Thursday 26 January 2017

Killer Bees (Philips Videopac G7000 / Magnavox Odyssey 2 review)

Developer: Philips
Publisher: Philips
Released: 1983

Killer Bees! is an action game that was also ported to the ZX Spectrum in homebrew form in 2014.

You play as a swarm of 12 bees and your job is to eliminate invading Beebots as they enter from three tunnels at the side of the screen. There's a total of 26 levels and each one challenges you to continually sting Beebots until they slow down and turn into gravestones! However, they gradually regain strength and speed up if you don't sting them often enough, so quick and frequent attacks are required. The game's challenge comes from the three swarms of killer bees that try to protect these Beebots;  if they make contact with you you lose some of your 12 bees, and the game ends when your swarm has been completely wiped out. To help, you can activate a RoSHa Ray to zap rogue bees to the left or right of you, which must be recharged by killing Beebots. The action is frenetic and what's most pleasing is that unlike many Arcade-style games of the time you're actually not on the defensive; it's actually quite thrilling to be the aggressor and be able to go out of your way to cause chaos! The playfield is small but that adds to the tension and claustrophobia. Each gravestone acts as a barrier to alter the path of the Beebots, but expert players can use these to block incoming enemies which adds a great layer of strategy. Considering the amount of sprites and carnage on screen during later levels it's impressive that the action never slows down and there's zero flicker. The sprite animation of your bees is impressive too and each one moves independently! My only real criticisms are that there's only one mode and no multiplayer options, so the game's replayability is hampered to a degree.
Killer Bees! is a unique action game that flips the usual arcade format on its head to create somewhat of a surprise gem in the console's library. While I do wish it had some variants or extra modes to flesh out the experience, the gameplay is simply irresistible and it's a total blast being the dominant force for a change!
Random trivia: The game also contains speech samples if you attach The Voice expansion module.

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