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Where the Bees Make Honey review for PS4, Xbox One


Platform: PS4
Also On: PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Whitethorn Digital
Developer: Wakefield Interactive
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E

I honestly can’t remember the last time I loathed a game as much as I loathe Where the Bees Make Honey.

This is not hyperbole. Where the Bees Make Honey isn’t just a bad game. I’ve played plenty of bad games in my life, and most of them are just that: bad.

Where the Bees Make Honey, though…it’s a whole other level of awfulness. You can see games like Captain Toad and Rocket League and What Remains of Edith Finch and Gone Home and Night in the Woods embedded in its DNA — and because of that, it’s easy to see exactly how and why and where it fails on such a monumental level. It’s a frustrating, broken disaster of a game, and my hatred of it grew with every moment I wasted playing it.

The crazy thing is, for the first few minutes of the game, I was actually feeling vaguely positive towards it. Where the Bees Make Honey starts off with the main character, Sunny, working in a cubicle, stuck in a dead end job. As she narrates what’s going on, I started thinking the game might be some kind of thoughtful walking simulator, maybe an interesting take on ennui and dissatisfaction and growing up, along the lines of Gone Home or Night in the Woods.

Then the power shuts off, Sunny is forced to go to her office building’s basement to restart the generator, and the whole thing goes flying off the rails — or, perhaps more accurately, plunging off a cliff.

There are so many things wrong with Where the Bees Make Honey, it’s hard to know where to begin. To take something at random: the game is supposed to take you through Sunny’s memories as she reminisces about important or memorable moments in her childhood. The thing is, they’re all so incredibly boring, it’s hard to care. Like, once she saw a fire, I think, unless she crashed her bike — it’s hard to tell which, and it’s possible somebody or something died. Another time, she drove an RC monster truck. Still another time, she got lost in a grocery store. And, to wrap it up, she went trick or treating and got scared.

I’m sure you’re desperate to know how each of those stories turned out.

I’m not saying that a game needs to have high-stakes drama at every turn. There’s lots of pleasure to be had from games that want to tell simple, intimate stories or draw intricate character sketches. But Where the Bees Make Honey doesn’t do any of that. It just tells these unconnected, random stories, and expects them to be a substitute for a non-existent personality. When they aren’t, and the game suddenly tries to have a big, emotional conclusion, the whole thing just feels rushed and nonsensical.

Given that Where the Bees Make Honey is part-walking simulator — a genre built around telling stories — you’d think that it’s complete inability to tell a story would rank as one of its biggest problems. Remarkably, though, it doesn’t even measure when you compare it to some of its bigger sins.

For example, it has an absolutely abysmal save system. I got trapped as I was trying to figure out the very last puzzle of the game — one of the intermittent Captain Toad-esque isometric puzzles featured in the game that have precisely zero charm of the original, with the added bonus of painfully clunky controls — so I decided to quit the game and start back at whatever the most recent save point was. You can imagine my chagrin when I discovered that this save point was halfway through the game. While I was thankfully spared the trauma of having to replay the game’s worst level (more on that in a moment), and the game isn’t that long to begin with (you can beat it in roughly two hours), it’s still terrible enough that being forced to replay any of it counts as a horrific fate.

After all, even the parts of Where the Bees Make Honey that aren’t the absolute worst still rank up there in terms of awfulness. For example, restarting near the end means you have to replay a level where you’re controlling an RC monster truck. In this level, you’ll find: invisible walls that impede your progress constantly; nightmarish controls that make it almost impossible to in a straight line, coupled with a vehicle prone to flipping over for no reason; the most unrealistic-looking water I’ve ever seen in any video game, ever, going back to the days of the NES; atrocious draw distances, which mean that everywhere you turn, the horizon will be constantly popping into view; no clear direction or indication where you’re supposed to be going; and a truck so loud, it drowns out the intermittent voiceover, thereby killing whatever narrative heft the level is supposed to carry.

Likewise, there’s a Halloween level near the end of the game that, out of nowhere, features enemies to avoid and a health bar. There’s nothing inherently wrong with abrupt tonal shifts, I guess, but, unsurprisingly, the way it’s thrown together here is particularly jarring. You’re given three hearts, which you’d think means you can be hit by enemies three times…except sometimes, being touched by a pumpkin or a zombie means instant death.

Undoubtedly, though, the nadir of Where the Bees Make Honey has got to be the bunny level — the horrible, obnoxiously, no-good bunny level. When you think bunnies, you probably think of spry, fluffy creatures that hop around. When this game’s designer thought of bunnies, however, he apparently thought of something that moves with all the agility of a broken-down tank. Getting your bunny to move in one direction or another is an exercise in futility, since it seems to move entirely of its own volition, in whatever direction it wants. Push your joystick in a straight line, and it will back up into a rock, or veer into a cliff; hop, and you never know whether you’ll launch yourself forward, or straight up, or even backwards. I spent literally half an hour trying — and failing — to jump from one rock to another, since the controls are so atrocious that they made that simple feat nearly impossible. If you can get through that one level — which takes place early on in Where the Bees Make Honey — without wanting to throw your controller through your TV, smash your console, and think about giving up gaming entirely, you’re a better person than I am.

Because yes, Where the Bees Make Honey really is that bad: if I had to choose between playing this game again, and never again playing anything ever again, it would be a legitimately difficult decision. It’s nothing short of an abomination, a joyless slog of a game with no redeeming qualities whatsoever — except, perhaps, for that fleeting moment of relief when you delete it from your system storage. I truly detest it, and if I could erase every trace of it from my memory, I would do so in a second.

Whitethorn Digital provided us with a Where the Bees Make Honey PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: F