It hurts when I bee.
I haven’t even seen Bee Movie yet, and I’m already sick of it. Jerry Seinfeld’s "TV Juniors" pop up on NBC every fifteen minutes, and one of my favorite shows, 30 Rock, shamelessly hawked the film during its season premier. And then, of course, you’ve got the games on every platform known to man. They’re resurrecting the Dreamcast for a port! [Editor's Note: Not really.] While you may have seen my colleague’s earlier review of the Wii version, I can assure you that Bee Movie Game for Nintendo DS is just as, if not more, boring as its console counterpart.
Just like all the other versions, you take control of Benny B. Benson, a bee who wants desperately to become a "Pollen Jockey," which means collecting pollen for his hive, New Hive City. The player is thrust right into this dramatic event, as Benny is on his way to jock training. But wait, before you get with the pollen collecting, you have to engage in menial tasks. True, these tasks basically set you up for the entirety of the gameplay, but after mastering the game’s initial fifteen minutes, you will have all the skills you need to beat the game. That, my friends, is not promising.
What Bee Movie Game amounts to is a series of boring fetch-quests. You are thrust from one fetch quest to another, often with mindless fetch-questing in between main fetch quests so that you can earn enough pollen (money) to train with the jockeys for the umpteenth time so that you can level up your skill set…which just means access to newer fetch quests. The typical gameplay segment unfolds as follows:
1) Get assigned a task, like collecting so many doodads. Collect those doodads while avoiding dogs, frogs, birds, water, and various other bee-killing organisms.
2) Report back to whoever gave you task. Go find the next guy to give you a task.
3) Find out that your skill set isn’t up to par with the requirements of the new task.
4) Grind for pollen by smacking your face into red flowers over and over again.
5) Go train with the jockey teams (more on this later). Level up your skills sufficiently to be accepted for the new tasks.
6) Go collect a bunch of doodads.
This is basically the entire game. And when I say "grind for pollen," I mean that you smack your head into plants to make pollen fly out, which you then collect. This wouldn’t be so horrible if each training session didn’t cost 500 pollen bucks. If I have to spend between five and ten minutes smacking my head into flowers repeatedly, only to be "rewarded" with a 30-second mini-game, I’m not a happy camper!
The mini-games themselves are sort of interesting. In one, you must keep track of two bouncing balls, tapping them only when they turn blue. In another, you draw a line trace a line quickly on the Touch Screen. These mini-games are generally fun, but they never last very long, and the rewards are barely worthwhile. The most interesting gameplay aspect comes from the "three tier" system of flying. When Benny is outside, you can press X or B to switch from low to medium to high flight paths (well, after you’ve trained enough). Certain areas can only be reached at the higher altitudes, and each tier has its own dangers. If only the gameplay involved something other than slave labor, this would be an interesting game mechanic. I can easily see a shooter-type game being built around the three-tier system, or even a simplistic racing game.
The different levels are interspersed with cut-scenes in which a news reporter bee interviews Benny about his adventure. This is how the story is told. I could care less, because each new level just brings new boring fetch quests to complete. As in "ooh, now instead of collecting special pollen, I’m collecting candy." It eventually becomes ridiculous in its repetitiousness.
At least the game looks pretty good. Everything is in 3D, albeit low-res 3D. Benny animates very well, especially during the mini-game cut-scenes. The colors, however, tend to be bland and boring, and the camera could’ve been pulled back a little more. There is an interesting depth illusion in the hive itself. Jerry Seinfeld even does some extremely limited voice work, providing the "oofs," "wahoos," and "ouch" effects for when Benny gets eaten by a sparrow or he completes a fetch-quest. But my favorite comedian can’t save this rushed DS tie-in. I’ve heard good things about the movie, but I can’t recommend the game.