Telltale games has finally released the first episode of their Wallace and Gromit adventure series on the Xbox Live Arcade, entitled Fright of the Bumblebees. Episodic content is a fairy new venture in the realm of consoles, but PC users have been enjoying this distribution method for quite some time.
Despite your concerns regarding how an adventure game would translate to a console, the Wallace and Gromit Telltale series actually plays better with a controller than a mouse and keyboard. Read on to find out if the game is worth it’s $10 price tag.
Just in case you’re completely new to the series, Wallace and Gromit is a cartoon series made popular in the UK in the ’90s, and due to it’s origins, some of the humor is very dry. Wallace is an oblivious inventor (and hardcore cheese enthusiast) who, in the end, always has his messes mopped up by his skeptical dog, Gromit. As you can probably tell, the duo are always getting into all sorts of trouble, and constantly “scraping by” to make ends meet. This time around, one of Wallace’s machines malfunctioned and wrecked an entire grocery store. In order to help pay for the damages, Wallace looks to his own honey business he has created in his basement. I won’t ruin any pertinent plot points, but wacky hijinks are bound to ensue before reaching the stories’ conclusion.
Your first task, as Gromit, is to make Wallace his breakfast, and following this event you’ll get to control both Wallace and Gromit in an alternating fashion. Fans of the series will find numerous references and throwbacks to old episodes, particularly A Grand Day Out and The Wrong Trousers, and the trademark humor is still there (even with using a stand-in for Wallace’s 88 year old voice actor). There’s no questionable content to be found, and children are bound to become attached to the lovable cartoony world and the adorable character design of Gromit.
Fright of the Bumblebees falls victim to a few graphical and framerate hiccups here and there, but overall it runs smoothly. There are hardly any problems inside Wallace and Gromit’s house, but out in the town area you’ll notice a bit more slowdown than normal. Like most adventure games, the control scheme is very straightforward: you can move your character around with the left analog stick, and scroll through various highlighted objects in the room with the left and right bumpers. If you get confused, just hold Y, and bright lights will clearly shine on objects that may be inspected. You can also access your inventory with the X button.
You’ll have the urge to move your character around a lot with the left stick: resist it. You’ll trek through the game at a brisker pace if you use the LB/RB select method, due to the fact that sometimes the movement system “locks”, leaving you stationary. This is mainly due to the camera angles and odd screen transitions, which could use a bit of work.
You’ll spend your time engaging in activities found in similar titles of the genre. The most common scenario you’ll find is “get item A, use item A to get item B, and bring item B back to a certain area to solve a problem”. Most adventure games have a hint system in the form of limited, boring text tips, but Fright of the Bumblebees takes a more unique approach. All of the hints are given in-game by the citizens of your town, or Wallace and Gromit themselves. Also, depending on your skill level, you can either turn the audio hints to “non existent”, or “frequent”, which I think is a very nice touch, and caters to gamers of all skill levels.
As previously noted, Fright of the Bumblebees is being offered in an episodic fashion, with 3 more to follow. All though all episodes are loosely related, each one can be enjoyed individually. If you think that a story involving mean, frightening bees isn’t your cup of tea, you can hold out until the next episode arrives, or, if you’re a die-hard fanatic, you can look forward to an eventual $40 full-game. This is a very unique way to offer a series, but it has it’s drawbacks: most notably the short length of each episode. The average adventurer will complete the game in about 4 hours time, and there is no reward for doing so. I was extremely surprised with the lack of an extra mini-game, much less a simple character or artwork gallery.
It would have been nice for newcomers to the series to get an “introduction” so to speak, to the Wallace and Gromit series in the form of a gallery, setting them up to possibly purchase the series on DVD, or become more interested in the subsequent episodes. The game’s “bookmark system” is essentially a save feature that allows you to pick your favorite 4 parts of the game, and come back to them, but the fact that the game doesn’t allow an “individual chapter play” feels like a missed opportunity. The only saving grace in regards to the game’s longevity are the achievements. Achievement junkies will definitely want to play the game through another time to complete a few of the incredibly difficult tasks.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the cartoon series, but this game still won me over despite the mechanical problems and short length. In terms of straight narrative value, it’s not an over-the-top episode, but it gets the job done. Overall, Fright of the Bumblebees is a must-own for Wallace and Gromit fans, and is sure to score big with action game lovers.
Graphically, the game looks just as a it should: a Wallace and Gromit cartoon. However, it still could use some polishing here and there.
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You won’t find more than two short breaks from the standard “find item, use item, wander to next area” adventure routine, but the controls are extremely easy to use, and controller friendly.
The voice acting is top notch, and every character will feel and sound distinctly different.
Unfortunately, there are no mini-games to be found, or even an unlockable gallery once you finish the game. It’s about 4 hours long playing at a normal pace. There are a few tough achievements that warrant another playthrough, however.
Fright of the Bumblebees could have benefited from more content, but overall, it’s a delightful romp through the world of Wallace and Gromit.