STAFF REVIEW of Bee Movie Game (Xbox 360)

Sunday, November 11, 2007.
by Davilis

Bee Movie Game Box art Activision?s Bee Movie Game allows the gamer to assume the guise of Barry B. Benson in his quest to change his destiny. The licensed game is based on Dreamworks Studio?s Bee Movie, and was actually written and produced by comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The voice talents of Seinfeld and Renee Zellweger are amongst the many that contributed to the game experience. Although movie-based games are no new concept whatsoever, it should be noted that the Bee Movie Game has some genuine charisma all its own. As Barry B. Benson you?ll have the opportunity to drive, race, fly and blast your way through some 20 levels of gameplay and several minigames including an arcade with unlockable spins on classic games like Space Invaders.

Barry, like all bees, was born to work for the Honex Corporation. Every generation of bees were born into the same lot in life, but Barry was destined to become the first to ?break the mold? and explore a different path. Ultimately, Barry would find out just what happens to the precious commodity he and his kind tirelessly toil to produce, and in so doing will discover that there is a significantly larger world beyond the Hive. He will encounter obstacles to his progress like humans, wasps, mosquitoes and rainstorms in his pursuit of the real truth about where all the honey goes. Life in the Hive is much like our real world. The bees have furnished homes complete with one and two car garages; they walk, drive or fly to their various Honex related jobs, and it seems like everyone works together in their collective goal?to make honey.

Barry will be able to try his hand at a good many jobs, not specifically related to Honex, like taxi driver, mechanic, racecar driver or food delivery services. In doing so, you will quickly come to realize that the Hive is actually quite large, and truly challenging for many of the time-based job stages. Successful completion of those stages will yield in-game achievements galore. During your exploration of the Hive and the outside world, gamers will accumulate nectar points and honeycombs for purchasing new outfits based on the available jobs in the game, buying faster cars or unlocking any of the 4 or 5 arcade games. Touring around the Hive is pretty fun stuff, as you can interact with just about everything. Barry can jump into any passing car and take the wheel, jumping out again whenever you please. While near aerodynamically impossible, bee flight is a very cool staple in the game. Barry can hover, barrel roll and strafe in every direction to avoid collisions with incoming wasp squadrons, moving or stationary vehicles, or menacing Beekeepers.

The game controls are fairly straightforward and often context sensitive. Distracting humans requires a steady hand, as you must hover in a specified, highlit area until you are swatted at, requiring evasive maneuvers. The use of the trigger buttons allow flight from walking, and a lock-on targeting capability. Many of the cinema cut scenes require some run-of-the-mill button mashing to dodge or evade attacks, but it does serve to keep you on your toes. In this regard, younger gamers will be easily hooked with the highly polished graphic animation, but will most likely require some aid during the ?surprise? button combination sequences; which, while numerous/tedious, don?t really detract from the game play too much.

Barry must learn to use two specialized bee abilities for game success: bee reflexes and bee vision. Bee reflexes can be enabled for a finite slowing of time, nearly stopped in fact, to navigate the gigantic raindrops in the outer Hive world (mostly New York city). A hexagonal indicator empties over approximately 15-20 seconds, gauging Barry?s remaining reflex effect time to find cover from rain, or avoid an incoming human/insect attack of some description. Bee vision is essentially infrared highlighting points of level interest and/or visible enemies. A note on the bee reflex sequences, while the graphic effect is nothing we?ve not seen before cinematically (Matrix bullet blur etc), its use for the rainstorm sequences is particularly well done, as you truly gain some perspective as to how daunting rain might truly be when you?re scarcely an inch long! You?ll howl with delight riding wind currents for a virtual roller coaster feeling.

The Bee Movie Game doesn?t really offer any Xbox Live mode to speak of, save leaderboards to compare your scores with others. There is support for 1-2 player head-to-head racing action, but the majority of the action is solo. Armed with your trusty Pollenator, the gun given to you by the ?Flyboys?, you must extract pollen from healthy flowers to spray on the withering ones in the outside world gardens and city streets. The target locking ability can be both helpful and hindering depending on one?s gaming style; but the overall mechanics are solid. Barry will also need to utilize that same ability for picture taking in the outer world, for higher point scores and some level-related ?proof? of what?s going on outside the Hive for his peers.

The game graphics are really stunning, insofar as feeling immersed in the game theatrics. The game animation makes it easy to forget your not watching the movie! Seamless transitions from walking to running or flying; effective use of shading and reflectivity all add up to a good deal of eye candy. In fact, while the Hive looks pretty good by all accounts, it?s the outside world that really grabs your (and Barry?s) attention. Again, the raindrop effect just has to be mentioned as particularly striking. The bee reflex ability slows the rain to a sea of hanging water globes, which Barry must weave over, under and around to sustain as little damage as possible. Flying through the globes will slow you significantly, using up precious reflex time. Upon finding cover under city awnings, garbage cans and café umbrellas, Barry?s reflex meter will quickly refill for the next use. Wind currents are depicted as swirling elongated tubes with directional arrows encircling within them, and really help to speed you along your path.

The aerial engagements with wasps or mosquitoes are awfully fun, and after some practice with timing your Pollenator shots, you?ll be dropping enemies right, left and center. Flight controls are a little on the clunky side, but then again, so is bumblebee flight!! Barrel rolls look cool, and can actually help save your hide from time to time, since you?re a bee?not a hummingbird, and as such cannot turn on a dime. It?s also useful for evading attacking humans, in close-up ?irritation? mode.

The game audio is excellent, with much of the movie soundtrack ported directly into the game. It?s a real boon that the original voice talents agreed to reprise their roles for the game, granted nobody but Seinfeld really sounds like Seinfeld? Environmental sounds are as they should be, from the metallic din of rainfall on awnings, to the wet slapping sound on bare pavement.

The Bee Movie Game has eye-catching graphics, great sound and music with enough authentic gameplay to appeal to gamers of all ages. A solid effort here, despite the generally bad rap that movie-based games entail. This will garner the most attention from kids 6-12, but has enough minigame variety to entertain all ages.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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