain. Barry sets out to do something about it, and along the way he'll meet some interesting people, get into man-on-bee fights and have to protect his home from the always present threat of invasion from other insects. Barry has quite an adventure ahead of him, and it's up to you to make sure he doesn't mess up along the way.
The game is split up into two different sections. Half of the game is comprised of an open-world environment where you can go wherever you want and play different mini-games (think Grand Theft Auto, except in a bee hive). The other half of the game is more linear, it's the story-driven parts of the game where you journey outside of the hive and meet interesting characters while develop the plot. Without a doubt the most interesting events happen outside of the hive, but you'll need to play both sections in order to advance the story and ultimately beat the game.
In the hive, Barry has the ability to walk or fly around this open world that is straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Like all cities it has its own buildings, streets, vehicles and an economy. In this city you will have to find work and complete a number of mini-games in order to go into the outside world and advance the plot. The look and feel of the hive is right out of the movie, there are all sorts of bees walking around, cars for you to jump in (you never actually "hijack" a car in the game, you merely jump in the passenger side and direct the driver where to go), houses for you to explore and colorful backgrounds that are easy to get lost in. But don't worry about getting too lost, because the hive isn't very large, there are really only two different areas to this city and neither of them is particularly large.
Outside of looking around and seeing the sights, the only thing you really have to do in the hive is play the various mini-games, each of which gets you one step closer to moving on to the next level. In all there are around a dozen different mini-games, each with around ten different levels to complete. As you can imagine, the mini-games start easy enough, but as you progress through the levels you will find that they become increasingly more difficult. That's not to say that these levels are extremely challenging (this is a kids' game, after all), but even seasoned gamers may have to retry some of the harder levels a few times before passing the test.
The nice thing is that there is a good variety of different mini-games to pass your time. Some of the best include a car racing game that feels like a cross between Midnight Club and Mario Kart. Speaking of vehicles, there's also a mini-game that rips off Crazy Taxi. There's also a mini-game where you get on a small scooter and make food deliveries to the neighborhood. This sounds easy, but since you've stacked the boxes so high you'll need to keep them from tipping over by using the left and right trigger buttons. While these three vehicle-centric mini-games are nowhere near as fun as playing a real racing game, they are fun for short periods of time.
Unfortunately not every one of the mini-games is as much fun as the racing and Craxy Taxi clone. A lot of the mini-games require you to do monotonous tasks that feel more like work than fun. Perhaps that's because these mini-games involve you performing work-related tasks, such as filling up containers, fixing cars and grabbing bottles of honey. At first these mini-games are interesting, but by the time you've done all ten levels of the task you'll wish that you were getting paid for your time. Interestingly enough, there's one work-related mini-game that acts like Plinko from the Price is Right. Unfortunately it proves that Plinko is only fun if you have the chance of winning $10,000.
For the most part the mini-games are a mixed lot, some you'll look forward to going back to time and time again, while others are just too boring to keep your attention for long. For the most part these levels won't take more than a few minutes to complete, so you'll never spent too much time doing the same task over and over. The smart way of playing these mini-games is to do one game and then go to another job, that way you won't get that repetitive sensation.
But as I mentioned before, these mini-games are really nothing more than the means to opening up new story levels. The game is split up into twelve different levels, most of which have at least two or three sub-sections for you to play through. Instead of being the kind of game where generic action follows the story from level to level, Bee Movie Game actually manages to throw a few different gameplay mechanics at you from area to area.
Unfortunately the variety of missions isn't as diverse as you might want; it won't take long before you realize that the same game mechanics are used from level to level, only each one getting slightly more difficult. Thankfully these gameplay mechanics are (for the most part) fun to play. All of the basic gameplay goals are introduced fairly early in the game, so expect the first level or two to act a lot like a tutorial mission. From there you'll have all the information you need and will be off on a fairly interesting adventure that will take you from one part of New York City to another.
The first type of level you are introduced to is a flying level where you are stuck on a rail and doing your best to dodge all of the obstacles in your path. The trick to these levels is that you are racing through the city at breakneck speed and making sure not to smack right into a car, tree, human or anything else that gets in your way. To do this you have to follow the giant arrows on the screen, in a lot of ways these levels feel like a slightly more interactive version of the popular Laserdisc game, Dragon's Lair. Thankfully these levels are short, so you never come away feeling like you're just watching a movie and occasionally pushing a button or moving in a direction. In fact, I would argue that these levels are among the most exciting, if only because the game does an excellent job of conveying the speed and danger. While it's nothing more than an animated sequence, these on-rail areas are full of high energy and a lot of fun to play.
Another type of level has you flying around an enclosed world completely tasks and pollinating flowers. This is by far the most prolific type of game in the story mode, so expect to spend a lot of time getting up close and personal with the flowers. The good news is that as the story progresses you'll be asked to do more and more tasks, such as taking photographs, listening in to conversations and even breaking into a secure office building.
On top of the different tasks, sometimes these free-roaming areas have a few variations that completely change how you play them. For example, there are a few levels where you'll have to put up with the rain. Since you're a tiny little bee, getting hit with a raindrop can be hazardous to your health, so you'll need to hide from the rain (be it under cover, under somebody's umbrella, etc.) and then time your moves carefully. To make these missions easier you will be able to slow down time and get sucked into wind currents, both which allow you to easily avoid the dangerous water droplets.
In yet another type of game you will be forced to deal with humans who are looking to bat you away, smash you or destroy you in any way possible. When you are put up against a human you will go into a strange mini-game where you have to fly around the person's face and then avoid the attacks. Thankfully this is easier than it sounds, because the "safe" area is always within reach and the computer warns you that the human is going to attack long before they actually do. Occasionally this type of mission will be included in one of the other levels, not to mention that this human vs. bee mechanic is often the way you fight the game's bosses (including one played by none other than John Goodman).
Another mission you will run into from time to time is the one where you have to protect your hive from attacking insects. At this point the game suddenly turns from an adorable action game, to a pretty hardcore (but still cute) air combat game. While it's nowhere near as deep as Ace Combat 6, these Bee Movie Game levels do a good job of imitating your basic aerial dogfights (only with bees and other insects). Like other air combat games, you can lock on to your enemies and attack, all while avoiding enemy fire by somersaulting and performing all kinds of air-borne acrobatics.
While the levels themselves aren't very long, you may want to go back and play through them after you've beaten the game, if only so that you can collect all of the different items, pollinate all of the flowers and get all of the achievements. If the game was nothing but these story driven levels then you would be looking at a three or four hour experience, but with the addition of the hive and the mini-games the title clocks in at about twice that. Chances are most gamers probably won't want to go back through the levels multiple times (especially if they have already collected all of the achievement points), but young kids may like the experience enough to go back for more.
The Bee Movie Game certainly does look good, but it can't quite reach the level found in the recently released animated movie. Perhaps that's an unfair comparison, since the artists at Dreamworks didn't have to make their characters interactive and give them a fleshed out world. But even thought it doesn't look as good as what you could see in the theater, this Activision game does look pretty darn good. The colors are crisp and all of the graphics are clean and full of life. This is not the kind of game that is about making the most detailed characters and worlds; instead it manages to capture that cartoon feel that it's going for. The game looks like an interactive cartoon, and really that's the only thing you expect from a game like this.
Given how much the movie relied on Jerry Seinfeld, it would have been a shame had the stand-up comedian decided to pass on performing the voice acting for the game. Thankfully that's not the case, because Seinfeld tackles this Bee Movie Game with almost the same energy he provided for the actual movie. There are plenty of funny one-liners and even a few observational jokes. And it's not just Jerry Seinfeld who puts in a good performance; just about everybody else involved with the game manages to hit the right notes. Unfortunately most of the film's cast is not featured in the game, but at the end of the day all you really needed was Jerry Seinfeld and John Goodman.
Fans of the animated movie will have a lot of fun with this game, especially if they're wanting to relive some of their favorite moments from the film. While this is hardly groundbreaking stuff, as a kids' game the Bee Movie Game is definitely enjoyable. For most older gamers this short and innocent romp probably won't pull you away from Call of Duty 4 or Rock Band, but it is a lot better than most of the games based on animated movies. If you're looking an adorable game for the younger set you can't go wrong with this newest game from Activision, and who knows, maybe you'll even have a good time playing it yourself.
Believe it or not the Bee Movie Game is actually a fun little game that does an excellent job of recreating everything that was good about the recent Dreamworks movie. It doesn't do much groundbreaking, but it is a lot better than most people will give it credit for out of hand.