Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures Episode 1: Fright of the Bumblebees Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by Chris Wigham  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

There’s few reasons to be proud to be British (the weather, the government and the chavs see to that), but Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit is one of them. Since debuting in 1989, the plasticine duo of Yorkshireman (Wallace) and dog (Gromit) have become British icons, starring in four TV shorts and a film. The newest short (A matter of Loaf and Death) was shown here in the UK on BBC at Christmas and was officially the most watched TV programme of not only Christmas Day, but the whole of 2008 as well.

Telltale games have now turned their attentions to this famous, comedic duo with a four part episodic series for Xbox Live Arcade. The first episode sees Wallace and Gromit facing a disaster of their own making, giant and thuggish bees.

The story is very Wallace & Gromit like, with all the humour and silliness that has made them household names. One notable absentee is the voice of Wallace, Peter Sallis, who has been replaced by the very capable Ben Whitehead, not surprising, really, considering that he’s the official backup voice actor for Aardman. Whitehead does a very convincing portrayal of Wallace’s voice, it’s not always perfect but it’s often easy to forget that it isn’t actually Sallis himself doing the duties.

Telltale Games have a continuous and noble cause, the revival of a classic genre, thus, like all their other games, Grand Adventures is a point and click adventure series. There’s all the exploring, puzzle solving and item hoarding that you’d expect to find in a game from the genre, complete with all the things that fans of Wallace & Gromit have come to expect: inventions, the uplifting theme music and familiar locations and characters.

This is also the closest a Wallace & Gromit game has ever looked to the real thing. Everything looks exactly as it should, and even though they’re built with polygons, the character models actually appear to be made from plasticine, with little details such as blemishes and fingerprints. It’s unlikely that we’ll see a better looking Wallace & Gromit game in the foreseeable future.

Like you should, you get to control both the man and his dog, wandering around the very small world and solving puzzles. Interacting with your environment is done with the right stick (pushing it in the direction of your object of interest) or the bumper buttons, and in Wallace’s case he’ll sprout off comments, whilst the mute Gromit communicates to us with his very charismatic body language, much like the real dog himself (or should that be the plasticine model?)

If you’re looking for something to get the cogs of the brain working at full speed, then Fright of the Bumblebees isn’t going to completely satisfy your craving. The solutions to the puzzles normally aren’t too far from reach, and there’s also a hint system, which can be altered for the frequency it assists you, or even turned off completely if you’d rather not have a lending hand when you find yourself stuck and are trying anything and everything to progress, which shouldn’t really be a regular occurrence for many of us.

The game is only two to three hours in length putting a question mark over its worth at 800 points, although the bonus is that it very much looks and feels like an extended episode of the half hour shorts. For those who like a bit of challenge and longevity thrown in, if you don’t manage to get them all on your first play through, there’s obviously the achievements to aim for as well.

The first episode of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures is a very entertaining one, capturing the very essence that has made the duo into the popular icons that they have become. The puzzles may be generally free of difficulty, though this will suit its younger target audience as well as those who like to have an easier time. Granted that you can look past its brevity, Fright of the Bumblebees is a highly recommended download for fans of Wallace & Gromit as well as those who are always craving the next entertaining point and click adventure.

8/10

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