Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures Ep. 1: Fright of the Bumblebees Review: Claytastic
Ever since its first debut in 1989, Wallace & Gromit have become a pop cultural icon from the United Kingdom. The absent minded inventor Wallace and his faithful mute sidekick Gromit have both starred in several two minute blurbs, four short films, and a full-length feature movie. They’ve even received Academy Awards for their films, and recently released another short film called A Matter of Loaf and Death, which won the BAFTA award. That’s where TellTale games comes in; an independent developer who strives to bring back the old point and click adventure games. They’ve had some success with releases involving Bone, Sam and Max, and, of course, Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, but can they create a compelling episodic game with theWallace & Gromit license?
The story for the first episode of “Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures: Fright of the Bumblebees” begins in West Wallaby Street as we watch Wallace worry about his financial future. No one is in need of his services, and his recent prototype, the Sniffer 3000, destroyed a cheese shop. While panicking about the bills and eating some fine toast, the owner of the cheese shop visits Wallace and offers him a proposition: get him 50 gallons of honey for the Sounding of the Crumpets Festival by tonight, and his debt will be paid off, as well as get some free advertising. With the episode’s title, I’m sure you can figure out where this is will end up going, as you control both Wallace and Gromit during key points in the game. How you get there is the surprise, and the superb writing not only makes the game not only enjoyable, but unpredictable as well.
TellTale worked with each member of W&G’s cast of character to establish that they all have a great personality behind them, and you’ll need to interact with each as the game progresses. Although you aren’t given dialog options unlike past Telltale games, the puzzles themselves are coupled with logic and great writing. This is one of the few adventure games were the solution made sense in the setting it takes place, so you won’t find yourself constantly clicking random objects and hope a solution comes up. However, these puzzles aren’t insanely difficult, and are quite easy to solve.
This is not say the puzzle design is perfect. Fans of the previous TellTale games will easily recognize the format from the previous games. For comparison, the first episode of Season 1 of Sam and Max required you to remove three pranksters from the streets. In Wallace & Gromit, you’re required to grab three items before continuing forward. Each of these three puzzles can be solved in any order, so it would’ve been nice to see some originality or creative use of the puzzles instead of following a formulaic design.
The game’s presentation is a mixed bag, depending on who you are. Those who don’t follow Wallace & Gromit religiously will be introduced to a world with great voice acting, bundled with wonderful writing, clever use of puzzles, and a very entertaining storyline. However, if you’re the type of fanboy who demands borderline perfection, you might dislike a few things. The most obvious one is the voice actor for Wallace isn’t Petter Sallis, instead it is a back-up voice actor. The other problem is how the graphics are displayed - Wallace & Gromit are not only known for their great sense of humor, but also the detailed props and great use of lighting. The video game doesn’t contain either of these, as the areas themselves have a basic, bare bones look to them, and the lighting isn’t that impressive. It is workable for an adventure game, and runs well, but again, this is simply a warning to the perfectionist fans.
What both sides could agree upon is the character models themselves. The show is based on clay animation and surprisingly, it’s pulled off very well in “Fright of the Bumblebees.” Each character uses bump mappings to show the little scratches on the surface to show that they are clay; even Wallace’s sweater gets a nice dose of bump mapping. They are animated very smoothly, although the lip movement is a contradiction to the rest of the game. As the characters walk around in fluid motion, the lips themselves aren’t as smooth to mimic the clay animation look, which seems strange at first, but it isn’t entirely distracting.
Aside from a few issues, “Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures Episode 1″ is a great adventure game. It keeps the spirit of Wallace & Gromit intact, with its clever story telling and well written puzzles. Despite the formulaic pacing and low replay value, this is definitely worth considering if you’re the fan of the of this inventor and dog series or you want to indulge yourself with a great plot.
Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures Ep. 1: Fright of the Bumblebees was released on March 24th for PC, and TBD for Xbox Live Arcade. The version reviewed was the PC version.