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Bee Movie Game

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:

There's no question that the newest crop of licensed games on every platform look and sound like the real thing. Processor overhead gets cheaper, screens get brighter, and graphic artists must be plentiful. Even a game of little consequence can get a star treatment, so imagine the creative horsepower behind a license like Bee Movie. Top-shelf movies don't necessarily get top-shelf development talent. Vicarious Visions, the developer attached to the Bee Movie Game have lent their skills to many games with mixed results. The vast majority are licensed titles and licensed titles just have a tendency to be formulaic claptrap with a slapped-on veneer that convince impressionable children and their parents to part with their cash.

The front-end of things in the Bee Movie Game looks like a top-down Platformer and there are some simplified mini-games used to power-up Barry. Music is everywhere in the game and has a surprisingly grand sound for something coming out of tiny speakers. The light, pop-style tunes keep things light, but there isn't nearly enough variety and one can only listen to so much energized music before reaching to turn down the volume. The sound effects in the main Story Mode and in the mini-games set the tone; further exploration uncovers some enemies and objects in the environments that have good, realistic sound effects. Sound and vision play a role in solving some of the puzzles in the game; it's at this point that we can say it would be nice to have more detailed visuals in order to keep treasure-hunt style games from becoming frustrating. It can be hard to find landmarks amidst the washed-out background colors and rough textures.


Gameplay:

The classic book "Bulfinch's Mythology" recalls Aeneas touring the Infernal Regions (aka Tartarus - the closest thing Greeks had to Hell) and catching a glimpse of Sisyphus engaged in the eternal labor of rolling a rock up a hill. Just as Sisyphus reached the crest of the hill the rock would mysteriously fall down and the work would begin again. Mythology includes several accounts of how Sisyphus was punished for being a bit too crafty and smart for his own good by being condemned to a lifetime of futile work.

It would be easy to say that the Bee Movie Game will become your own little Sisyphean exercise, but then we'd have to condemn a lot of games that ask players to engage in too much pointless repetition. Let's face it, the repetition does have some point. If you don't collect x number of objects, you'll never be able to open that door, win that star, save that princess, etc. The Bee Movie Game isn't all that different than many games, but like many games it fails to transcend the "treasure hunt" mentality and find some real purpose.

There are elements of the movie scattered through the Bee Movie Game. Little cut-scenes reference specific parts of the movie to anchor what's happening in the game to events from the film. Kids will dig this and there's no denying the appeal of exploring locations from the movie as a 3D character. The frustrating thing is being thrown into a series of tasks and quests with very little preparation. Barry is looking for his future and wants to get into the pollen-jock crowd. As he embarks on these adventures, he finds that he needs to train and increase his speed, stamina, and strength. The currency for training is pollen that can be collected in various parts of the game. At the point where Barry starts training, he'll mostly be out collecting pollen in order to train up enough to access places with more pollen. It's a decent way to kill some time, but it is one of the most circular styles of play out there. Barry grows slightly more powerful and gets to explore a few new areas, but nothing that really feels like a big enough reward. The game ends and you're kind of like, "Okay, on to the next game," instead of feeling like you want to play it again. Don't worry about playing with a friend, because you can't.


Difficulty:

There isn't much challenge for gamers of five years or more to be had in Bee Movie Game. Virtually no special moves are required, and the "rules" of each area only need explaining/reading once before even the youngest kids will commit them to memory. Charging up Barry's health and power is ridiculously simple. Avoiding enemies isn't much more difficult, but it is tricky to maintain perfect health since Barry doesn't have very robust defense or offense when paired against a dog, bird, or carnivorous plant. So he runs, of course. Barry does have basic offensive abilities like dropping objects on enemies. The ability to launch a high-powered burst of flight and lift off to greater heights will protect Barry against some enemies but open him to others. Enemy A.I. and the design of each level is reasonably well thought out, but there just isn't enough game here and no multiplayer. Replay value is almost zilch and once you've attained a high enough level, you won't have any reason to return to play earlier levels.

Game Mechanics:

Bee Movie Game doesn't take advantage of the touch-screen anywhere other than mini-games. It's a shame that we really only use the lower screen as a dashboard until it's time for a mini-game. The mini-games are training and don't pop up as often as we'd like. One involved dragging a shape across several targets while avoiding obstacles. Another has you tracing shapes on the touch-screen for points. The final game is a color-matching game where you tap targets as they move around and change color. Strange that these games use touch almost exclusively and most other parts of the Bee Movie Game don't do more than ask for an occasional press of the (A) button. When you aren't pressing the (A) button, you're exploring by looking at a map on the lower screen that comes in handy. Targets, enemies, and friendly characters are charted on the map for location and you then have an easy way to track them down. The other visible items on the interface are pieces of collected pollen and gauges showing your health and boost.

Bee Movie Game is really uninspired, but it most likely will sell to kids that enjoyed the movie. Following characters and locations from the film may please some of the younger kids, and they're surely the only ones with the patience to do some of the repetitive work collecting pollen. After I got a look at how things were going to work, I put my four year-old to work harvesting pollen non-stop so I could cash it in later for fun stuff like mini-game challenges. He had no problem navigating using the D-pad and even was able to nail the easier mini-games. Somehow I can't see many gamers enjoying the fairly pointless gameplay contained here and the lack of extensive touch features. Bee Movie Game may not qualify as Sisyphean, but you come back and tell me how you're feeling after you cashed in 1,000 pollen (after collecting them in increments of 10!!) and found out you need another 1,500 to get to the next skill level.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Microsoft Xbox 360 Timeshift Microsoft Xbox 360 Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation

 
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