"If only all things made out of clay were this awesome..."
TellTale's adventure game renaissance that started with the new adventures of Sam & Max now leaps across the pond, taking Aardman's beloved Wallace and Gromit Claymation series for a spin. Created by Nick Park, the Wallace and Gromit collection of animated shorts (and the full-length film Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) has garnered legions of fans over the years since its creation in 1989.
[image1]Wallace is a nutty, cheese-loving inventor with a heart of gold, who lives on West Wallaby Street in Wilgan, England, with his trusty dog Gromit. Gromit is an incredibly smart dog, who despite the constant and crazy antics of his owner, always remains silent, communicating only through subdued expressions and mannerisms.
Fright of the Bumble Bees, the first episode in this series, begins as Wallace is establishing a bumble bee honey business for himself, using his invention that feeds flowers to a beehive, which in turn produces honey. Trouble begins when a local shopkeeper requests a rather large quantity of honey to be delivered by the end of the day. It might seem like an overly simple storyline, but that's the charm of the shorts - how Wallace can make things complicated and messed up. And believe me, he does in spades here.
[image2]Grand Adventures plays very similarly to Sam & Max's series, utilizing a simple inventory interface and your mouse. This time, however, the character on screen, whether it's Gromit or Wallace, can be moved directly in several ways with the keyboard. Puzzles aren't complex but require a certain dose of logical thinking, and don't go beyond using an item at the right spot or setting up the environment for a certain event to happen. If things happen to get difficult for some reason, at the options screen tips can be activated so they're given rarely, occasionally or often.
It's easy to see why Sam & Max's episodes are so successful - they take established characters and apply their brand of humor into a suitable genre. Grand Adventures takes the same approach with its own style of humor - less cheeky than Purcell's characters - but with its own British flavor. Environments, items, and character models are simple yet expressive, suitable to the Claymation technique used in the animated shorts. In fact, the entire animation style is translated quite well. You can see every single frame of a character's talk cycle, as if each is one of the pre-molded expression pieces from the Claymation model used in the computer animated series.
[image3]Much of an adventure game's success can depend on dialogue and humor, and Wallace and Gromit delivers. Every single character (Gromit and bees excepted) have something to say, and most of the time it's something hilarious. There's always a funny exchange to be had, especially with the towns' newsstand owner lady and her cranky, witty and foul mouthed (to a point) husband. Everything is extremely innocent: Wallace is always positive and happy-go-lucky even at the worst possible moments, while Gromit just shrugs and runs along, fixing everything. Well, mostly everything anyway.
Wallace and Gromit's Grand Adventures: Fright of the Bumble Bees is an excellent start to the planned four-part series. It manages to capture everything that makes the Wallace and Gromit animated shorts so endearing, expanding it to the adventure game genre. Seeing it's just a two- to four-hour long slice of a bigger, fully priced pie, we cannot wait to see what craziness is in store for the folks at West Wallaby Street in the future episodes. Good lad, Gromit!