Title: Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures Episode 1: Fright of the Bumble Bees
Platform: PC (Also on XBLA)
ESRB Rating: E
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Review by: Bill Jones
The thing that always amazes about Telltale Games is the developer’s ability to A) acquire some of the best possible licenses around for adventure games and form relationships with their original creators, and B) utilize those licenses incredibly well.
The developer long ago staked its claim as the premiere (if often the only) developer of modern point-and-click adventure games. Telltale has already proven itself in the arena of totally ridiculous humor writing with two seasons of Sam & Max and the debut of a Strong Bad series last year. But Nick Park’s dry British sense of humor and clay animation style must have presented a new challenge for the developer in the debut episode of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures.
But Fright of the Bumble Bees hits the proverbial nail right on the head. The episode opens with the gamer taking control of Gromit to explore a bit of the house on 62 West Wallaby Street and then pull the lever to dump Wallace out of his bed into his seat at the kitchen table. The first set of puzzles then require Gromit to assemble breakfast for his antsy master.
The character design is fantastic. While obviously computer generated and without that jerkier stop-motion feel, the characters still look like pieces of clay, and Gromit’s strange facial reactions to Wallace and Co. are spot on, though it would have been nice to see him in the game a bit more. Gamers control Gromit at the beginning and end, but he is stuck in a basement while Wallace explores the town in the middle of the game.
The settings are also well constructed to be faithful to the source material while also cluttered with plenty of things with which to interact. As usual, some items will play a part immediately in puzzles, some later in Bumble Bees and others likely not until the fourth episode, at which point we will have all taken them for granted.
The game introduces a few brand-new characters and contraptions galore, which Telltale wisely makes a part of many of Bumble Bees’ puzzles. The contraptions are used and undergo modifications, and one in particular is centered around Wallace’s favorite food obsession, “Cheese!” And yes, cheese plays a large part in Bumble Bees’ puzzles.
The plot focuses on a contraption in Wallace’s basement designed to produce honey. Wallace feeds the machine flowers, which extracts pollen for the bees and the honey is dispensed through a tap in his dining room. He gets an order for much more than he is prepared to handle, however, and despite Gromit’s looks of concern he takes the challenge. A large chunk of the game is centered on doing what it takes to produce that honey, and success is followed, fittingly, only by bigger problems. The subtle humor and intentionally cheesy lines of the series are found throughout in an adventure that feels like it belongs in the cannon of Wallace & Gromit.
The most significant change to Telltale’s point-and-click formula comes almost as a byproduct of the game being developed for the Xbox Live Arcade and will be noticed immediately by all gamers who skip the tutorial and try to click Gromit around the opening room.
Unless the player is clicking on a specific object, he won’t move.
This is because the 360 control pad doesn’t exactly lend itself to point-and-click, so the default PC settings use WASD movement, while still using the mouse to click on objects and scroll the inventory. For anyone who has ever become irritated by accidentally clicking objects when trying to move, or struggled with clicking a character into an awkward corner to see something in a weird spot on the wall, this comes as an incredibly welcome addition and will make one wonder why it wasn’t there all along.
Telltale fans who played through the Strong Bad series may be a little disappointed to realize Fright of the Bumble Bees isn’t packed full of extra collectibles, but again, it seems in keeping with the aesthetics of the series. Strong Bad’s online cartoons were laden with Easter eggs, hence the in-game collectibles. The lack of collectibles in Wallace & Gromit hampers replay value, but gamers shouldn’t mind as they are presented with a much more focused title.
Wallace & Gromit: Fright of the Bumble Bees is a game that should please both longstanding fans of Telltale and Wallace & Gromit. It is another respectful adaptation of a license done the way only Telltale can. As with any point-and-click game, it is a bit derivative and the innovation over previous titles is minimal, but the Telltale team remains creative enough to work within those confines and keep things exciting.
For more info, www.telltalegames.com