Wallace & Gromit Episode 1 – Fright of the Bumblebees

August 19, 2009 by Jeff Barker  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox Live Arcade

Overview

Title: Wallace & Gromit Episode 1 – Fright of the Bumblebees
Release Date: 27th June 2009
Developer/Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Action & Adventure, Puzzle & Trivia
Platform[s]: Xbox Live Arcade

The Queen’s Speech. An hour-long Eastenders special. Wallace and Gromit. Your nan spitting Brussel Sprouts all over the dinner table. Random acts of violence and depressingly interwoven sexual/family relationships (and that’s just the Queen’s speech). All stalwarts of your standard Christmas Day line-up, and it’s usually down to W&G, the dynamic plasticine duo, to bring the family together and remind us what Christmas is all about: a little bit of fun, a little bit of sentiment and a lot of laughter. It’s with all this in mind that you can see what TellTale Games has tried to achieve with their latest pseudo point and click adventure, but the studio unfortunately only manages to tick one of the above boxes – and hallelujah, it’s the one marked Fun.

Screen

Gameplay

The control system is easy to use, fluid and intuitive – move your on-screen character around with the Left Stick and although the game has been billed as a point and click adventure, it does avoid using the classic “move the cursor around the screen and find things to select” mechanic, instead opting to go with the left and right bumpers to toggle between the various interactive items that are on screen at any one time. No beefy arrows floating around the screen and no general annoyance at having to be pixel perfect with your selections, but while this helps immerse you into the universe very quickly (it’s all too easy to believe you are actually directing the action in one of their hallowed Christmas Specials), it does detract from the fact that (certainly as an older gamer) the whole nature of a point and click adventure is to hunt down those rascally objects with your cursor (sometimes revisiting an area more than once just to check you hadn’t missed anything because you were stuck at a particular point), and having them given to you on a plate straight from the off feels like you’re being led around by the hand a little too much. I can appreciate the difficulty in porting a PC mouse based genre onto a console controller, but it does make things a little too easy sometimes. The inventory system is easy to get around as well, using X to bring up the menu, with the Left Stick and A button being used for cycling through objects and selection respectively. The puzzles, however, range from the obvious to the devious – and several of them had me scratching my head in frustration, one so much so that I had to check the TellTale Games website for a cheeky hint …and in the usual forehead slapping style of these sorts of games, the answer was so obvious that I just didn’t think about it. It’s with these little touches that the game goes somewhat towards being forgiven for it’s bastardisation of the control system, but even still – some of the puzzles were a simple case of trial and error, and it would be entirely possible to bodge through the whole game in this manner.

Graphics

The graphics are gorgeous, that’s all there is to it – as previously mentioned, it’s all too easy to believe that you are watching an episode of the TV show, and despite a few lip-synching issues every now and then, it is without a doubt one of the most spot-on representations of a non-game based franchise known to man. From Gromit’s trademark speechless, exaggerated shrug of the shoulders and roll of the eyes to the little dimples and imperfections in the “clay skin” of the characters, everything about this stays 100% true to the TV Series. You can really see that a lot of love went into bringing Aardman’s classic onto the white box.

Screen2

Audio

Despite Peter Sallis’ somewhat disappointing absence on Wallace vocal duties, I have to say that the stand-in is pretty damn good – 99.9% of the time, which is commendable in itself, but there is the odd syllable now and again where you’ll be wishing for the more traditional Wallace tones…but this is a rare occurrence. The rest of the cast have also been well placed, with Mr and Mrs Gabberley so far providing most of the laughs – again proving that TellTale really studied the subject matter before making any major choices in what to include. Even the in-game music stays true to the 50’s/60’s jazz-band influence made so popular in the shows.

Overall Score & Replayability

If you are a Wallace and Gromit fan, young at heart or looking for a lazy Sunday afternoon’s gaming you will be prepared to overlook the game’s flaws as playing it is just so much FUN – I can’t stress enough just how easy it is to become embroiled in the adventure, with Wallace’s trademark bumbling and over-zealous inventions and ideas causing stress to Gromit as he tackles to sort it all out, and unless you are a really hardened gamer I defy your heart to not be melted in the end by the claymation charms of this title. However, as TellTale Games are responsible for bringing Monkey Island and Sam & Max to our screens later this year, I really hope they do sort out those quibbles in time or there will be a LOT of disappointed gamers out there…