From its screenshots, you might imagine that Bee Leader [.99¢] is a certain sort of game—an endless sort of flying game where you collect shiny orbs and exchange them for similarly shiny prizes. It’s an assumption I might have made if I hadn’t watched its trailer. But it’s delightful to be surprised, and Bee Leader both surprises and delights from moment one. The whole package is a visual treat with a real knack for design, and it’s also a fun, fresh game. How about that?
As a leader of bees, its your job to take care of the hive. Practically speaking, this means herding up the little bee buddies that are out and about in the world, finding nearby flowers, and bringing home as much pollen as your little legs can carry. You’ll navigate your little world, hunting down honey, avoiding the more predatory spiders and wasps, and doing the best you can do before night falls.
The first hurdle to overcome in Bee Leader is, unfortunately, its controls. With a game that’s otherwise technically excellent, the controls feel, at first, disappointingly imprecise. They’re floaty — suitable for a flying critter, sure enough, but not hugely enjoyable. So your first stop should be the game settings, where you can choose from a laundry list of options—tilting from any angle, joysticks left, right, or under your touch, or simply touching anywhere. While you’re in there, turn on Game Center. For me, at least, it was disabled by default.
With touch controls enabled I felt more in control of my little bee. He still crashed into walls and flew wildly at times, but it felt more natural. A close touch is more precise, and tapping far from the bee is speedier. It didn’t feel completely perfect, but manageable? Most definitely.
From there on out it’s smooth sailing as your circumnavigate Bee Leader’s 12 levels. These are divided by theme—desert, country, city, and island—and have challenges that fit within them. For example, you might have to dodge sharks and volcanoes in the islands, while birds and wasps are the threats of the country.
These threats make up the game’s biggest challenge and point of strategy. Each time you run into something dangerous, you lose a bit of the honey you’re carrying. This can get devastatingly bad, and some threats are hard to shake. So here’s the balancing act: gather as much honey as you can in one go to be as time efficient as possible, or swing back to the hive on a regular basis to protect what you’ve gathered. It won’t always be an easy call—the day doesn’t last long, so every second counts.
While you’re out exploring, dodging storm clouds and spiders, you’re also on a bit of a scavenger hunt. Bee buddies are hidden around each level, and you’ll earn bigger bonuses for the honey you collect the more of them you find. Finding them first, then, can pay dividends, and if you manage to catch them all you’ll get a hefty boost to your honey stores. You’ll earn a similar prize if you manage to slurp up honey from every flower in the area.
At the end of each day, your honey is tallied. If you’ve managed to fill your hive to at least the half-way mark, the next level will open up. You might also level up your bee, with new titles awarded at progressively higher tiers of honey hoarding. And, of course, you can compete on the leaderboards for each and every hive.
There’s not much left wanting in Bee Leader. More music would be welcome. And while there’s plenty of content for the moment, I already find myself thirsty for more. For now, though, I’m satisfied to roam around the globe, sucking up honey while my little bee buddies cheer me on, and I can’t think of a lovelier game to do that in. Give Bee Leader a look; it’s worth your time. And buzz by our discussion thread to let us know what you think.