Wallace and Gromit: The Fright Of The Bumblebees (W&G: TFOTB) is the first episode in Telltale Games’ latest series. For those not familiar with the clay-animated shorts: Wallace is a well-meaning but bumbling inventor, Gromit is his long-suffering pooch, and together they have some grand adventures in their sleepy English village. Telltale is well-known for their Sam & Max episodic games (numbering a full 2 seasons) and the successful formula laid out in these has been applied again in Wallace & Gromit.
The story begins with Wallace facing the repercussions of a contraption run amok, causing chaos in a local produce shop. In order to placate Mr Paneer, the victim of this malfunction, you will have to supply him with 50 gallons of honey on short notice. Wallace comes up with a suitably dodgy plan which results in yet more bedlam for the town…
You play alternately as Wallace or Gromit, as the situation requires, and their respective approaches to the game world are different. Wallace, by virtue of being able to speak, handles all dialogue with the village’s other inhabitants, while Gromit undertakes most of the item collection and interaction (where he keeps his inventory is unknown, however). There are numerous puzzles to overcome, from preparing breakfast, tricking a barmy pensioner out of his rations, to ultimately saving the village from giant angry bees. These are generally fun and well thought-out but fairly straightforward – while it’s a good thing there are no utterly obtuse Lucasarts-style obstacles, none of them will have you scratching your head for very long. It would also have been nice to build some complex cockamamie invention, as this is a big part of the franchise’s charm, but this is sadly lacking.
The graphics engine is the same as used in earlier Telltale games, and unfortunately it shows its age. None of the environments are particularly detailed, and they lack the depth of content found in Sam & Max. But since this is a casual adventure game, it doesn’t really matter. Characters are lovingly rendered with convincing clay textures (complete with the occasional “fingerprint”) that capture the characters well. Mouth animations are a bit jerky, which can be distracting (although this might be intentional to match the show’s claymation style), but Gromit’s eyebrows are as expressive as ever. The music is above par and suitably atmospheric, featuring some lovely variations on the original theme tune, and voice acting is excellent. Sadly, Peter Sallis does not voice Wallace, but his replacement does an adequate job.
The humour in W&G: TFOTB is a far cry from the brash and twisted funnies found in Sam & Max– it is a lot gentler, and while it won’t make you laugh out loud, it will elicit a few chuckles. Overall, the game is forgiving, good for casual gamers, while remaining engaging enough for adventure veterans, and at around R350 for all 4 episodes, it’s a bargain.