Apico is a bee keeping game inspired by the mod Forestry for Minecraft. Players will step into the beekeepers suit to raise and crossbreed bees, discover long lost species, and rejuvenate the wild bee population.
Apico follows the classic story set out by the Harvest Moon franchise where the player returns to the family business to bring it back from ruin. This time, it just happens to be bees. Lots of bees. The writing isn’t particularly deep as the relationship with other characters are transactional at best. What is there is decent, just be prepared for endless bee puns.
At its heart, Apico is a Mendelian genetic simulator mixed with a casual sandbox game. The pacing is relaxed as players are free to progress at their own pace. The player’s goal is to collect all the species of bees and plants available in the game by crossbreeding bees, who will then cross pollinate flowers and potentially produce hybrid seeds. The sandbox mechanics are very simple, allowing players to build and customize their own structures and harvest a small handful of resources needed to support beekeeping.
The game’s learning curve is not too steep. The game is very generous with hints and tips on what to do. Instead of forcing players to blindly experiment until they get the right combo, Apico is more concerned about having the player create the ideal circumstances to give themselves the highest chance for success. This means getting the right flowers, bee traits, and environment. I like this approach as it fits the game’s relaxed mentality well and cuts down on a lot of frustration.
There’s something joyous and a little addicting about playing Apico. Once I got a hang of crossbreeding bees with good stats and ideal traits and then churning out clones in my hives, I quickly found myself spiraling down a rabbit hole full of Punnett squares in the age-old quest to collect absolutely everything.
The gameplay loop is tactile, striking a good balance between realism and enjoyable gameplay. I love how machines need some sort of physical input from the player to run. Even the late game machines still require some input, even though it is significantly less work for the amount of outputted material. It goes a long way to impart a little bit of realism to the game.
The user experience is good, though there are a few areas that could use quality of life improvements. The mouse and keyboard controls offer a desktop like experience with multiple pop-up windows. Crafting menus are smart enough to pull items out of already open boxes, and it’s a pure joy to be working through multiple machines and boxes without having to run around and open each one at a time to shift around materials. It’s a UI layout that I hope catches on in more games. On the other hand, the sorting system isn’t the smartest thing in the world when multiple windows are open. It would be nice to get a more context aware sort system. For example, having the game automatically move a bee to the correct bee species box when multiple boxes are open would be a huge quality of life improvement.
The user experience is still very good, albeit more standard, for controller users. Things are a bit more stripped down in comparison which makes it a great alternative for players who find themselves a little overwhelmed by windows.
My biggest issue with the user experience is the lack of a UI zoom function. With a 1440 monitor, the text and the game graphics are a touch small. The ability to at least zoom in the UI by 50% would be a great addition.
The developers are taking a page from their Minecraft mod roots by providing a robust set of modding tools for players. While there’s already a decent amount of content in Apico, the growing list of mods offering new content and quality of life features stretches out the game’s life nicely.
Apico offers a great visual style that has a cute, yet slightly serious aesthetic. The rounded square style and the more restrained colour palette gives the game a distinct flair. Almost all the bee species can be differentiated with a quick look, but a few could have their colour differences exaggerated a bit more, like the Verge and Forest bees.
The audio experience is relaxing. The sound effects are solid and very serviceable. The music is an enjoyable accompaniment that matches the laid-back pace of the game, but it only kicks in occasionally. There is an in-game jukebox with different records that can be purchased, but I would have liked to see an option to increase or decrease the regularity of when the default music kicks in.
While there isn’t much of a story, Apico delivers addictive gameplay that sneakily teaches players the basics of Mendelian genetics while they create the perfect bee habitat. There are some quality-of-life features that could be addressed, but these are the fixes that would turn a good game into a great one. Combined with the enjoyable audio-visual experience and growing mod scene, Apico is a solid indie game for people looking to relax and scratch that 100% collection impulse at their own pace.
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