In early 2019 a game released on PC by a man named Brian Wilson called “Where the bees make honey.” A year or so later and this title is released on Nintendo Switch after a previous release on other home consoles. The game is difficult to place because of its variety of different, genre spanning, elements, but is best described as a puzzle platformer with similarities to “Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker” by Nintendo. Unfortunately though, this is not the talk of the hive.
Before we go further, it should be noted that WTBMH is developed by one student, in his spare time, using crowdfunding to get a project off the ground. This in itself is a commendable undertaking, but does not detract from the final product. WTBMH has you playing as young woman toiling away in a call center, which for some reason everyone else has abandoned and she is working alone? You are then sent on what is a pointless and inconsequential item gathering quest which provides no real exposition.
This is technically a vignette to the main game proper. As the woman reminisces about her childhood, various other scenes open up for the player. These can be single photos, short clips or some other form of mini game. In between these experiences is a well thought out and at times challenging isometric puzzle platform game. These levels play out very similarly to Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, whereby you traverse the small diorama like levels collecting honeycomb medallions; once all three have been collected you can progress to the next level. The basic premise is that Sunny’s bee costume enables her to rotate the world which opens up new ways of seeing and accessing the puzzle.
These portions of the game are quite fun and challenging, forcing the player to go back and forth with their camera views to see what sections of the puzzle have moved and how that can help or hinder Sunny from reaching the medals. The biggest issue with these is that they are short and nowhere near enough to make up for the rest of the experience that follows.
The spaces between these puzzles take many different forms, but can best be described as a mixture of walking simulator and interactive cut scenes. There are three sections that stand out the most, one where you play as a Rabbit running through a field, another where you are a remote controlled truck driving through a wooded area and finally collecting Halloween candy as Sunny. These portions of the game are let down mostly by their lack of technical skill. The controls feel, at best, sluggish and at worst, as if pressing a button or moving the control stick has set the game into self destruct and will crash at any moment. The rabbit portion of the game glitched out and sent me through the floor into another empty field, however, as I had just endured some random flashing of images that were apparently part of the game’s narrative, I was unaware that this wasn’t actually part of the game and just continued hopping forward for a good few minutes before losing patience and resetting. The Halloween section played relatively fluidly, but is the only section where you have a life total, which isn’t made abundantly clear until you are hit by a rolling pumpkin, losing all three hearts sends you right back to the beginning, which is quite frustrating to say the least.
Graphically, the game is OK, the puzzle elements have a lot of well crafted details and are pleasant to look at, but the experience in between does not match this. Textures are limited, sections easily clip out and, while the game advertises a HD experience, this certainly isn’t what is seen on the Nintendo Switch. The audio again is limited, mostly resigned to environmental sounds with a less imposing but equally forgettable background track in places. These are accompanied with a completion jingle that is more irritating at times than anything else.
Taking into account the obvious issues in creating a well polished game as a one man studio. There are far more issues than successes in WTBMH. The main story is a massively watered down version of Stuido Ghibli’s “Only Yesterday” with no real direction, antagonist or resolution at the end. You feel no desire to play as Sunny apart from seeing the game to its conclusion. A portion of the game recounts a time where Sunny goes missing in a grocery store and not once did I feel for the character, despite having a small child of my own. At the very end, there is little to no twist, and I honestly finished the game thinking “was that it?” Quite frankly there is no real story, and certainly not the self reflective experience that the developer intended in previous interviews.
The game play has to be considered in two parts, one being an enjoyable, but short isometric puzzle game that, if fleshed out, would have been a fun indie title in itself. The remainder of the game play would be more enjoyable with a little more technical expertise, perhaps bringing in someone familiar with the code simply to polish might have helped here? But ultimately it was these segments of the game that I just could not enjoy and ultimately took me out of the experience as a whole.
The rest of the experience can only really be described as some kind of artistic fever dream. As I mentioned earlier, I had thought a glitch in the game was part of the experience because of how the game was presented to me earlier on. This is because once portions of the game are completed there are portions that can only be described as freezing, followed by random images and clips (presumably meant to represent Sunny’s childhood). This again added to the sense of feeling disjointed and just left me wondering what on earth was going on.
Unfortunately, I cant recommend picking up this title for any sum, the only saving feature it has is not enough to make the game worth parting with cash for. At best, it can be described as a great attempt at a college assignment that just can’t cut it with the big boy indie titles. This is not something to be spending time, or money on.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Where the Bees Make Honey Review
Gameplay - 2/10
Graphics - 2/10
Sound - 1/10
Replay Value - 0/10
User Review( votes)
Where the bees make honey is a mash up of game genres, art styles and gameplay mechanics that ultimately does nothing to impress. The story is a watered down version of Studio Ghibli’s “Only Yesterday” whereby a young woman reminisces about stories from her childhood. The game itself is interspersed with vignettes that attempt to make the game seem artistic, but just make the player feel like they are in some kind of fever dream with no clear goal to them. Add to this that the game is still buggy and the games controls feel as though the game will crash at any moment and you have a title that should never have been allowed to be released. What desire there was to make a great and thought provoking game is lost in the technical issues and poor design choices.
- Well thought out isometric puzzles that really should have been the focus of the game.
- Story lacks any real depth to be considered a story.
- Some parts of the game are a massive bug filled mess.
- Gameplay outside of the puzzles is dull and difficult to follow.