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Game: Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventures Episode 1: Fright of the Bumblebees
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Year: 2009
Reviewed: 2009
Platform: PC
Genre: Adventure
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

After successfully tackling Sam and Max twice and turning Strong Bad into a brilliant adventure series, Telltale have turned their hand to bringing Nick Park’s cheese loving duo to the gaming world. I suppose there’s a chance that there might be someone out there who hasn’t heard of Wallace and Gromit, most likely someone who isn’t English, so I’d better briefly explain them. Wallace is a clumsy inventor with a cheese obsession whose inventions inevitably go wrong, and Gromit is his dog. That’s enough explanation, go and watch the animations if you don’t know about them already and stop being lazy. Being lazy is my job.

Wallace and Gromit Episode 1 Badger
Badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom...

The game opens with a brief optional tutorial explaining how to play the game, which is needed since the controls are a little different to the usual adventure game. First impressions actually aren’t that good. To move Wallace you have to use the keyboard, navigating via either the arrow keys or the WASD keys depending on your preference. The inventory is brought up in a side bar by pressing the shift key or the middle mouse button. Items in the environment or the inventory are interacted with by clicking on them with the mouse as usual. The keyboard navigation is presumably to make it playable for the Xbox 360 version, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t have left the normal point and click movement in for the PC version. The controls aren’t actually too bad and after a few minutes you get used to them, but it just seems unnecessary.

The other thing that’s off-putting right from the start is Wallace’s voice. From the moment he first speaks in the introduction it’s clear that Peter Sallis isn’t providing the voice. At the start of the tutorial he just doesn’t sound right and it’s obviously someone doing their best impression of Wallace but not quite making it. This does become less of an issue later on in the game, either from the player getting used to it or from the actor getting better at the voice, or most likely a combination of the two. It still never feels quite right without Peter Sallis though. The mannerisms are there, the accent is there, but it just doesn’t have the same character.

Wallace and Gromit Episode 1 Wrong Trousers
With special guest appearance by the Wrong Trousers.

Thankfully, first impressions can be deceptive and Fright of the Bumblebees turns out to be of typically high Telltale standard, even if it isn’t one of their very best games. Split into 4 acts, the game follows Wallace’s attempts to fulfil a huge order for his new honey delivery business. His plan to rapidly grow plants to feed into his honey machine doesn’t quite work out, and soon giant bees are terrorising West Wallaby Street. The gameplay alternates between playing Wallace and Gromit throughout the game. The first act gives a good introduction to the game by having Gromit make breakfast by fixing one of Wallace’s Heath Robinson-style devices. Then it’s on to some typical Telltale find-the-3-required-objects tasks, before Gromit finally gets to save the day with a fun action scene puzzle.

The whole thing holds together very well and captures the feel of the original animations. For an American company, Telltale has done a brilliant job of creating something that’s very British. Sallis-absense aside, the voice acting is of a high standard throughout. The actors have appropriate regional accents, which makes a change from American’s doing bad cockney impressions, which is what passes for Britishness in most US productions. The graphics are also appropriate for the game. They’ve even gone to the trouble of adding marks and thumbprints to the characters to give it the true plasticine look.

Wallace and Gromit Episode 1 Bee
Yes, this scene is exactly as weird as it looks.

As usual for Telltale, there’s a good variety of puzzles here, but none of them are especially challenging. This is probably the easiest episode they’ve yet released, although I’m always pleased on the rare occasions when I manage to complete an entire adventure without turning to a walkthrough, so maybe I should just pretend I found it easy because of how clever I am. During the course of the game’s 3-4 hours you’ll go from rescuing a robotic rodent from a prison cell to manufacturing insults to finding ways to trap giant bees using a porridge gun. It might not be all that much of a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, and variety is always welcome.

The save system seems a bit strange this time round. It autosaves at various points in the game, usually whenever you achieve something, and also when you quit the game. If you want to manually save the game though, you have to choose the save option in the menu, and then choose a “Bookmarks” option which gives you only four slots to save the game in. It seems rather convoluted when they could just use a standard save menu. Still, thanks to the autosave you never really need to use it.

So the game does have its flaws, chiefly the controls and Peter-Sallislessness, but they aren’t enough to ruin a game that captures the style of the films so well. It’s another triumph for Telltale, although maybe not such an emphatic one this time. It starts off a bit slowly but by the end you feel like you’re playing through a Wallace and Gromit film.

Save System Review: The autosaves work fine. There’s just too many clicks to get to the save menu if you want to save manually.
Graphics: Nothing that’s going to tax your graphics card too much, but the game obviously isn’t going for photorealism. They’ve done a good job of making the characters look like they’re supposed to, right down to the plasticine texture.
Sound: The voice acting is mostly good but the new voice for Wallace is jarring, especially to start with. The recording quality is rather poor at times too, with the dialogue tracks popping and crackling at times.
Bugs: I didn’t encounter any bugs, unless you’re American and count the bees.
Gameplay: Some fun puzzles although nothing too challenging, and as usual for Telltale, there’s no pixel hunting.
Storyline: The plot is simple but works well enough for the game, and it’s quite funny, although not quite on a level with the proper films.

Arbitrary Final Score: 3 stars

If you like this, you might also like: Sam and Max series, Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, Tales of Monkey Island.

Is it close enough to the animations or is it just too cheesy for you? Comment in the forums!