Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures: Fright of the Bumblebees Review

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Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games

Platforms: PC and Xbox 360
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: 2 GHz Processor, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 8.1 compatible video card and sound device, 310 MB HD space, internet connection, Windows XP or more recent operating system

The inventor Wallace and his pet pooch Gromit have a plan to go into the honey business, supplying sweet bee-nectar on demand to local businesses and residents. But those plans have been thwarted by a lack of bee nutrients and the damage done to a nearby shop by one of Wallace's other inventions. With only an afternoon to spare, Wallace and Gromit must produce enough honey to prove their plan viable and repay the wronged grocer, without running afoul of larger-than-life insects.

Kyle Ackerman

Wallace and Gromit are a comic pair far better known on the other side of the pond than here in North America. The quintessentially British inventor Wallace and his canine companion Gromit have made a trip to the moon in A Grand Day Out, accidentally robbed a bank in The Wrong Trousers, shorn sheep in A Close Shave and protected giant vegetables in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, among other films and shorts. While Wallace and Gromit's films are a favorite of mine, they simply haven't gotten the attention or respect they deserve in North America. Perhaps the pair are simply too English for an American audience, but the laconic pragmatist dog keeps his idealistic and flighty master on track, making entertainment appropriate for both children and cynical adults.

So I was excited to play the first of four episodic adventures featuring the pair, Fright of the Bumblebees. But though the game is solid and entertaining, the direction the plot and puzzles take feels wrong. In their animated outings, Wallace and Gromit create (and often panic to contain) bizarre, Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions while maintaining a polite decorum that leads to absurdly laughable situations. That should be the perfect setup for an adventure game. In the opening moments, when Gromit must make breakfast for Wallace by repairing such a device, the game feels spot-on. But when elements of breakfast are being stolen by a smug rodent, or when Wallace is sent around town to wave a slug at passers-by, or even playing Mad-Libs, the game feels misappropriated, as if Quentin Tarantino were directing a Jane Austen adaptation. Despite perfect voice work and visuals, the entire episode hasn't connected with the quintessence of Wallace and Gromit. At least some of the puzzles involve cheese.

The dissonant tone of the episode aside, the visuals, sounds and style of Aardman's Wallace and Gromit are all brilliant in this first of their Grand Adventures. Wallace's house is perfect, trophies and mementos of their past exploits abound, and Gromit is as unflappable as usual. By adding appropriate textures, Telltale Games has adapted its engine to the claymation look of Aardman's animations, making each character look as if it were molded by hand. The music captures the tone, and the interface (clearly designed to suit an Xbox 360 controller) works for the PC as well.

While a decent adventure, this Grand Adventure simply isn't grand enough, because they just missed the tone. The plot twists feel more suited to Sam & Max, and the adventure game absurdities are less forgivable because Wallace and Gromit demand an entirely different set of absurdities, that should be perfectly suited to the format. $35 for four episodes is likely to be a fine price once one can judge all the episodes. But speaking as an extreme fan of Wallace and Gromit, I think I enjoyed this episode less than people more casually acquainted with the pair might. The puzzles aren't particularly difficult (although some require timing and coordination), and everything else is polished, but core Wallace and Gromit followers are the most likely to find something amiss with Fright of the Bumblebees, and the most likely to be disappointed.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on April 8, 2009 9:40 PM.

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