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A quest to conquer an ever growing backlog of games.

Backlog Review | APICO

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The bee’s knees, busy as a bee, got a bee in your bonnet, like bees to honey…Ever wonder why there are so many idioms based around bees? Because bees are awesome that’s why! They keep us ever awash in a wide variety of tasty produce and pretty flowers. They make delicious honey used for all manner of things. They help improve water quality and prevent soil erosion. What can’t those little critters do?

Well, they can’t make video games, I know that much, but the busy bees at TNgineers have been working their hardest to do everyone’s favorite arthropod pals justice by making a fun and informative video game called APICO! It’s a standard sim game at its heart, but takes a walk on the technical side by tying in real life apiary practices and conservation methods. So, once I spent some time with APICO did I find it buzzing with potential or was it just another wanna-bee?

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I downloaded the demo ages ago and have been tinkering with it off and on as various updates were released. It was a great way to get a little taste of what the full game had in store as well as actively watch its development. So, it’s safe to say I’ve had an ever-growing interest ever since that demo hit 100% on my download queue. The unique take on my favorite genre drew me in like a magnet and it was great to see all the standard fare sim mechanics smoothly adapted to APICO’s bee-centric theme. There was of course plenty of new mechanics as well and therein lies the staying power of a game like this. Sim/management games are great and all but they still need to bring something different to the table if you wanna keep us hardcore players around. Bees seemed like a great angle to take since there are a ton of interesting ways to make new and engaging gameplay surrounding them.

While it was a little distressing to find that you couldn’t transfer over your demo progress into the full game upon release I immediately understood why once I started a new file. There was a great deal of content added in the post release and the demo kind of skipped over some of it. It wasn’t so bad to restart fresh anyway. It was fun going back through the beginning parts and relearning anything I’d forgotten or to learn about anything new that had been added.

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Let’s start with the tutorial for this game. Something I don’t say often, or think I’ve ever said to be honest, is that I really liked their method of teaching you how to play the game. Each piece of the tutorial gets its own little page in your notebook with pictures, animations and a little bit of info, as well as some clever dialogue. The best part is that upon completing each part you are rewarded with some handy resources to help get you started on your beekeeping adventure. That nifty little stick and carrot routine made learning how to play so much less dry. Especially since APICO is a game with a ton of moving parts.

Beekeeping is a complicated job in real life and in game, and this game shied away from none of it. There are lots of different machines and devices used in the care and conservation of the bees, not to mention there are tons of different species to collect each with different traits and possible needs to meet. Some bees will take a little extra TLC before they’ll give up their goods so to speak, like calming smoke (using different types of flowers) or machines that will simulate a hot or cold environment. Then there’s all the honey gathering devices to collect the produce from your now happy bees. You can make major bank turning it into Apicola which the townspeople just love to buy up from you.

Aside from traversing the map and just collecting different types of bees you can also breed your bees and if you’re lucky you’ll get a fancy new hybrid species. Your handy dandy manual will tell you which bees to try breeding together and whether or not you’ve already gotten their potential hybrid species. You can also use the predictor table to see the odds of your queen producing a new species as well. This was probably one of my favorite parts. Opening up that swarmer box and seeing a blacked out bee shape was always super exciting! Then you get to read through the new little information page as well as help fill it out in full by doing a bit of research yourself with your new bee. APICO is very information heavy, which can be a good or bad point depending on your level of interest I suppose, but none of it is really forced on you at any point either.

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Something to keep in mind is that though the game is released in full the developers are still actively updating, fixing bugs, and adding features. Any complaints I have are (hopefully) just things they haven’t gotten around to yet, but are still worth noting if you’re thinking about buying APICO to play in the near future. Giving those patch notes a peruse before buying is always something I’ll recommend for any new game.

So, after playing for a few hours I noticed that some of the purported features weren’t working for me and I kind of just brushed it off as “not ready yet”. Which is fine like I said. Games take time to make and things aren’t always going to be perfect right out the gate. But the more I played the more features I seemed to be locked out of, or straight up wasn’t able to use at all. I couldn’t craft from inventories other than my own, I couldn’t enter my cargo ship at all, I couldn’t use my fancy new shovel to make snowballs or move dirt, I couldn’t separate my item stacks, etc. After a bit of research I discovered the problem was that I was using a controller where the game was more geared towards keyboard/mouse controls. As soon as I switched over, all of these problems went away. The only problem now is that I hate using keyboard and mouse controls. I get that it’s 100% a me problem not a problem with the game itself but I really do hope that controller support gets more love in the future. The keyboard/mouse thing really cuts into my ability to relax while playing a game and that’s really what APICO is all about, relaxing with your bee buds.

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If you don’t mind a little keyboard and mouse action in your life then I’d say head right on over and buy APICO RIGHT NOW! It’s a sweet little game you could easily pour hours upon hours into and barely make a dent in all the things you can potentially do. Even if you are all about the controller life like me there is certainly still plenty of fun to be had, but for now there will be a few quality of life things you’ll have to do without since switching between the two control modes is not easy and tends to cause in-game issues.

I’ll definitely be back to play more APICO in the future. There seems to be some interesting updates on the horizon and hopefully one of them will be the gift of my precious controller back in my hands.

If you would like to chill with APICO yourself, you can find it currently on Steam.