Reviewed: December 5, 2007
Released: October 30, 2007
Bee Movie is Dreamworks’ newest animated blockbuster starring (and written by) the great Jerry Seinfeld. It tells the tale of Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld) and his life and times in the metropolis of New Hive City. The movie has had a rather warm reception by the critics, but it is finding itself still in the shadow of the fellow studio releases from the Shrek series.
As every animated movie these days seems deserving of its rightful videogame, we have been presented with the Bee Movie Game for the Wii. With equal parts Mr. Mosquito, Crazy Taxi, and Grand Theft Auto, The Bee Movie Game takes the motion-sensing abilities of the Wii remote and nunchuk controller, and translates them to a host of day-to-day bee activities like pollinating flowers, fighting off wasps, and driving bee-sized taxicabs around the streets of New Hive City.
The result will feel a bit vanilla for most gamers, but young children are going to dig the pseudo-freeform gameplay and involving controls.
The Bee Movie Game takes a slightly different approach to the gameplay than most of the traditional licensed movie-to-game crossovers tend to do. Whereas developers tend to either mimic the events of the movie using linear platforming levels, or apply the characters to a party-game style atmosphere, Bee Movie places our anthophilian friends in an open world setting much like Grand Theft Auto. Only without all the naughty stuff, and still maintaining a cohesive central storyline.
The premise of the game is simple; the story-driven events of the game ultimately take place after the movie, and in the form of flashbacks from our hero, Barry B. Benson. There are 21 central missions to be completed, which have Barry leaving the confines of New Hive City for the human world (New York) and performing bee-duties like pollinating flowers, collecting honey, and eradicating the skies of menacing wasps. Barry must avoid interaction with humans and their vehicles as he travels the city on a quest to find out why humans are constantly stealing the bees’ stores of honey.
Surrounding the central storyline are a host of minigame activities ranging from a dead-on knockoff of Crazy Taxi, to a honey collection minigame that plays like a movie theater candy-crane. There is even an arcade that features bee-friendly one-offs of popular 80’s games like Galaxian and Frogger.
New Hive City is filled with traffic and pedestrians, highways, byways, stores and shopping centers. Most is just there simply to fill the screen and not very interactive, but there are random side quests and “jobs” that Barry can perform to gain some cash.
We couldn’t talk about a Wii game without mentioning the controls, and the developers have done a commendable job integrating the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii remote and nunchuk into the flying, shooting, and pollinating sequences. Some motions are harder to master than others; the flying is particularly difficult, as motions don’t seem to transfer well given the isometric perspective. Driving is a bit touchy using the Wii analog stick, but a few laps around the streets of New Hive City and things begin to feel a bit more natural.
The Bee Movie Game gets the job done on the visual end, but it definitely doesn’t match some of the other current generation releases. While it does offer full 480p widescreen support, the in-game backgrounds look flat and muddy, and the character models are unimpressive. When the bee-suited Mario in Super Mario Galaxy looks more bee-like than a bee in The Bee Movie Game, you know we are in for trouble, eh?
In fact, the whole game looks like it would fit in perfectly with last generation’s GameCube games, and even the pre-rendered cutscenes lack the polish one would expect from a top-billed Dreamworks crossover – which comes as a surprise given the attention to detail given to past Shrek console titles.
Nobody can knock the top-notch voiceovers from the original cast, up to and including Jerry Seinfeld himself. It is quite a feat for developers to land the real deal original cast members these days, much less the caliber of Jerry Seinfeld, and even if a majority of the lines are rehashed a bazillion times it is thoroughly enjoyable.
The sound effects are decent at emulating an honest big-city sound, and the music is very fitting of the action onscreen.
The Bee Movie Game is definitely geared towards younger children, and the difficulty is tuned appropriately. Other than the steep learning curve required for many of the motions, most missions can be completed on the first try with little or no effort. This will definitely turn older gamers off, but it is nice for parents and children to pass the controller back and forth and work through the story – much more enjoyable than the minimal multiplayer minigame offerings.
Although the main story will only take a few hours to complete, there are enough mini-games and arcade classics to keep younger gamers interested for quite some time.
The Bee Movie Game is a very competent movie crossover that can easily stand on its own gameplay. Older gamers will tire of the repetitive mini-games and missions, but younger kids will get a kick out of mastering the awkward controls.
Really, the only things holding The Bee Movie Game back are some dated graphics and repetitive gameplay issues.