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The third episode of Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventures has arrived. If you haven’t been following TellTale’s series, Grand Adventures is being delivered in an episodic fashion for $8.95 an episode or $34.95 for the 4 episode total package. The individual games are around 3-4 hours each, and deliver traditional adventure gameplay mixed with cutscenes packed with the classic humor of the Wallace and Gromit show.

Muzzled! showcases the introduction of Mr. Muzzle, a swanky “philanthropist” who is not what he seems. It appears the local dog shelter was destroyed by a hurricane, and Mr. Muzzle wants to step in and “lend a caring hand.” Read on to find out if this mystery is worth the price of entry.

If you’re new to the series, all of the Grand Adventures titles come with an easy to follow, optional tutorial and support for both keyboard and mouse, or Xbox 360 USB controller play methods. Everything is controlled in a typical point and click adventure fashion: walking around is controlled with the ASDW keys, or the controller’s analog stick. You use the Q, E, or Left and Right Bumpers to select various objects in question from around the room, and simply click or press the 360′s A button to grab items for safe keeping or use objects on the scenery.

The first chapter will feel very familiar, as it takes place in the same house as the first two episodes. However, your travels will eventually lead you to the county fair, which is a very nice break from the primarily home centered adventures in the first two episodes. There is a hefty amount of gameplay to be found at the fair, including carnival games, an exciting pie-eating contest, and a suspicious plane ride. This time around, you’ll be spending nearly the entire game playing as the heroic canine Gromit, which is a major plus for fans of the character (myself included!).

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This adventure flows quite excellently despite the fact that Gromit cannot speak. All of his feelings are expressed through his eyebrows and facial movements. Immediately, you’ll be introduced to three stray whippet dogs that will instantly melt your heart. I will warn you: the three dogs that star in the game are unbelievably adorable. If you have a small child or significant other who loves dogs, this might be the game for you based on cute-factor alone.

The way that Gromit meets, greets, and interacts with these creatures is absolutely charming. For example, one of the paranoid dogs, aptly dubbed “Twitch” is comforted by Gromit’s favorite childhood stuffed bunny rabbit. The relationship that Twitch develops with Gromit through the toy is done in such a superb manner, it could easily translate to a feature film.

All the characters from the first game will be back, with a few additions. You’ll find various references to the first few chapters, and will be given a strong hint that some elements from Muzzled will return in the final episode. There’s no specific reference that newcomers to the series will feel left out of, but veterans of the games, and cartoon series will definately crack a few smiles.

Muzzled also features the series’ hint option, which allows you to receive subtle or obvious hints from the game’s cast. If you’re in an isolated place, the camera will simply zoom in on the next area you should investigate. A strong word of caution for adventure veterans: if want to prolong your gameplay experience, I highly recommend turning the hint option completely off. If you set hint intensity to “frequent”, you may find yourself finishing the game an hour or so earlier than usual.

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The only major problem with the Grand Adventure series is it’s short length, and lack of bonus content. The average player without hints will finish the game in approximately 3 hours, with nothing left over short of replaying the game again. While the 360 versions of the games feature achievements that warrant another play through, sadly, the PC version has no such perk.

Muzzled is a fun-filled, charming adventure, with it’s main problem being that the lack of extra content and replay value are a bit disheartening. However, if you have yet to experience episodic content, or want to test the waters of cartoon adventure: now is the time, and this is your game. Muzzled does a perfect job of capturing that special cartoon spirit many adults have tucked away in their hearts, and children hold dear.

Rating Category
9.0 Presentation
Muzzled faithfully recreates the magic of the cartoon series, and introduces some extremely lively characters. Cast-wise, it’s the best Grand Adventures outing yet.
How does our scoring system work?
7.5 Gameplay
You won’t find anything revolutionary here, but there are quite a few breaks from the typical “grab this, use on this” adventure gameplay, and the fair ground setting feels very lively.
8.5 Sound
The voice actor for Mr. Muzzle is superb. He is able to change his voice from a snivveling scoundrel to a top-notch sycopant at the drop of a hat. The dialogue from the rest of the cast is also excellent.
5.0 Longevity
Unfortunately, Muzzled is on the short side. Without hints, it will take around 3 hours to complete.
8.0 Overall
If you have been on the fence about episodic content, take a chance on Muzzled. It’s charms are simply too hard to resist for anyone who enjoys a wonderous and delightful adventure.
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