Does this first episode have a sting in the tail?
Telltale has done wonders with both the Strong Bad and Sam & Max franchises with episodic games. The design for each series has been similar, yet each has its own charm. Can they turn their magic to a third series or will it stretch them too far? Let’s take a closer look at their latest franchise, the beloved Wallace and Gromit.
The first episode is entitled “Fright of the Bumblebees” and sees Wallace and Gromit attempt to enter the honey business. Wallace’s cheese-sniffing robot has destroyed Mr Paneer’s grocery store and to pay off the debt, Mr Paneer requests 50 gallons of honey by the evening. Wallace’s bees aren’t producing nearly enough honey, so the only option is to hunt down flowers, which turns into a mad quest for creating a growth formula for plants and then the obvious side-effects.
With each past series that Telltale has done, they wouldn’t let you manually move around and instead would let you point and click to your destination. Gladly that has been rectified for Grand Adventures and keyboard support is finally enabled properly. There’s also apparently an option to stick in a wired Xbox 360 controller, which will be handy for those wondering how a game like this might work on XBLA when it’s released later this year.
The formula of gathering and using items hasn’t changed all that much, but it has evolved slightly. Puzzles require that bit more though than in past games, but once you know how…it’s fairly straightforward and sadly, there’s no real reason to replay it once you are done with it. There are no hidden collectables to hunt down and no unlockables, so the overall reply value is slim. There is some good news for fans of the series though; you can actually play as both Wallace and Gromit…although only for specific parts of the game.
It’s nice since you couldn’t play as Max in Sam and Max, nor could you play as any of the cast of Strong Bad other than the big guy himself. What’s good about it are the little subtle things, the facial expressions of Gromit are so readable and you’re always thinking exactly the same thing. Wallace is a bit on the simple side, while Gromit is much smarter. It comes across quite well in the episode, and although it’s on the short side…it has plenty of laughs for fans.
Voice-acting sadly isn’t done by Peter Sallis, which is a bit of a wasted opportunity for Telltale. It loses that authentic feel; although the replacement voice actor for Wallace is actually not bad…it’s just not as great as the man himself. The rest of the voice work is superb, not an American accent in sight. All very British and the game captures that very well. The graphics are perhaps the best that Telltale has done so far and loading times are nice and short.
Overall, Fright of the Bumblebees is a great start to Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventures and with 3 more episodes on the way; it’s a good time to be a fan of the double-act. It may lack the replay value of most games, but it’s great nonetheless.