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Developer: Flightless
Price: $.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

That bees are busy and hard workers is hardly news. But, as one who is allergic and runs screaming at their sight, I never realized just how tough their job is. Bee Leader opened their world to me and it’s a daunting one. It seems they must contend with predators, inclement weather, natural and man-made hurdles, even time itself. Well, at least that’s true in this clever new game.

Gameplay is simple, but surprising. Bee Leader looks a like yet another endless flyer, with dandelion fluff acting as coins. Play for a few seconds, however, and it becomes evident that not only is the game not endless – there are 12 levels in four distinct environments – but rather time limited and largely a hybrid of obstacle avoidance and a hidden object collecting.

The bee has a simple task. He has to fly around levels collecting as much nectar as possible, from flowers of course, but also in those dandelion bits and even packaged in containers, before night falls. The locales not only increase in difficulty, but sport challenges that make sense in their milieu like sharks on an island, or roosters in the country.

There are things to find besides nectar. Little bees, 10 to a level, are scattered and collecting them allows players to accrue more nectar at once. It’s best to deposit it in the hive periodically, as every obstacle from bad weather to run-ins with hornets and spiders depletes the supply. Also, nectar is hiding in barrels that must be broken to get them, and extra time is available too. Of course these boons are most often nestled in a den of baddies, which lends the game a strategic cost-benefit dynamic.

The game rewards players for finding all the little bees, and for how many of the flowers the titular leader  hovers over sucking their sweet juice. If at least half the hive is topped off by dark, the next level unlocks.

Minimalist graphics are evocative of Tiny Wings with their simple allure. And, the soundtrack is refreshingly light and unobtrusive.

The varied goals, good looks, and atypical gameplay make Bee Leader very appealing. Unfortunately, the controls, despite the many schemes available, are floaty, imprecise and make even the simplest objectives frustrating. The tilt options are least responsive, but the joystick and touch controls are serviceable.

There is something habit forming about Bee Leader. I’m not sure if it’s the aesthetic or the gameplay that’s doing it, but something keeps me playing until my fingers are sore. It’s not quite a must-have, but definitely a great choice for a casual gamer’s collection.


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