Where the Bees Make Honey is an odd game. It’s odd for a number of reasons, but the game’s bizarre backdrop sits well with the fantastical variation of the experience. Unfortunately, there’s very little that I can commend it for outside of that. The game sells itself as a story that reflects the past, a past based on different moments of childhood that’s told through the lens of an adult. On paper, that doesn’t sound half bad, but in practice, it’s a complete mess. It’s a shame really, because this just could have been a surprise hit.
The story focuses on that of a young woman. The opening scene takes place in a closed telesales office, in which our lead role is alone and working all the hours that god sends. She’s clearly feeling dehumanized; complaining that she’s growing tired of her habits of life. Taking a moment to herself, she reflects on her childhood, and thinks back to that time in which stress and worry were the least of her concerns. This is soon interrupted by a telephone call from her boss, in which she’s promptly ordered to gather a few items.
I’m not entirely sure why this takes place, but I suppose it feeds you into the swing of things nonetheless. Once you’ve collected the necessities; a notepad, a stapler, and a calculator, the office’s power goes out. You’ll make your way to the generator to turn it back on, and as you do so, you’re transported to a dreamscape. Your office no longer an office, but a portal to what seems to be your imagination. Like I said, it’s got a decent premise, but what follows suit is far removed from anything I would remotely describe as even close to decent.
Whilst the game starts out in first person perspective, you’ll play much of the experience in different ways, and through different perspectives. The first transition is that of a 2.5D side-scroller. Initially you’ll control a younger Sunny, and must guide her through a collection of environments whilst picking up honeycombs along the way. The first area serves as a tutorial, showcasing the general rules of engagement. Though, in truth, it’s far too basic. You’ll climb a few structures, shift the camera’s angle, and then move to the next area.
What baffles me the most is that Where the Bees Make Honey is described as a puzzle game, but there’s nothing puzzle-esque within. Take your first puzzle, for example, you’ll rotate the camera to manipulate the platforms blocking your path. That’s it. This consists of little more than hitting the bumpers until said blockage is removed. Whilst this concept is slightly built upon throughout play, it never gets difficult. Not even in the slightest. It would have been great to see more depth here, but as it stands, it merely feels like senseless filler.
In the next area, you once again play from a 2.5D side scrolling perspective. Here, you simply need to make your way to the far right, blindly pressing the bumpers when the occasion calls for it. There’s little to no innovation present whatsoever. When you’ve done that, you’ll be taken to another camera-manipulating area to needlessly collect more honeycombs. These areas tend to break up the season-esque levels, so expect them often. There’s some pretty frustrating issues present that seem to be exclusive to these areas.
As alluded to above, you’ll need to shift the camera to manipulate the environment. So, you may see a bridge that folds away from Sunny in one perspective, but then opens up to her when you change the angle of view. The problem, however, is that Sunny seems to bug out during these moments. Whether she’s getting stuck, or, falling through the map, there’s always something here to piss you off. Mercifully, they don’t take long to complete, and again, they’re not at all hard to overcome. Collect three sets of honeycombs, job done.
The level of difficulty here is quite insulting. In the following level, you’re tasked with following a straight path, with just a few pathways branching off it. In order to complete this level, you need only walk to the end of each path, occasionally trotting full-circle around an object, before rejoining the main path and continuing on. There’s narration over speaking the experience as you move through, but it’s never really interesting. Either way, I could just about bear the game up until this point, but what came next was just adding insult to injury.
There’s an early level in which you take control of a rabbit. The scenery is set in the spring, and it’s immediately clear that you need to platform this rabbit higher up the grassy level via jumping on rock formations. The problem? It has all the responsiveness of a snail on a salt track. The rabbit wont jump when you command it to, nor will it correctly align with the area that you’re aiming for. In fact, most of the time, just getting the rabbit (and the damn camera position) to look in the right direction is a job in itself. Sluggish is an understatement.
Once I managed to get to the area that I was trying to get to, I was met with a collection of narrow platforms. Here, is where the true test of endurance came through. Just trying to get the rabbit to slowly move from one platform to the next was a nightmare. Worse, the rabbit would oftentimes wildly jump off the platform for no good reason, forcing me to go back and painstakingly move through the process again, and again, and again. Things didn’t fare any better in the next real level. Here, you take on the role of a toy jeep and simply drive.
You’ll drive through a bunch of dull areas until you meet an area that houses three honeycombs. Each of these honeycombs are suspended in the air, and you’ll need to ride up the ramping structures underneath each honeycomb to gain enough height in order to collect them. Much like controlling the rabbit, controlling the jeep was overly frustrating. It’s far too easy to miss the mark due to the game’s awkward handling. More often than not, you’ll simply end up in a ditch as you observe massively large breaks in the area’s map.
Should you land on anything but your wheels, you’ll be respawned a while out. That is, if you’re not respawned on an endlessly failing loop. I had to restart this level three times because the game saw it fit to respawn me in such a way that the jeep would always land on its back following a respawn. It’s wildly irritating. Once I mustered the perseverance to gather all three honeycombs, I had no idea where to go next. I had to blindly explore until the narration kicked in, subsequently letting me know that I was heading the correct way.
The final level is even worse, but it’s not worse because of technical issues, it’s worse because it’s (yet again) insultingly easy. It’s Halloween night, and you’re tasked with walking around a bunch of generic buildings to pick up honeycombs. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be instantly transported to the same street, only this time, you’ll need to outmaneuver a bunch of slow moving pumpkins and a few ghouls. That’s that. There’s another minor section following on from this, but it’s that dull it doesn’t at all warrant any direct discussion about it.
Finally, you’ll tediously handle another camera-manipulating level before hitting the end of the game. Now, if you’re an achievement hunter, prepare to shit yourself. There’s an end of game choice that determines which ending you’re going to get. If you want max completion, you’ll need to run through the whole ordeal twice. That said, the game takes roughly ninety minutes to complete; half an hour of that time is down to time wasted through the game’s technical drawbacks. So, there you have it ladies and gents. Great variation, poor execution.
There’s clearly some smart ideas running through the game, but they’re all hopelessly undermined by the game’s terrible performance, and its frankly awful handling. There’s several moment throughout the game in which the framerate will wildly fluctuate, and outside of that, the lack of optimization makes for some very awkward camera movement. Where the Bees Make Honey would have certainly have benefited from more time on the proverbial drawing board to iron out its many, many issues. That much has to be said.
In regards to the game’s visual and audio design, don’t expect any better quality. Whilst far from terrible, the game does look bad. Sunny’s character model (in adult and child form) looks hauntingly unrefined. The game’s environments are poor too, with several map breaks present that allow you to see straight through the terrain. I can say the same about the audio presentation, being that everything from the stiff voice work through to the soundtrack does very little to excite. Until fixed, if that’s at all possible, skip this by.
Where the Bees Make Honey deserves some praise for its fantastical theme and its variation in play, that much has to be said. However, the whole ordeal is massively held back due to its sheer lack of difficulty and fluidity, together with its constantly persistent technical issues. There’s clearly some smart ideas running through the experience, but the complete absence of structural refinement makes it far too hard to bear, let alone enjoy.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.