If there’s something worth noting about Pinobee, it has to be that the game is the only instance I know of a Game Boy Advance game being ported to the Playstation and remaining largely the exact same thing. It happens elsewhere, sure, but back in 2003 that seemed a bit odd. Yes, that’s right: this is a 2003 release on the PS1, a full two plus years into the Playstation 2, which is itself a port of a Game Boy Advance game. If you weren’t smelling budget title you should be now.
How does one describe Pinobee? It’s kind of a puzzle game, and kind of a flying platformer game. But then it’s also kind of like a collect-a-thon game… A weird bunch of genres for sure, but it at least handles them all decent enough. In each of the game’s stages you are tasked with finding the exit, while collecting flowers and items and pickups to earn a higher score and add to the stages overall percentage completion. Levels are quick, lasting only a few minutes, and assuming you make it through the right path the first time, you’ll likely get all pickups the first or second time. It’s basic, and sometimes it’s actually kind of fun.
But that’s on the surface. As you dig deeper, there are flaws to be discussed. Not the least of which being the camera. This is probably the largest gripe I had with Pinobee, and it might be due to the game’s original hardware lending itself better to this sort of gameplay. As you move Pinobee around the stage, he takes up a pretty large portion of the screen (and certain actions make him physically bigger, exasperating this). With the goal being to zip around stages and move quickly, it is hard to accurately say where you’re going when the camera pans slowly or otherwise doesn’t show a better idea where you’re going. Essentially there are some blind jumps you have to make: I wonder if the camera fared better on the GBA, or if the same issue appeared on that console as it does here.
And now that I write that, I wonder if that really is a camera issue or if it is just a fault of the game itself. The concept is solid, but perhaps its the execution that hinders the whole experience. There’s a bit of a 2023 mobile game made for kids feel to Pinobee, and that might be where the game would fall nowadays if it were made. It doesn’t need to have huge, game changing mechanics. Instead, one thing that could capture an audience for a few minutes at a time…
But while we’re talking about what the game does have, I feel I’d be doing an injustice if I didn’t mention how much of a jerk Pinobee is. The name Pinobee has to be a mashup of Pinocchio and Bee, as Pinobee is actually a robot (or maybe a toy?) bumble bee, given life by a fairy goddess for some reason. One of the first things Pinobee does when literally given life is to complain about being tasked with saving the person that created him! Imagine someone being like,
“Hey, wake up! I just gave you sentience when you would otherwise be completely lifeless. Do you mind using these newfound abilities to save the person who made you, since before you would have been literally nothing?”
And then you be like “Yeah no…”.
That disdain actually continues throughout the game, as Pinobee is visually annoyed if you do not get a high enough completion rating in each stage. And this is compounded at the end of the game; if your completion percentage is too low, Pinobee kind of just gives up on saving his creator (which is Grandpa Bee) and then maybe becomes like, an evil robot bee? It’s weird…
If you’re scratching your head thinking what even is this game, don’t worry because I was right there with you. In an effort to give the game more plot (and admittedly a neat way to notate missed areas in a stage), the end of each level has you reading Pinobee’s diary entry of that event. Included in there are things you may have missed that could help complete higher percentages, as well as main event details in the search for Grandpa Bee. It’s cute, if nothing else. And let me tell you now, if you don’t do well in stages, Pinobee becomes a jerk. Why is he so bad? I don’t know… the game makes it seem like maybe YOU, the player, are the bad person for not helping more???
In the end, don’t play Pinobee. There are just so many better games to play. Instead, watch someone speedrun the game and you’ll get your fill in such a faster amount of time. Though I don’t think we’ll see another Pinobee game I do wonder if he’ll get some sort of cult status among retro collectors for being the game with the asshole bee main character. Buck Bumble better watchout!