Busy Little Bee

(Editor’s Note: What follows is the original review written for the first version the author played. Since then, one or more major critiques have been addressed by the developer. For a list of these, see “Addendums” below the original review score at the end of the article.)

William Blake wrote that “The busy bee has no time for sorrow.” Indeed, the Bee that stars in Michael Buettner’s casual logic puzzler has time for little else than its one purpose in life — and with so many flowers in the land to pollinate, getting tugged into a hornet-driven conspiracy is quite a drag on the Bee’s day. Somehow it will have to solve the mystery surrounding a supposed immortality-giving sprout while still visiting every flower it can along the way; after all, the Bee can’t help that Mother Nature built it to be a busily buzzing Necta Collecta (Out Now on Sale for $0.99; Lite).

Necta Collecta sets the player’s bug on a hexagonal grid filled with flowers. The goal is to find a path through the grid that touches on all flowers of one color, without touching flowers of another color; the bug can only carry so much nectar, so touching down on another color wastes capacity. Necta Collecta features a story mode with enough levels to keep the player busy for three hours, so breadth of content is definitely there.

What’s lacking in Necta Collecta‘s weighty story mode is real depth and challenge. Buettner made a good faith effort to mix things up by having the player control one of the Bee’s nectar-collecting friends in some levels, and generally offering a character select screen once fellow insects have joined the Bee’s quest. While each insect has its own differently shaped movement range and carrying capacity, the player can only land on so many flowers before the game starts feeling repetitive, regardless of which player character is chosen.

Something marvelous does happen midway through Necta Collecta‘s story mode: unfriendly hornets give chase while the player’s trying to fulfill the flower landing requirement, triggering a Game Over should the player insect land on the same spot as a hornet. This extra dash of challenge whips Necta Collecta‘s formula into a fine honey — but it’s sadly yanked back very shortly after it’s introduced, and used all too sparingly thereafter. In short, Necta Collecta‘s best moments are far underutilized.

Extra modes round out Necta Collecta‘s content and do a good job of propping up its appeal within the price range. Flowerchain mode has the player hopping on flowers in an order that the game demands, but the real show stealer is Time Attack mode. Here again, some tension is introduced into the game’s formula: the player needs to complete nectar collections before a constantly-leaking nectar gauge runs dry. Swiftly fulfilling the flower hopping goal charges up the nectar meter, which carries over to the next puzzle; slow performance means the player won’t survive very long. High scores and achievements in all game modes are recorded on Necta Collecta‘s internal leaderboard.

The cutesy bug-eyed antics of Bee and friends, and the pastel colors and lighthearted music that fill their world, leave Necta Collecta a very kid-friendly experience. An impressive amount of work went into generating bouyant 3D models for each of the game’s critters. On the aesthetic downside, certain letters in the game’s font seem vertically misaligned, which makes text a little uneasy on the player’s eyes for now.

iFanzine Verdict: If you’re in the mood for an easygoing casual puzzler that tends toward featherlight challenge, and don’t mind lots of puzzle repetition, Necta Collecta is a content-rich option that might hit a sweet spot. It fares best when it reaches for action puzzle territory, and more extensive use of these moments in updates could widen its appeal significantly.

[xrr rating=3/5]

Addendum: Hard mode added for players who appreciate a little challenge