Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures Ep 1: Fright of the Bumblebees Review
The Wallace and Gromit films may be some of the most visually inventive and stunning things I have ever seen on a TV or movie screen. The combination of incredibly detailed claymation and powerful characterization (often better than that produced by "actors") produces amazing chases, endearing characters, and memorable scenes and films. Telltale Games are bold in the extreme to bring this property to gamers then. Sure they may be tackling Monkey Island and have already shown what they can do with Sam and Max, but these aren't famous game characters they're bringing "to life" here. These are characters that possess more life in their clay eyes than Guybrush Threepwood could ever accumulate.
It's a good sign then, that in Wallace & Gromit and the Fright of the Bumblebees, the eyes are the first thing you notice. They don't quite have that alarming-yet-familiar physicality of the claymation figures, but they're just as emotive and expressive, as are the faces and voices showcased in the game. The supporting cast (with one notable exception) is as memorable and distinctive as those seen in the films, but as was always the case, our eyes and ears are on the titular duo.
Gromit (being voiceless) would seem to be a bigger challenge than his large-eared human counterpart. However, as he mutely gestures, rolls his eyes, and does his best to communicate everything we do and don't need to know, Gromit is quite impressive. We feel his constant irritation with Wallace's foolishness, and his long-suffering, knowing looks in response to Wallace's reliance upon him. He's one of the more convincing characters I've seen in a video game. Maybe more games should have silent, visible protagonists. It would be hard work, but it would save us from the terror of less-than-average voice acting.
This leads us to the first signs that Telltale has some kinks it needs to work out in its formula. Wallace, and important NPCs like local policeman and Mr. Paneer, are less than stellar in the vocal department. Mr. Paneer is supposed to be Indian, but his accent had me thinking he was Scottish until I saw his character. He's not great, but he's less jarring than Wallace is. The actor behind Wallace (not the same as was in the movies) is quite good, but he lacks Wallace's excitement and exuberance. He never quite sells us on Wallace as a principle character, and since we rely on Wallace for our voice-guided tour of much of the game, this problem never goes away.