Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures Ep 1: Fright of the Bumblebees Review
The Wallace & Gromit shorts' and feature's well-deserved reputation can be attributed to its imaginative humor, memorable characters, and amazingly detailed claymation animation, and any videogame attempting to capture the series' charm must meet the challenge of recreating these features while still managing to create a game that's fun to play. Telltale Games manages to accomplish this reasonably well in Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures: Fright of the Bumblebees, due in no small part to a clever script and the wisdom to go with an adventure game format that is naturally suited to the world of Wallace & Gromit (I shudder to think about what would happen to our beloved duo if they were shoehorned into yet another lame licensed platfomer). Adventure games are not everybody's cup of tea, but Wallace & Gromit fans will be happy with the format's ability to create a new interactive story in the continuing adventures of the hapless inventor and his wise and patient pooch.
Fright of the Bumblebees is the first in a series of Wallace and Gromit "episodes", meaning that you'll get a few hours of play out of it and can look forward to a few more similar short episodes. Fright of the Bumblebees opens in Wallace's and Gromit's home at breakfast time (I imagine meals, snacks, and tea will factor into future episodes as well). Once you help Gromit solve the problem of making a nice breakfast for Wallace the adventure begins in earnest. Wallace's latest business venture is an on-demand honey service run from beehives in his basement. Unfortunately, he finds his supply tapped out and identifies a lack of local flowers as the cause for his bees' lack of productivity. Of course in these types of games it's never a simple matter of simply buying and planting some new flowers nearby, and the number of hoops that Wallace and Gromit must jump through to get all the supplies that they need form the basis of the game and its puzzle-driven gameplay. In typical adventure game fashion, you must chat with the locals, pick-up anything that you find because no matter how odd it is you'll probably need it, and use the various items in your inventory with your environment and neighbors to solve puzzles and push the story along. Some of the puzzles are just a little tricky, but not so much so as to be unfair, and most gamers should be able to handle them all without too much difficulty. This is a game that should be played more for its humor value and creative puzzles than for a mental challenge.
There's simply no way to replicate the exact look of Wallace and Gromit's claymation world, but Fright of the Bumblebees manages to create a pretty good approximation. The little details in the game just simply aren't as impressive when you know that they are rendered by a computer rather than painstakingly created from clay. The game does a really good job of capturing the way characters move in the films, though, so fans will still get a good Wallace & Gromit vibe from the whole thing. There are also a number of insider jokes and references that have been put in place for the enjoyment of fans of the films, so it's obvious that the developers care for their source material and aren't out to simply exploit a license.
You'll get through the entire game in a few sessions with it, so I'm not sure that you'll feel that there's enough of a game here if you're not a fan of the films. I consider myself to be a fan, though, and found myself enjoying spending some extra time with a couple of my favorite animated characters. I'm sure kids will appreciate the interactive cartoon nature of the game, and parents can feel safe leaving their kids to the family-friendly misadventures of Wallace and Gromit.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 85%. Not quite a grand day out, but not a bad little outing for Wallace and Gromit.