I would like to get the usual rant about the weakness of video game film interpretations out of the way quickly. We all know that if you consider yourself a serious gamer you’re not gonna buy this game, just as you didn’t buy the official games of Shrek or Over the Hedge. However, if someone you love really, really enjoyed the film, or possibly Jerry Seinfeld, you could do a lot worse than buying him or her Bee Movie for Christmas.
Unlike other thoughtless, hurriedly created polygon versions of your favorite CGI flicks, Bee Movie actually strives for a certain level of quality. You play as Barry B Benson (voiced by Seinfeld), a citizen of ‘New Hive City’ who knows there must be something more to life than collecting honey. This leads to a new job as a ‘pollen jockey’, giving Benson the opportunity to explore the vast, human world outside the hive.
Bee Movie is essentially a series of mini-games based around the major chapters in the film. These mini-games have clear (but very simplified) inspirations – Crazy Taxi, Mario Kart, even GTA all get a nod here. Elements of GTA are particularly evident in the sandbox sprawl of New Hive City, where Barry can hitch a ride in any car and talk to any character he pleases. Kids will have fun just messing about in the city, racing other bees and chatting with various NYC stereotypes. Outside the hive, your main mission is to collect pollen with the ‘flyboys’, but the real fun to be had is avoiding giant bikes, kites and other human inventions which complicate a bee’s life. Ariel combat is also a fun feature, a simplified Warhawk of sorts as you target wasps and mosquitos with a reticule and go hell for leather with your pollen extractor gun (I guess the real method of pollen extraction was just too gross for the G-rating).
The gameplay can get repetitive at times with far too many ‘collect the item’ missions, and the game on the whole is ridiculously simple; in particular I have never experienced such inept CPU drivers in the race-car mini-games. If you’re a wee tyke this shouldn’t really bother you – there is a certain satisfaction to winning things so easily without having to tackle fiddly controls designed by ambitious uber-geeks. For anyone over the age of 12 I’m afraid to say you WILL clock this game within a few hours, but it’s got a satisfying conclusion and you’ll come out feeling a little bit more empathetic towards our pollen-spewing friends.
The graphics in the game aren’t going to tax your system by any stretch, in particular the endlessly similar houses and roads in New Hive City fail to impress. Outside the Hive, the bright vibrant human world fares a lot better, and the developers are keen to point this out by arming Barry with a camera so he can take photos of his majestic surroundings. It’s a noticeable shame however that the breathtaking graphics in recent CGI films have consistently not translated into their gaming counterparts. I’m looking forward to the day when I can play as Shrek and actually see the texture of his ugly green mug.
Bee Movie has a lot of charm, and with Seinfeld himself lending his voice to little Barry, fans of his trademark delivery will smile more than once. It’s a game that has a lot of spirit, and it’s refreshing to play something so happily basic and fancy-free in amongst all the chillingly realistic next-gen games. I can see kids having a real blast with this game, so if you’re looking for something simple, innocent and lip-smackingly sweet for a younger friend, get a hold of it over other the other movie franchise-driven muck out there.