Every once in a great while a game comes along that completely nails its source material. With licensed games this is even harder to come by as most developers creating titles for the younger demographic somehow associate the word younger with ignorant. This is certainly not the case with Beenox (was that intentional?) and Activision’s latest licensed game based on a hit CGI animated film Bee Movie. Combining some clever level designs, interesting mini-games and truly superb visuals Bee Movie Game is the definition of how to make a great licensed game without the large amounts of terrible that usually accompany them.
What makes Bee Movie work is that developer Beenox has compiled so many different game types that gel really well with the content. There is an overall hub that feels like an open world game complete with side jobs and small distractions to keep you occupied, but it’s once you leave the hive that the game really starts to take shape. The beauty here is that none of parts feel overly tedious and you are never doing any one thing long enough to grow tired of it. Whether you are moving from flower to flower extracting pollination to repair other flowers or participating in a quick time button press mini-game there is always something to keep the action moving.
Once you break away from the hive and get out into the open world environments you will really begin to appreciate just how well-paced the game is. Most of these levels consist of pollinating dead flowers and shooting down enemy dragonflies and wasps. There are also some levels where you are required to move from safe zone to safe zone through bouts of pouring rain. This is where some of your special abilities come into play. The first is Bee Vision which emits a purple hue over the entire game world showing you hidden items and objectives littered about the game world.
This power is extremely important, especially to those of you out there who are obsessed with collecting every single item a game has to offer. This will allow you to scan all areas to make sure you didn’t miss anything along the way. The second power is what I like to call Bee Bullet Time, and from the name you can pretty much guess what it does. This power allows Barry to slow down time to move from between safe spots in some of the rain levels. The effect of watching rain drops fall in slow motion is actually really cool, which makes it all the more disappointing that there is little time to enjoy it as the power usually only lasts long enough for Barry to move from one spot to the other.
As I mentioned already collection plays a huge role in Bee Movie. In addition to the traditional level-specific honey snacks there are also hidden items. Every level has specific areas where you can snap a photo thus unlocking some concept art as well as some statues to collect. The environments are somewhat interactive, but for the majority of your adventure you will be spending time pollinating, eliminating and collecting which sounds tedious in theory but executed so well you will hardly notice the game’s clichés.
Not all is sweet in the land of honey though as there are some parts that truly drag down the overall experience. For starters while the core game is so well designed not quite as much thought and care was spent on the side jobs and tasks. These range from boring, slow-paced races that literally take no skill to win, to knock-offs of classic arcade titles such as Frogger and Space Invaders. While it isn’t uncommon to offer these distractions it is appreciated if you can actually make them enjoyable. Sadly that is not the case here which is further proof of just how strong the single-player campaign really is.
Visually Bee Movie is competent while not being overly impressive at the same time. The differences between the Xbox 360 and Wii are readily apparent but nothing that should sway your decision. Textures are of course smoother on Microsoft’s console and the addition of fur and reflections on the rain drops are a nice touch, but honestly not something you will take much notice of. This game is designed for kids and as it stands it works on all levels. The look and feel of the movie is readily apparent and the lip-syncing is truly impressive.
Character animation is also very well done which compliments the outstanding voice work. This is thanks in most part to the fact that most of the same voices from the movie are present in the game. I just wish, for one second that I could hear Barry say “What’s the deal with this Bee Movie?” that would be classic. The music works for the most part but feels more like an afterthought than an actual score, but everything else looks and feels just like its Hollywood counterpart and that is a very, very good thing.
It’s hard not to appreciate what developer Beenox has done here as most licensed games are given very little attention from publishers. Bee Movie is a solid game that remains true to the license while actually producing a fantastic experience for players both young and old. The core game is well designed and superbly paced even if the side quests and mini-games feel a bit tacked on. If you are a fan of the movie I highly recommend giving this game a whirl and if your kids have fallen in love with Barry Bee Benson I couldn’t think of a better way to let them interact with their favorite characters. Bee Movie Game sets a new bar on how licensed games should be handled so all developers and publishers take note. Kids deserve great games too.