Does this pretty platformer have what it takes to compete with Mario and Rayman? j00ny |\/|3tt5 puts down his ends and hits you back on the first with his full review. Second page of score explanations...at no extra cost!
Pinobee is one of those games that seem to hold so much potential, but end up being just so-so. It is the very first project to come from Artoon, a Japanese developer containing many people who worked on the Sonic the Hedgehog series before. That doesn’t mean Pinobee is a Sonic-killer or anything, and to be fair, it isn’t meant to be. Think of a Mario game’s pacing combined with Sonic’s level designs, and you’ll have a much better idea of how Pinobee comes across.
The story is intended to be a modern adaptation of the Pinocchio legend. The idea of a robotic bee who must save his creator and find a heart of his own is actually a pretty foundation to work with. Unfortunately, the plot progression goes kerplunk thanks to the lack of visual cut-scenes and the over-presence of Pinobee’s ridiculous diary entries. Here’s a fun little example:
Cricket ambushed me! He started scolding me again... I hate being scolded by him, so I stung him. That shut him up.Ahhhh...that explains everything! Come on Activision, I can appreciate that you wanted to rewrite the script and give it a bit of flair, but this stuff is totally unnecessary and only serves to confuse the player. What’s really sad is that this particular diary entry appears if you happen to dash into Cricket before he finishes talking to you. Fine, but Cricket looks almost exactly like the enemies, and his “dialogue” with Pinobee consists of some exclamation and question marks flying through the air. If not for the instruction manual, I wouldn’t even know who Cricket is, and even with that I’m not sure why he’s in the story or just what the heck he’s telling Pinobee. Some levels have multiple diary entries depending on your performance, but unless you have a fetish for childish rambling that doesn’t pertain to the plot at all, I can’t imagine why you’d care.
Okay, story schmory, you just want some handheld platforming gameplay. The good news is that Pinobee is much better at dishing out action than drama. The hero basically has two moves: he can dash in the air, and he can climb on walls. Both are exploited heavily throughout the game, but that’s all you’re getting. Ability upgrades from the fairy chick simply add another dash, and it doesn’t much matter after the fifth or sixth one. For younger players, the one-button control scheme and simple mechanics will be just fine. Gamers looking for something deeper can keep on looking. The later levels do present a decent level of challenge, and environmental hazards eventually become a major concern, but the game is still essentially just dashing and climbing. It gets old in a hurry.
At least the graphics keep things varied. Each world (consisting of two or three levels) has a distinctive flavor of map design, and each also has a unique visual tone. Some stages are bright, sunny, and carefree, while others take place underground and in factories and go for a more claustrophobic, creepy feeling. Ok, “creepy” is a stretch, but you get the idea. Pinobee’s heavily pre-rendered sprites against gorgeous hand-drawn backgrounds convey a pretty unusual style, making the game’s graphics one of its best aspects. Every level has at least two or three backgrounds fed through the parallax scrolling engine, and while the effect can be slightly distracting amidst air dashes, it’s still quite appreciated. The sound hasn’t fared so well, and I really recommend putting on some Boston or Spinal Tap as opposed to listening to the game’s ONE gameplay song.
Is Pinobee worth your money? For most people, no...just rent it if you're curious. Although there is some true challenge to be found and almost thirty big levels to explore, it’s the game’s long-term appeal and freshness that seem to have flown the coop. The sum of Pinobee’s gameplay experience could have been packed into five levels...instead, it sprawls across some five or so hours of playing time that just seem to drag on most of the time. Still, if you’re a huge platforming nut or looking to get a game for the little sibling, Pinobee is definitely solid and easily digestible.