The sound of inventing has returned to 62 West Wallaby Street, much to the chagrin of safety conscious neighbors. Just as they began getting used to the absence of Rocketship launches, Hijacked Pants, and Robotic dogs that smuggle sheep, now they’re faced with the threat of giant Bumble Bees! Don’t worry though, the Porridge Gun is on our side.
Wallace & Gromit have returned to the realm of gaming, after a foray in the platforming genre, landing oh so comfortably in the world of Adventure games. Who better to welcome them to the genre, than the exceptional Telltale Games?
The first of four Grand Adventures, Fright of the Bumble Bees tells the story of Wallace & Gromit’s new business venture, Honey. As often happens with these startups, the duo soon find themselves in over their heads. As it turns out, 50 Gallons of Honey requires a lot of flower power in order for the bees to beehave in time with the schedule. But when you have an inventive mind like Wallace’s, you don’t have to wait for flowers to grow, now do you?
Much like the Strong Bad series, Fright of the Bumble Bees really nails the storytelling pace in order to match that of the animated shorts (including a climactic chase scene!). The new characters introduced seem to fit seamlessly into the story, and add to the atmosphere of the city. A conflicted couple that runs the newspaper stand leads to one of my favorite puzzles from the episode. The duo’s next door neighbor, Felicity also provides some hilarious quips in her chats with Wallace. Overall the characters feel very natural in the world of Wallace & Gromit, and I’m looking forward to visiting them in subsequent episodes.
The gameplay differs a bit from Sam & Max/Strong Bad, as you aren’t pointing and clicking to move around. You use the WASD/Arrow keys to control your character (Wallace or Gromit depending on the scenario), then use your mouse to interact with the objects. Strong Bad (Wii/PC) had certain aspects that showed signs of multi platform intentions, as does Wallace and Gromit (XBLA/PC). Thinking from the console side, it would be rather annoying to have to move a cursor across the screen via analogue stick, to point at the ground to which you wish to walk to. I had no trouble adjusting to the new controls, and found the play style much more fluid to watch. The interesting camera views sometimes cause you to readjust to the direction you need to be going (ala older Resident Evil titles), but for the most part the camera isn’t bothersome.
If you’re a fan of the Wallace & Gromit short films, you’ll enjoy your time with Grand Adventures. If you’re new to the series, I think it would be much easier to get into over something like Strong Bad. The episode lasts the perfect amount of time without overstaying it’s welcome. I hope that subsequent episodes showcase more of the city, but for an introduction to it all it was a good amount to give access to. The plasticine look from the shorts translates well into the character models (with exception to some strange lighting situations in certain areas), and I challenge you to not have the catchy theme song stuck in your head by the end of the episode.
Make sure to check out the free demo and if you find it to be the cheese to your cracker then make sure to check out Episode One: Fright of the Bumblebees available on PC today, and Xbox Live Arcade soon!