The Kid-Friendly Review Series is a bit different than our usual reviews in that they are all-encompassing instead of our usual focused reviews. Because of this, nothing will be scored, as I am not comfortable rating features I don’t rely on. Instead, I will simply note potential problem areas and leave it for parents to decide for themselves if the game is playable for their child.
Game reviewed on Xbox One
Did you know that in the winter time, bees huddle together and constantly vibrate their wings to keep themselves warm? That’s the kind of delightful fact players can look forward to in Bee Simulator, a game in which you take control of a bee (adorably named Beescuit) and complete RPG-style missions and minigames. It’s a delightful game but it’s full of accessibility obstacles that will render it difficult to enjoy for some players, to down right unplayable for others.
Starting off with what I know best – subtitles! The game is fully voiced and has full subtitles. However, they’re not exactly legible, with a stylized font and background that doesn’t help much with contrast issues.
Helpfully, there are speaker labels, and the outline around the text helps legibility a bit, but as I’ve said many times before, stylized text is not the way to go if you’re not going to offer a non-stylized option.
The cinematic subtitles offer something I really appreciated that I’ve not seen any other games do.
I love the use of different sizes to indicate the tone and volume of the dialogue. However, there are no speaker labels in cinematics (though all the bees kind of look the same so I’m not sure it matters much).
Motor accessibility may be where Bee Simulator suffers the most. The only adjustment players can make (on console) is controller sensitivity. There is no button remapping and controlling Beescuit requires use of both the L and R thumbsticks, as well as both triggers and the right bumper.
On top of these issues, some of the quests and minigames are QTE-style button presses and there is no option to skip these or adjust the timing for them.
While most of these minigames are simply avoidable, at the very beginning of the game, there is one required. If players are unable to complete it, that’s where the game ends for them.
Another issue for motor, vision, and cognitive accessibility are the bee dance challenges. In this minigame, players are tasked with mimicking the movements of a fellow bee using the left thumbstick in increasingly complex sequences. Failing to mimic one move takes you back to the start of the minigame. The problem here is threefold. 1) Players should be able to toggle on some kind of hint system so as to not feel defeated by numerous failures. 2) There is no audio cue to indicate which way the bee moved for blind/low vision players. 3) It requires use of the thumbstick which I’m sure everyone knows is not possible for all players.
So once again, players might find themselves at the end of the game very early on due to these issues.
Blind/Low Vision and Colorblind Accessibility
Another major failure of Bee Simulator is in this area of accessibility. First and foremost, essential information is conveyed by color only and the game has absolutely no colorblind options.
The Bee Vision system, which players are required to use to collect special types of pollen, indicates said special pollen by color only. Green, red, and yellow, all against a blue overlay with a distorted lens effect. Players that don’t see the red, green, or yellow? They’re left to guess as to what kind of pollen they’re collecting.
The previously mentioned subtitle text is obviously a visual accessibility, as the contrast is not great and the font choice can at times be quite hard to read.
Another issue for colorblind players is the challenge system which, again, is indicated only by color.
The various colors indicate different types of challenges players can participate in, but again with no colorblind options, some players may be left guessing as to what they’re seeking out.
Cognitive accessibility is the one area in which Bee Simulator does fairly well. Language and instructions are simple and clear and all tutorials are intertwined with gameplay. Subtitle text can be advanced at the players own pace and it appears on-screen for a nice amount of time. Unfortunately there are only two difficulty levels; easy and hard, and as I’ve mentioned a few times now, the subtitles and UI are far from clear and easy to read/understand.
All in all, Bee Simulator is a fun little game that unfortunately will leave many players unable to experience it due to the numerous accessibility oversights.
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