Mobile Game of the Week: Bee Leader (iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: Bee Leader (iOS)

Bee Leader

Platform: iOS
Developer: Flightless
Release Date: 5/24/2012
Price: $0.99

Repetition isn’t usually the kind of thing we look for in games. Just when we thought technology was getting us to the point where we could cut mindless errand-running out of our lives, games often give us endless lists of meaningless digital tasks to perform for arbitrary point values. I think by now we’ve all had bad experiences with these situations in games — whether it was Donkey Kong 64 or the despised “fetch quests” in just about every MMO.

However, there is something strangely relaxing about the menial tasks Bee Leader foists upon you. You truly play as a busy little bee, buzzing around, collecting pollen, avoiding baddies, and looking for your buddies. The first thing to mention is that exploring these little worlds is a real treat for your senses. Someone at Flightless has got a true eye for design because everything from the way the world subtly spins to the polished menus sparkles with fluidity, personality, and smart user interface.

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Bee Leader feels instantly easy to pick up and play. I know that’s said about a lot of games that are found in the App Store these days, but Bee Leader might be as simple as it gets. There is no novel physics-based mechanic pushing the gameplay forward in Bee Leader. There’s little strategy and no complex controls to learn. Just a world to explore and and a list of things to collect. As you move on from one locale to the next collecting pollen, the sense of timed pressure that most games rely on is just never there. There is a time limit, but if you don’t quite make it, there’s nothing to stop you from coming back and finishing it off again next time.

In that sense, everything about the game feels cyclical in nature. Another day, another world to explore, another honeycomb to fill. Even the levels rotate as you fly around it as if it was it’s own isolated planet. Because of that, I’m not sure I would label the game “thought-provoking” or even “fun” — instead it feels more like an exercise. That alone will be a major turnoff for some. However, the more I played Bee Leader the more the experience felt almost meditative. For someone that is always pushing myself in creative thinking and writing, letting my fingers do the work for once felt relaxing — perhaps even redemptive at times.

Bee Leader probably won’t be on my phone for the rest of the year and it’ll probably get replaced by something similar soon. But for now, Bee Leader was just what I needed. And if the idea of running errands in a game doesn’t sound appealing, I’d kindly remind you how many hours you spent playing games like Tiny Tower and FarmVille. Before you scoff at the idea of playing “casual” games such as these, I’d then kindly remind you how many hours you spent running errands in games like World of Warcraft, Skyrim, and EVE Online. Games like these are attractive to us because they reflect qualities of real life — both the mundanity and the joy of it.