Following a successful Kickstarter campaign that was essentially made to add finishing touches to the game and market it, Where the Bees Make Honey is now available on PC and consoles. It’s a little difficult to really define what the game is – in its Kickstarter pitch the developer stated that it isn’t a ‘puzzle game’, ‘a walking simulator’ nor an ‘adventure game’, yet it does seem to try to amalgamate those three genres into one experience. It’s certainly a unique game, for better or worse.
Unfortunately, it’s more of a case of ‘worse’ than anything else. Whilst I could appreciate the vibe that Where the Bees Make Honey was going for, it ends up feeling clunky in design, buggy, and just a bit boring to play.
The game tells the story of Sunny, a young lady who finds herself underwhelmed and under-appreciated in the cold-calling sales company that she works for. Whilst working an overtime shift the power cuts out in her building, but after restoring it she returns to her office to find out that it has been replaced with a dream-like locale – one that represents her memories of time in her childhood. Thus, she ventures across the landscape, all whilst telling a monologue of her younger years.
It’s clear that the narrative is the focus of Where the Bees Make Honey, with the environment itself telling a story as well as the tasks you partake in. Everything around you seems to feel like a metaphor for something that happened in Sunny’s life and it can actually be pretty clever in its presentation. However, whilst the tale itself has a small sense of intrigue to it, it never goes anywhere that’ll really stop you in your tracks. I never felt overwhelmed by Sunny’s memories or itching to find out more about her life, but rather that I was simply going through the everyday routine of being a child. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but it did mean the game didn’t really have a good pay off by the time I got to the end of my hour-long adventure.
It probably didn’t help that the gameplay elements tied to the story were incredibly underwhelming. Where the Bees Make Honey tries to offer a lot of variety within its gameplay mechanics – you’ll explore environments in first person, partake in some 2.5D platforming, solve diorama-style puzzles where you have to rotate the camera to create new pathways, and even get to drive an off-road vehicle across a small obstacle course-like environment. If it’s variety you’re after you’ll definitely find it here, but unfortunately no area of the game’s design ever feels more than adequate. In fact, it misses a lot more targets than it hits.
Firstly, I’d be remiss not to compliment the diorama-style puzzles. They look attractive in-game and certainly feel like one of the cleverer mechanics to be found in Where the Bees Make Honey. In fact, if the developer focused solely on them and gave them a bit more polish, my experience with the game could’ve been a lot more positive. Sure, they’re small in design and don’t offer any real challenge, but they definitely stood out as one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game.
Everything else though? It’s pretty poor. Besides the fact that controlling Sunny (or whatever form she has taken for a particular segment) feels clunky and slow, there’s just no sense of satisfaction to be had from completing any of the game’s objectives. At one point you take control of a rabbit as you head across a luscious environment with platforming sections, but actually controlling the rabbit and its jumps is so cumbersome that it’s hard not to be frustrated as you attempt to line up each jump you make. One time I fell just as I was about to complete an incredibly frustrating selection of jumps and the thought of having to attempt it again just made me want to sell my Xbox One and give up playing games completely.
Then there’s the aforementioned vehicle section, which not only feels a little out of place but has such poor physics in place that it’s too easy to find yourself rolling on the side and having to wait until the game respawns you and drops you back in from above. Want to know the worst part about that? I hit a point where it kept respawning me, but as the vehicle landed I’d always fall back on the side. The only solution was quitting the game and starting the section all over again and believe me, once you’ve gone through it once you won’t want to do it again.
Add to that some performance issues with the frame rate stuttering as well as some obvious invisible walls that completely block you off from exploring, and it’s easy to find Where the Bees Make Honey more frustrating than anything else. It’s a real shame too because it’s clear that the developer has put a lot of love into the experience, but there’re just too many ideas amalgamated together here that haven’t been executed properly.
There were some things that I did appreciate about the game though such as the soundtrack which fit in perfectly with the vibe of the experience, whilst the environmental design could be attractive too. I wouldn’t call Where the Bees Make Honey the prettiest game out there by any stretch of the imagination (the character models are nightmare-inducing), but I was left wowed by some of the sights I saw – particularly in the burning forest and the diorama-style puzzles. It’s just a shame that most other aspects of the game just don’t have the same appeal.
Developer: Wakefield Interactive
Publisher: Whitehorn Digital
Platform(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC