Kid-focused, movie-licensed games get a bad rap, and usually that's not by coincidence. But Activision's upcoming game based on Jerry Seinfeld's CG-animated comedy vehicle Bee Movie is looking pretty solid for a movie game aimed at the younger set. Like the movie, the game casts you as Barry B. Benson (voiced by Seinfeld in both movie and game), a worker bee who has tired of the drone's life in the hive. He's looking to get outdoors with the "pollen jocks," the elite gatherers who provide the pollen that keeps the hive buzzing. As you'd expect, some wacky hijinks befall Barry, which serve as the basis for the game's diverse array of action stages. We played the Xbox 360 version to see what those stages were like.
One level had us flying Barry down a rainy city street. Bees and rain don't mix so well, so we had to help him dodge each gigantic raindrop as he flitted from one area of cover to the next. Luckily, you'll have a couple of useful tools to assist in the task. There's a thermal-vision-like effect that makes cover--such as awnings and covered trash cans--show up in bright colors, so you can easily figure out where you need to fly next. More importantly, you can use your, uh, super-fast bee reflexes to slow down time and dodge around the raindrops as they essentially hang motionless in midair. There will also be some wind currents scattered around these kinds of levels, and you can jump into one of these to be whisked quickly and safely to the next area (and grab some power-up items as you go).
The next level built on the mechanics in the rain level. It had us flying Barry around a sunny park setting, attempting to help pollinate some flowers by collecting pollen from other flowers that were already flush with the stuff. Again, the vision mode could be used here to quickly identify the target flowers. However, we had to contend with some aerial adversaries that looked like mosquitoes (or perhaps dragonflies) in this area; luckily, we could use the collected pollen as a projectile weapon against these guys. When the action called for evasive maneuvers, a barrel-roll move also helped out here.
Activision's goal with the Bee Movie Game is variety, and to that end, there will be some kart-racing-style driving levels as well. We saw one of these set in "New Hive City," where Barry lives. Normally you'll use this area as a hub where you'll pick up new missions, but in this case, the city map was converted into a racing course that we had to speed around in a little bee-car. The mechanics here were quite kart-esque, in that we could drive through little beehive-shaped power-up dispensers to get weapons, like an oil slick-style puddle of honey we could drop behind our car.
The last level we saw on the 360 featured gameplay similar to the button-press-driven cinematic action scenes in games like God of War. In this one, Barry was stuck to a tennis ball, and we had to hit either an analog stick direction or a button directly after each prompt to keep Barry's position on the ball rotated away from the two eager players striking it with their racquets. There wasn't much more to the interaction in this level, but the characters were animated in such an exaggerated and expressive way that it was pretty amusing to watch, anyway.
Finally, we got to try a simple mode called "Generation Hex Arcade" in the Wii version of the game. (Get it? Hex? Hexagonal honeycombs? Yeah.) This arcade will be available within the gameworld in all versions of the game, and will feature a number of simple minigames patterned after those classic old releases of yesteryear. There's a Frogger clone called Beeway, a Space Invaders-style game called Hive Incursion, a side-scrolling shooter-style game, and a handful of others. You'll have to unlock these games as you go, but hopefully they'll add some variety to the game between all the missions.
Activision seems to have put some thought and care into Bee Movie's video game incarnation, with its diverse lineup of gameplay types and the inclusion of Seinfeld, John Goodman, and Patrick Warburton on the voice cast. The game is due out right alongside the movie in November, so look for a review then.