Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures

   02/06/2009 at 07:48       Joe Bennett       9 COMMENTS. - Score 3/5
Nice bees, Gromit!

Wallace and Gromit's Grand Adventures sees TellTale back once again with yet another adventure game split up into four episodes. This first episode, Fright of the Bumblebees, remains very close to the source material with a story that could easily have been made into a movie.

The game starts at breakfast time, providing a nice easy start to the game. Gromit is tasked with getting breakfast for Wallace, and it wouldn't be Wallace and Gromit if making breakfast didn't involve lots of contraptions. With breakfast out of the way, Wallace is paid a visit by a local store owner requesting 50 gallons of honey by midnight (Wallace's latest business venture is making honey). Much to the chagrin of Gromit, Wallace accepts the order. Obviously the only way Wallace knows how to make that much honey in time is to invent a growth formulae to enlarge the bees in the basement and therefore increase the amount of honey they produce. What follows is a madcap tale that really does feel part of the Wallace and Gromit franchise, but one that falls down in some important areas.

Oh no, Gromit will bee angry

Visually W&G is a mixed bunch. While not claymation the game is very cinematic and close enough to the original material during cut-scenes that it fooled my wife into thinking that I was watching one of the films. However there are some issues with the frame rate, ranging from juddering backdrops to cut-scenes that have incredibly jerky scrolling. While it doesn't break the game, it's almost unforgivable to have issues in such a slow-paced game.

The audio suffers in a similar fashion. Everybody in West Wallaby Street benefits from excellent voiceover work, except Wallace. For some reason (rumours range from health reasons to other work commitments) Peter Sallis does not provide the voice and it is instead left to a soundalike to take the reigns. In the main he does a reasonably good job, but it's still odd to have a character so renowned for his voice to sound different. I also experienced a lot of 'popping' noises when playing W&G, especially during the last two chapters, which were most prominent during conversations.

It's a little empty, like my stomach lad

West Wallaby Street is brought to life by some interesting characters that will hopefully evolve more across the three further episodes. Unfortunately though, at a cast of six (with one of them not seen, only heard, and not including Wallace or Gromit) West Wallaby Street felt a little empty at times. The emptiness was only confounded by the lack of areas; Wallace's house, his front garden, the bus stop (for one chapter only) and the High Street. You can literally walk from one end of the entire play area to the other in less than 15 seconds, and that's including loading screens and the times that Wallace or Gromit will invariably spin on the spot or go through the wrong door.

Although the controls are simple (left analogue to move, right analogue to flick through available objects to interact with, A to interact) the two characters control badly. Sometimes they suddenly change direction (although the camera angle has remained the same and you're pushing the same direction on the control stick) or default to the item furthest away from them rather than the one closest to them, resulting in you opening the wrong door and triggering a loading screen. It's nothing more than annoying and definitely not game breaking, but that may be because W&G doesn't last long enough for it to become truly infuriating.

Better in bite-sized chunks, just like my Wensleydale Gromit

Determining the length of Wallace and Gromit is a little tricky as it all depends on how long you're stuck on the puzzles. I took a little over four hours to finish all four chapters, in two two-hour long sittings, and was only really puzzled twice (and one of those was easily resolved the next morning; apparently puzzles are much harder at 01:00am than they are at 10:30am). However my niece (9 years old), who had a go at the second chapter, was completely stumped by one of the puzzles and I doubt that she would ever have got the solution and therefore for her it would have lasted much longer.

Once you know the solution to the puzzles you can get through the whole game again in less than half an hour, and with no additional content or secrets to find, there's no replay value to be had. Still, three-to-five hours content for a little under seven pounds is normally good enough value for money in my book, it's just that the three-to-five hours that W&G serves up are a little insipid.

The humour never reached the heights that the films are renowned for. There were a couple of relatively humorous moments, but nothing that made me laugh out loud (sorry, LOL). This was a real shame as, although the gameplay was basic, the story was strong enough that with better humour, it could have dragged W&G into the 'must purchase' category.

That's not to say that W&G isn't enjoyable, as it is in bite-sized chunks. It's just more than a little rough around the edges and suffers from a few glitches (some of which require you to start the game all over again to continue; there are quite a few instances of people not being able to get out of a scene during the fourth chapter, about five minutes from the end of the game, that required them to restart from the beginning of the game again, unless they manually saved their game during one of the previous chapters) that can hamper your enjoyment of the game.

Humour is subjective, so I'll forgive it that, and I am genuinely interested to see where TellTale take this from here. I just wish TellTale had tightened up on the glitches and bugs, spent a little more time with the erratic control scheme and provided a few more areas to explore. If it had done I would have had no hesitation in recommending Wallace and Gromit: Fright of the Bumblebees as a must-have purchase for those hankering for an adventure game. Hopefully when the next episode hits, I may just be able to do that.
User Comments:

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mal - on 02/06/2009 at 12:13 wrote:
Hmm, so it glitches, the controls are broken, it's very short and not very funny.

Even though I'm frequently disappointed, I expected more from Traveller's Tales.

Kay - on 04/06/2009 at 17:35 wrote:
Nice review, confirmed pretty much what I suspected after playing the demo. I wanted to like it but the weird controls and framerate really put me off, and I suspect it'll be the same in the other chapters.

It's a shame Sam & Max didn't come to XBLA, but at least Monkey Island is on its way so we can experience the best of the genre.

(Btw mal, this was by Telltale - makers of the new Sam & Max games, not Traveller's Tales, who most recently made the Lego games.)

peej - on 04/06/2009 at 18:32 wrote:
He's right, Kay do you wanna be my proofreader or something :)

Kay - on 04/06/2009 at 19:15 wrote:
You know what, I was actually going to be cheeky and ask if we were allowed to edit other people's articles, if we spot some sort of error/typo in there.

kentmonkey - on 04/06/2009 at 21:13 wrote:
self-moderated: I waffled and went off topic. Too much coffee today.

Kay - on 04/06/2009 at 23:31 wrote:
It wasn't you who mixed up the developers, KM, your article was correct. It was mal who made the mistake in his post. :)

kentmonkey - on 05/06/2009 at 00:56 wrote:
Ah brilliant.

I wish I could get the bloody CMS to work on this thing, so I don't have to bother Peej and Hairy to put the reviews up. No idea why it doesn't like it.

Back on topic...my nephew wanted to see the ending so we did a speed run through to the end and I got him to play the last level. Bearing in mind that the last level can be completed in about 2 minutes once you know what to do, I left him to it while I went to cook dinner...half an hour later, he's still got absolutely no idea what to do (the final puzzle is obscure). When I told him what to do, he said he would probably have never worked that out and if he'd finished it it would have been through sheer luck at doing the right thing (he's 12).

I'm really looking forward to Monkey Island though, and I really hope that has a better control system and that they don't tamper with the humour. The original beefed up with better visuals and a more XBOX360 friendly control system would do fine, just don't start changing puzzles or dialogue please.

Kay - on 05/06/2009 at 13:58 wrote:
Also, turns out that the new Sam & Max is coming to XBLA after all. From what I've read it'll be the full season (6 chapters) in one (presumably expensive) download, which will probably make it better value for money than W&G.

kentmonkey - on 05/06/2009 at 18:56 wrote:
Excellent. I'd be well up for reviewing that, I must say.

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