One of the great parts of working at EGM is getting the chance to play a lot of video games that I might not have the chance (or cash) to try otherwise. The downside to that, however, is that spending time with one game might mean I miss out on another.
With my time recently consumed by the one-two punch of Death Stranding and Google Stadia, I didn’t have the chance to check out a few smaller releases that I was also curious about—most notably, Bigben Interactive and Varsav Game Studios’ Bee Simulator. After growing up rather terrified of the little yellow and black flying insects—and, specifically, their stingers—I’ve grown quite interested in them in recent years. Part of it has been worry over the issue of colony collapse that has continued to get worse, but another part has been an attempt to swap my fear of certain things in life with understanding.
So, even if I’d be coming to it quite late, the idea of a game that would let me live the life of a bee sounded like an intriguing experience—especially one that focused more on the “simulation” side of life in the hive. That’s where Bee Simulator’s first problem instantly crops up, however. In the running for “Worst Game Title of 2019,” Bee Simulator is absolutely not a simulator. There’s no deep hive management, no complex balancing of resources, no ability to swap between different roles such as worker, forager, or even queen, nor any complex mechanic for heading out into the world to collect pollen.
Instead, Bee Simulator is a game skewed to a far younger audience, one where your bee—”Beescuit” as mine ended up called thanks to the game’s random name generator—heads out into the world to have adventures, complete minigames, stockpile honey (simply by flying through markers atop flowers), and progress through an admittedly simple story. Nothing in Bee Simulator is ever toocomplex, the controls are nowhere near polished enough, and the whole thing isn’t particularly well written narrative-wise. It’s all a pretty basic experience, one that was clearly made on a smaller budget for the lower tier of the video game market.
The thing is, where I might be tempted to write off a lot of other similar games as “shovelware”—and a number of reviewers out there definitely have given this one some very low scores—there’s something kind of endearing in Bee Simulator’s jankiness. It feels like there’s a genuine earnestness in what the dev team tried to do here, even if some of those efforts turned out mediocre or even terrible at times. And, I mean, how many other games are even attempting to give players a look into something like the life of your average bee, building gameplay around the mundaneness that comes along with that? As many knocks as it has against it, Bee Simulator is a unique, kid-friendly experience (that also tries to teach a bit of a lesson at the same time). I feel like I’d honestly rather have my daughters play a game like this than some of the other total schlock that’s dumped into the children’s market every year—and it’d be a good lesson for them in appreciating that games don’t always have to be incredible to be interesting.
But—there’s a small part of me that wants to recommend the game to brave adult gamers out there as well, because Bee Simulator morphs into a completely insane fever dream at times.
During the time I spent with the game, I:
- had conversations with other bees that have some of the weirdest voice acting I’ve heard in a while
- had one-on-one turn-based fights with wasps
- participated in waggle dance minigames to learn the location of things
- spoke to a conspiracy-obsessed squirrel
- terrorized balloons
- was hit with a Game of Thrones reference
- was threatened by humans with chainsaws
- found out that I can unlock skins—for my bee
It’s hard for me to explain just how strange playing Bee Simulator can be, especially as it flew further and further away from the expectations I had going in. It’s not a game I can necessarily recommend to a lot of players in any age group, as it’s definitely not as good as it could or should have been in nearly any category. And yet, I have to give it credit for daring to be different in a market of sameness, asking me to play a bee trying to save her world from destruction by heading out into the wilderness, collecting and delivering materials while a story filled with unusual characters unfolds.
I guess what I’m saying is, Bee Simulator is the Death Stranding of children’s video games. If only I’d thought of naming my bee “Norman Beetus” sooner.
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI. Check her out on Twitter and Mastodon.