Simulator games have become all the rage in recent years. We’ve been graced with Farming Simulator, Construction Simulator, Forklift Simulator, even Goat Simulator. Now, Bee Simulator is tossing its hat into the ring. While it certainly isn’t going to set the world of fire, Bee Simulator on the Nintendo Switch is a fun little adventure game the whole family can enjoy.
Not A Hardcore Simulator
The first thing I noticed about Bee Simulator is that it isn’t out to “bee” a true simulator. Collecting pollen is done by flying through glowing hoops, combat is performed via quick-time events, and you can even outfit your bee with a variety of different hats. If you were looking for a deep dive into the management of a beehive — well, this just isn’t it.
Instead, Bee Simulator offers up an educational adventure that is thoroughly enjoyable despite its many flaws. The loading screens are packed with fun facts about bees, aiming to educate its audience about these insects that are crucial to our planet. The gameplay tries to toe the line between being factually correct and being fun to play, and usually succeeds. However, some missions are unnecessarily boring — having to save bees from a cave rapidly devolves into nothing more than slowly flying around and then performing a few quick-time events. This carries on for a solid ten minutes before you can finally get back to some interesting gameplay.
Enjoyable Despite Its Flaws
Even though the story is short and can be completed in a day, it’s constantly bogged down by these tedious missions. The game is at its best when you are left to your own devices and allowed to explore the world around your hive. Of course, once you beat the game this is all that’s left for you to do. I’d argue that the game really begins after you beat it.
Before you can do that, however, you’ll have to slog through the main story. The plot revolves around a beehive that is under attack from humans — the tree playing host to the colony is going to be cut down! So, the Queen needs to find a suitable place to relocate. After performing several pollen runs, your honeybee is tasked with helping in the search for a new hive location.
The game features eight different chapters, but they become sorely repetitive after the first few. The story itself isn’t an issue and is fun to watch unfold — it’s the gameplay that stagnates. There are three primary gameplay mechanics that the game relies on. These are chases, combat, and collecting pollen. A few other mechanics do make an appearance, but you’ll quickly notice these three “mission types” make up the majority of the story.
To add to the frustrations, Bee Simulator also has a wildly uneven difficulty curve. One early chase had to be repeated five times before I eventually beat it, while later chases were a walk in the park by comparison. For a game that is supposed to be kid-oriented, this difficulty spike right out of the gate seemed out of place.
Although the game design is inconsistent, the art direction is consistently fantastic. The world is absolutely charming to look at, even if the Switch version did take a significant hit in visual quality compared to its PC and console siblings (something that is evident as soon as you come across your first human). The cutscenes are wonderfully animated and look like a children’s book come to life. As you make your way through the story you are greeted with dozens of these clips, and they were the highlight of the story mode.
Let Me Be A Bee!
During my entire playthrough, I kept waiting for the game to give me some freedom and let me roam around HoneyPark — the Bee Simulator version of Central Park. While I certainly had the option to go off and do my own thing while playing through the story, the game doesn’t encourage it right away. Thankfully, once the short main quest is complete, you’re free to explore until your heart’s content.
Side quests are scattered throughout the world and come in a variety of forms, such as stinging a bully or collecting pollen. Certain side quests will unlock new cosmetic options for your bee, making them a fun way to spend your time in the park. I’d argue that the bigger draw is simply buzzing around HoneyPark and seeing what sort of trouble you can cause. Players are given the ability to sting everything they come across — birds, balloons, or the face of a human. Many of these interactions are tracked in the form of feats, giving you a tangible reason to go out and see what mischief you can cause.
The Bees Knees
There are a few other things that keep the game interesting once the story is finished. The music is composed by Mikolaj Stroinski, the same person responsible for the wonderful soundtrack of The Witcher 3. Buzzing around HoneyPark is more enjoyable when you have a great accompanying score, and I found myself simply flying through the flowers for no reason other than to enjoy the music.
The game also features a split-screen mode that allows for some fun couch co-op. This might be useful for parents who want to enjoy the game with their children, but the main attraction is still the Free Fight mode at the end of the main story.
Once Stung, Twice Shy?
Bee Simulator is a surprisingly fun game, but makes too many odd design choices throughout the short experience. Repetitive missions, over-simplistic gameplay, and an overall lack of depth hold the game back from becoming something great. As it stands, Bee Simulator is a good game for the entire family to enjoy and relax with, but targeting a younger audience doesn’t give it a free pass for all of its issues.
A Switch copy of Bee Simulator was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Bee Simulator is now available for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows