Nov 5, 2007
The "ordinary" can often be unusual in a gaming industry full of complicated concepts, which is why the idea of playing as a bee seems so appealing. Imagine freely exploring the Manhattan setting created for Spider-Man 3, but as a miniscule insect facing exponentially larger structures, vehicles and challenges. Sounds potentially awesome, but that's not what Bee Movie Game is all about.
In fact, Spider-Man 3 may actually be Bee Movie Game's closest modern contemporary, but for all the wrong reasons. Its single-player campaign, which closely follows the plot of the titular Jerry Seinfeld CG flick, is bogged down by seemingly endless timed-button-press "cineractives," along with several other disparate play elements that never quite congeal into a cohesive experience. And without a massive, vertical environment to entertain and distract players between missions, Bee Movie Game nearly flatlines under the weight of bland gameplay and an artificially lengthened campaign.
Bee Movie Game starts off in the hive (New Hive City), which is like a yellow-heavy miniature version of Grand Theft Auto. As Barry B. Benson, players can hover around (but not fly), take and drive any car in sight, and embark on jobs (minigames), such as catching falling honeycombs, driving a taxi, or racing cars.
But leaving the beehive for story missions offers mixed results, as there's no core, fleshed-out gameplay element that defines the experience. Between pollinating flowers, shooting down dragonflies, distracting humans, dodging cars or animals and navigating through stormy weather, there's no consistency to the gameplay, presentation, or quality of the missions. Despite high notes (avoiding rain drops in slow motion and dodging traffic), a hyper-reliance on timed button presses and a series of painful human interactions drain much of the fun from the experience.
Presentational issues appear across the board in all of the console versions, especially when transitioning between the in-game footage and CG clips that bookend the missions. While a bit structurally bland, the Xbox 360 iteration benefits from sharp textures and a shininess that seems right at home inside the hive. Though its visuals can't compare to the CG concocted for the film, Bee Movie Game does an admirable job of maintaining the atmosphere of the source material, including the occasional chuckle-inducing zinger.
Bee Movie Game stings itself in the foot by forcefully inserting minigames into the campaign, as players must complete jobs between missions to advance the storyline. It extends the otherwise four-hour campaign into the seven or eight hour range, but kills any momentum the narrative might have had. We don't mind messing around with the extra content, but give us a say in the matter - don't force us to play the minigames to expand the already-uninspiring campaign. It's sloppy game design, and it drags Bee Movie Game even further into the mud.