When it came to promoting his new computer-animated movie, Jerry Seinfeld decided to take an unorthodox path and act out scenes from the movie as if they were live-action shots (complete with the actors in giant bee costumes). These humorous teaser trailers for Bee Movie worked, they changed what might have been an otherwise average animated movie into the must-see family film of the holiday season. Activision may not be going to the same lengths to get people interested in their game based on the movie, but if what I saw at their recent media event was any indication then they may have a solid action game fit for the whole family.
The clumsily named Bee Movie Game is set to come out this holiday season to coincide with the release of the Dreamworks' animated movie. Activision will be releasing the game on the Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS and PC ... in other words, pretty much everything except for the PSP and PlayStation 3. It's an action game that tries to recreate all of the pivotal scenes from the movie by turning them into short mini-games. Unfortunately I was not able to try out all of the mini-games (and seeing as I have yet to watch the movie I have no clue how accurately these mini-games mimic the real deal), but I was able to go through enough of the game to see that it was a bright, colorful action game with some funny one-liners and a lot of diverse gameplay.
In the build I played gamers could select from a long list of available mini-games, this meant that I could literally go through the movie in any order (not that it would have made much of a difference what with me not knowing what the film plot is). I suspect that when the game hits shelves this November these various mini-games will be sewn together by a lot of funny cinemas and a linear narrative.
The first mini-game I played dealt with a one-on-one tennis match going on between a skinny brunette woman and her significant other. Unfortunately you aren't the one batting the ball back and forth; instead you play a bee who is hugging that tennis ball for dear life. As the couple whacks that ball back and forth it's your job to rotate the ball in a safe direction. How do you know what direction is safe? Every time your little bee (who isn't all that little if he's the size of a tennis ball) needs to move the ball a giant arrow will pop up on the screen, it's your job to hold the analog stick that direction until the main character is out of danger of being squished.
In another mini-game I was trying to catch a truck who was speeding ahead on the busy streets of what looked like New York City (don't ask me why). The camera is positioned right behind our friendly bee as he weaves in and out of traffic trying to avoid cards, bikes, falling debris, and other obstacles that are native to the busy streets of a major city. Like the tennis match, this mini-game is played with you doing exactly what the game tells you to, if it tells you to push down then you better do that or you'll likely get his in the head with a car door. If you don't push up when it tells you then chances are you're going to get run over by a tire. This mini-game went on for several minutes, but after a lot of carefully timed button presses I finally caught up to the truck and was treated by a screen that said that the cinema was coming soon. Oh the perils of playing an early build of a game based on a licensed movie.
Thankfully there were parts of the demo that were deeper than those Dragons Lair-esque mini-games I played first. One stage had me trying to extract the pollen from the flowers while fighting off a bunch of enemy bugs. Although this task seemed simple enough, you are constantly in combat with these other insects as you fly around the level sucking out the valuable juice. This mode controlled like a simplified version of an air combat game (think Ace Combat for kids). You could target other enemies and fire at them, and then when everything was save you dive bombed the flower and did what you needed to do. This mode was actually very satisfying, on one hand it was great to feel like I was actually controlling the game (and not just pushing a button left or right), and at the same time I actually got into the simplistic air combat style.
There's another level similar to this where gamers are asked to flying around the city during a torrential downpour. The object here is to find safe passages between the various parts of the city so that you didn't get injured by the falling rain drops. At first I was a bit disoriented by this mini-game, but before long I was getting the hang of it and successfully avoiding the dangerous water.
It seems clear from the few mini-games I was able to play that there are a lot of repeating tasks throughout the game, each set in a different part of the movie's storyline. While I was using the same gameplay devices from mini-game to mini-game, Beenox has developed a way of making each part stand out and not feel like the same old thing just with different set dressings. I am excited to see some of the other mini-games this game has to offer, especially the ones that veer away from the air combat and Dragons Lair-style game types. While at the event I saw everything from racing to a Space Invader type of mini-game, I am definitely anxious to see what those are all about.
The graphics in Bee Movie Game are actually a lot better than I was expecting going in. Perhaps it's because the game is based on an upcoming animated movie, but I wasn't expecting much from the graphics in the game. Yet the Xbox 360 version jumped off the screen. It's certainly not the best looking game on the Xbox 360, but at the same time it's no slouch. The game is bright and full of colors, something I'm not used to seeing on the Xbox 360. The characters (insect and human alike) look like they were pulled straight out of the movie, which is probably the biggest compliment you can give this type of game.
The sound was also quite impressive, although I didn't get to watch any of the in-game cinemas, it seems clear that the game's audio is doing as much as it can to be as similar to the movie as possible. The writing seemed sharp, as you play through the various mini-games you are constantly being bombarded by silly one-liners that are often witty (and generally put a smile on my face). I did find that some of the one-liners got repeated a bit much; this was especially true when it came to some of the longer levels, such as the mission where you're chasing down a truck.
While it's easy to dismiss this game right off the bat as nothing more than another game licensed off of a silly animated movie, from what I was able to play the Bee Movie Game seems to be on the right direction. This game will probably not appeal to everybody, but for those younger gamers who fall in love with the movie this game seems to be doing a good job of recreated what makes the feature film so endearing. This is the kind of game that will live or die based on how many different mini-games are offered and how diverse each and every one of them is. From what I was able to play this looked like good family fun, a sub-genre that doesn't get a lot of love on the Xbox 360.