- Scribbled on March 24th, 2009 by Jonah Falcon
- Filed in Adventure, Microsoft Xbox 360, PC, Press Release, Reviews, Xbox Live Arcade
Telltale Games has certainly done their part in almost singlehandedly revitalizing the adventure game genre, sparking new life into licenses such as the longtime adventure game starwarts Sam & Max and the Homestar Runner star Strongbad. They’d done so by smartly using episodic content; unlike Valve’s attempts, episodes for each series have been quick and regular.
This time around, however, Telltale goes one step beyond and have teamed up with Aardman Studios, and have brought two of the most beloved British stars to the video game world this side of Patsy Stone and Edina Moon*, Wallace & Gromit. For those of you living under a rock, Wallace and Gromit are the claymation brainchild of Nick Park, having won three Academy Awards, including the feature length feature Wallace & Gromit in The Case of the Were-Rabbit. The main appeal of the characters is the dry British wit, which consists of cheese and cracker-obsessed, crackpot inventor Wallace’s nonsensical ideas and inventions that somehow work, his dog Gromit’s sighing resignation to Wallace’s lunacy, and the nutty world both live in, which are full of evil penguins, skiing robots and obsessive citizens.
Fright of the Bumblebees is the first part of a four chapter series called Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures for PC and Xbox Live Arcade, and in the true spirit of the series, the first third of the game is having to make breakfast and grow flowers, as Wallace starts yet another improbable entrepreneurship: bee farming, as he has trained bees to eat flowers and produce honey in his patented Magnetronic Pollinator™. Since things went seriously awry with his robotic, cheese-sniffing mouse, he finds himself seriously in debt. The shop owner whose grocery the mouse wrecked offers to pay Wallace’s debts if he can come up with fifty gallons of fresh honey for his crumpet festival.
Needless to say, Wallace manages to cause further chaos. To say more would be giving away too much of the plot, and unfortunately, the story, being the first episode, is fairly short, on the level of Portal. However, this is more than mitigated by the freshness of the script and the look of the game. The seemingly simple characters are in reality fairly detailed, so true to their claymation origins that one can see plasticene divots and creases on their flesh; sharp eyes can even see partial fingerprints on the clay. The episode looks like one of the Wallace & Gromit shorts.
Even better, the game sounds like a short film by Aardman Studios – the writing and humor is pure Nick Park, down to Wallace’s bad puns that somehow work and the off-kilter world of West Wallaby Street, with haughty gardeners, bureaucratic bobbies and senile British Army generals, and where giant flowers can sprout instantly with some steroid growth formula. Underscoring the game is the jaunty British big band score, including the recognizable Wallace & Gromit Theme. The game is everything an Aardman fan could want.
Well, almost. Unfortunately, Peter Sallis does not voice Wallace, and the game suffers slightly for it. Ben Whiteman, while a serviceable replacement, doesn’t have Sallis’ higher-pitched voice that carries an inherent lunacy. Whiteman does manage to get the nuances of Wallace enough that his throwaway lines and puns still work. One hopes that a “Sallis patch” someday gets released, as Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force did with Jeri Ryan.
From a pure adventure game standpoint, the game works extremely well, too. All of the puzzles are logical (at least, within Wallace’s world) and only require clever thinking. Some purists may balk at the action puzzles, but none of them require too much “twitch” skills, and there is no failure state. There is an option to have Wallace give puzzle hints in-game; that is, he’ll offer a suggestion while remaining in character and relative to the action on the screen. The only downside is that due to the length of the game, experienced adventure gamers will finish the game in a few sittings.
Of course, the game is intended to be only the first chapter of four, and is priced accordingly (all four episodes when they are eventually bundled will cost a mere $34.95), and the sheer writing and humor make the experience more than worthwhile. Even those new to Wallace and Gromit will find the game delightfully offbeat – and loyal fans will be pleased with the faithfulness to the source material (save the lack of Sallis), and references to earlier Wallace & Gromit work; sharp-eyed fans will see Gromit’s award winning vegetable from Were-Rabbit and the spaceship hatch from A Grand Day Out – even a memorable object from The Wrong Trousers factors into a puzzle. The second episode, The Last Resort, can’t come soon enough.
You can download the game here.
*Though, honestly, if Telltale Games decided to do a series based on Absolutely Fabulous, it would be thrilling.