Andrew Bryant loads up with Wasp-eeze and heads to West Wallaby Street for the first time this year…
Game Title: Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures: Fright of the Bumble Bees
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games/Aardman
Format Reviewed: PC (Review)
Also Available on: XBLA
Price: $8.95 | $34.95 for Season Pass | 800 MS Points
Telltale Games are clearly at an impasse.
On one hand, they’ve mastered the episodic format, managing to bring persistently strong releases in quick succession where industry power houses like Valve Software haven’t quite managed it, using consumer feedback to guide the direction of the season as they go.
On the other hand, the seasons are getting shorter and the game play seems to be stuck in a rut, having not really advanced beyond the 3-act setup first outlined by Culture Shock, stuck largely on auto-pilot due to the pre-defined interactions mandated by the lack of the verb bar.
Wallace & Gromit shows no sign of breaking this stride and Telltale have offered up a visually spectacular homage to the plasticine favourites (that even extends to the finger prints on various portions of the character models), featuring a plot that centres (predictably) around another of Wallace’s get-rich-quick schemes and the subsequent invention designed to aid its success, with predictably disastrous results.
The Telltale Tool is as good to ‘play’ as ever, modified to suit the Xbox with the addition of GRIM-esque direct controls, making the game less laborious to play (running across the Field in SBCG4AP was RSI-inducing), although the need to actually move is negated by interactive items being placed close together, allowing the game to be played mostly with the mouse. That said, hotspots are frequently buggy and sometimes don’t appear when you mouse over them.
Audio is more of a mixed bag, with the music and voices living on the same single volume control, therefore depriving the player of the ability to kill the backing track when it drowns out the voice acting more often than not, making subtitles a requirement rather than an option.
NPCs are more autonomous now, chiming in with conversation when the character is nearby, rather than when explicitly interacted with, which is a nice touch. Said NPCs are also grounded in the W&G-niverse, being alluded to in the official productions, although there seems to be some creative licensing being taken – The dastardly squirrel, for one, seems like something more suited to Open Season or Over the Hedge.
The puzzles on offer are definitely more clear-cut than Telltale’s other games, with solutions that are fairly obvious and clever to realise but difficult to achieve, although nothing was made of Wallace & Gromit working as a team to achieve a goal – despite the fact that Wallace is fairly clueless at the best of the time, having him actively participating in the game, creating scenarios for Gromit to fix would be nice.
Sam & Max proved how having a second character on screen at all times can improve the experience, especially considering Gromit’s facial expressions & mannerisms are the cause of much of the humour in the game.
I enjoyed Wallace & Gromit’s first episodic release – more so than Strong Bad and, looking back, definitely more so than Sam & Max, but that may be a cultural thing more than anything. On first impression, the W&G format seemed crowbarred into the game, but as I progressed through the episode, I came to realise that Aardman’s typical structure – the breakfast scene, the high-concept middle-act, blockbuster finale and the dénouement – suited it fine.
I certainly found the authenticity of the setting and the puzzles (which were moderately fiendish & clever in equal measures) the episodes strong points, the latter being a welcome relief after my Strong Bad marathon and its barrage of relentlessly easy puzzles. Roll on the next episode, providing Telltale remembers there are two to a partnership.