Dizzy Bee, like Katamari Damacy and Little Big Planet, wraps a cutesy, inviting theme around a surprisingly sophisticated game. Move the roly-poly bees and friendly pieces of fruit aside, and you’ll find a perfectly tuned physics-based puzzler here, capable of occupying even the most skeptical console gamer for hours on end. It’s one of the best iPhone games yet.
In Dizzy Bee, your task is to roll a rotund bee around a level, freeing your “fruit friends” from their boxy prisons and escorting them to the level exit, while picking up as many bonus flowers as you can along the way. Gravity drags all loose objects on a level straight down, causing them to roll along surfaces or fall through empty space; you rotate the iPhone to reorient the level around those objects, turning walls into ramps and floors into ceilings. You can beat a level by advancing a single piece of fruit to the goal, but the game assigns you a higher rating for rescuing more friends in fewer groups, and for gathering flowers. Earning a gold star on a level takes an almost flawless performance.
There’s no time limit, but the levels are populated by baddies that will fry your bee and squash your fruit on contact. Avoiding them while going about your bee business is easier said than done, because the bad guys obey the same basic physical laws as everything else in the game. If you simply tip the phone without first blocking or trapping Dizzy Bee’s enemies elsewhere on the level, they’ll fall right towards him and turn him into bee pizza. Luckily, you can inoculate yourself by touching a piece of fruit; this “bonds” Dizzy Bee to the fruit and allows him to take a single hit from an enemy (it’ll kill the fruit, though).
Dizzy Bee’s fun comes primarily from its level designs, which combine a rich palette of enemies and gadgets with clever geometry. In addition to the basic, inert, rock-like baddies, there are creatures that constantly move towards you, enemies that follow the walls, and jumbo enemies, among others. One particularly nasty brand of bad guy is harmless until you hit a switch, causing it to spike up like a porcupine. Throw in fans, switchable doors, pinball bumpers, and one-way ball valves, and you’ve got a real challenge on your hands. You may end up needing to sacrifice a fruit friend to hit a switch, or timing a tilt just right to lock a bad guy away. These levels are genuinely hard to figure out–they take lots of repeats to decipher–but they are so fun and engrossing that you will always want to try again. Dizzy Bee doesn’t frustrate, it motivates.
It is important to note that some puzzles also require dexterous moves, like spinning the iPhone around in a full circle, rapidly turning it ninety degrees or upside-down, or nudging it very precisely. The controls feel responsive in every case. Nevertheless, some of the later levels may stymie some non-gamers entirely.
Dizzy Bee’s presentation is every bit as good as its gameplay. The levels are boldly colored and animated, like a high-quality children’s cartoon, and the characters have a ton of personality. The enemies growl and grimace at you, and the first time you hear Dizzy Bee buzz happily from one level to another on the world map, you will grin like an eight-year-old. It’s a very professional job all the way through.
Dizzy Bee is a blast to play from start to finish, and proof positive that small developers can produce truly inspired games for the platform. It would be a bargain at twice its current $2.99 price. We highly recommend it.