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Killer Bees! Box
Box Front

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Killer Bees! Cartridge

Overall Score:
(Out of 5)
Gameplay: 4.7
Graphics: 4.0
Sound: 4.1
Voice: 3.6

When writing game reviews, we authors are occasionally presented with a challenge. Namely, how do you describe the gameplay of a game like Killer Bees!, which is so unusual that the phrase "Totally different!" appears twice in its four-sentence marketing tagline? Do you call it a maze-chase game, since you have to catch the Beebots while flying away from the pursuing killer bees? Do you call it a shooting game, since you can zap the enemy insects with the RoSHa Ray? Or do you call it a "tag" game, since the object is to intercept the fleeing robots, stinging them to death with your swarm of bees? Killer Bees! is just hard to classify. But whatever you want to call it, there's no denying it's fun.

The back-story, which is surprisingly intricate for an Odyssey² title, is that Earth has been invaded by a force from the insect civilization of planet BEM. The aliens dispatch BEEBOTS, killer robots that are impervious to all conventional and nuclear weaponry, to conquer our planet. Immediately, the Beebots launch their devastating attack -- which primarily consists of running around haphazardly in an enclosed area. Clearly, Earth cannot withstand such inhuman tactics! Luckily, the conveniently-named Beebots turn out to be vulnerable to the stings of Earth bees. So, taking control of a swarm of white Earth bees, you must confront the confused robots while avoiding the deadly swarms of alien bees sent to guard them.

Gameplay takes place on a simple, rectangular playfield. The disorganized Beebots may or may not be the deadly threat they're cracked up to be, but they are fast. They zip in a straight line across the screen, turning 90 degrees whenever they encounter an obstacle (red Beebots turn clockwise, blue Beebots turn counterclockwise). The swarm of bees under your control can fly anywhere on the playfield; your duty is to touch a running Beebot and sting it to death. As you sting a 'bot, it begins to slow down. Finally, it will come to a complete halt, at which point it dies and transforms into a pointed grave marker (obviously, BEM is way ahead of us on self-burying robot technology). The grave markers act as obstacles for the Beebots that are left alive, altering their running paths. In effect, each Beebot death alters the dynamics of the playfield, which means that you can't just kill 'bots willy-nilly, you actually have to pay attention to where they die.

You won't be able to spend a lot of time mapping out a plan of attack, however, because of the deadly swarms sent to protect the hapless robots. Up to three enemy swarms can be on the playfield at once. They enter as "Green Meanies," green in color and not particularly bright. Green swarms are slow and unfocused, and they are not that difficult to avoid. Over time, however, they become "Blue Bodyguards," and attach themselves to Beebots (or Beebot graves). If a blue swarm decides to protect a live 'bot, you won't be able to sting it, and will be forced to wait until the bodyguards move on. This delay can give the blue bees enough time to mutate into "Red Devils," the deadliest swarm form yet. The red swarms make a "beeline" (get it?) right for you, and you die soon after unless you manage to take them out with your RoSHa Ray.

Ahh yes, the RoSHa Ray. Named after Killer Bees! creator Robert S. "RoSHa" Harris, this rectangular laser beam is your only defense against the enemy bees. When you kill a Beebot, the RoSHa Ray becomes charged. Depress the Action button to fire a burst that horizontally electrifies the playfield to either side of your swarm. Any enemy bees caught in the beam will be wiped out, and will have to reenter the playfield as Green Meanies again, regardless of what color they were when zapped. You must hurry up and kill another Beebot to recharge the beam.

Killer Bees! is an arcade-style action game of the highest order. A lot of things are always happening at the same time; the action is intense and you feel drained when it's over -- the goal of any early-'80s arcade game. Best of all, there are 26 levels of challenge, and the game just keeps getting faster as you progress through them. The graphics are simple but effective -- the coruscating swarms of bees are rendered particularly well. The game even boasts an "attract mode," a triangular field of rotating color that is quite impressive by Odyssey² standards. The Voice is the only weak part of this game; it consists of a series of unconvincing bee-buzzes and the word "Oh!" when you die. But that very minor quibble aside, Killer Bees! is a superb game that ranks up there with the best Odyssey² titles available, and it really is something "Totally different!"

All Reviewer Ratings:

J.W. Hunter5.
Marcelo Ribeiro5.
Michael Worrall4.
Mike Cronis5.
Steve Davis4.
Tim Whalen5.
William Cassidy4.

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