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Muzzled!, the third episode in Telltale Games’ Wallace & Gromit adventure series, is a rather pleasant surprise. Although nothing has changed from a fundamental gameplay perspective – this is still a fairly standard mix of examining objects, talking to people, and using items in the right places – it’s a tighter, smarter package than its predecessors.

Thus far, the XBLA ports of the Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures series have awkwardly tossed and turned between good and bad, like a feverish man having a horrible, yet erotic, nightmare, potentially leaving players unable to decide whether to continue on with the series or leave it behind. Muzzled! makes the decision of whether to play it or not somewhat easier, simply by being the best entry in the series thus far.

Plot wise, this episode focuses on the nefarious Monty Muzzle, a seemingly kind-hearted chap concerned with the town’s current lack of a dog shelter who, naturally, harbours ulterior motives. The game is set largely at the carnival he holds to “raise funds” for the shelter’s construction, but once Gromit gets wind of his true intentions, it’s up to the player to solve the episode’s puzzles and stop Monty from absconding with the town’s money.

It’s quite close to the sort of fare you’d typically expect from the pair’s claymation adventures, albeit nowhere near as dark, nor clever. Although there are some references to the earlier episodes, it is not a necessity to have played them beforehand.

There isn’t a lot to do in Muzzled!, as is so often the case with episodic releases (outside the Half-Life series), but this time around the puzzles are much more fun to solve. The script is funnier than it was in The Last Resort, and Gromit, who you play as for the majority of the episode, is far more expressive than before.

The use of Wallace’s new invention, the Infiniflavour ice-cream truck, is also quite inspired – any food object you place inside produces a new flavour of ice-cream, and even though there are only 6 different varieties to produce, it’s a fun idea that works well with the puzzles.

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The puzzles themselves are still quite easy, but not ridiculously so, as they were in The Last Resort. And again, the series has crafted its puzzles without turning to illogical combinations or actions, which is rare for the genre. You can figure out everything through general sleuthing, and the ways you arrive at some of your solutions are quite excellent.

There seems to be more inventory this time around, as well as more things to interact with, meaning that problems can’t be solved simply by trying every object in your pocket against everything in the game world.  Although a few of the puzzle solutions are  immediately obvious, the game is, on occasion, able to stump you for enough time to let you give your brain a workout without necessarily getting frustrated.

Some of the complaints that can be attributed to the other episodes on XBLA can also be attributed to this one. The controls aren’t great, the game often gets confused over which direction you’re trying to move in, and there’s a pause of a few seconds every time a cut-scene is about to kick in.

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800 MS Points still seems a little much for a game this short, especially when the game was recently a free download for PC users. Whilst Monty Muzzle himself is a great addition, the characters introduced throughout the series don’t have anywhere near as much charm as the canine and owner themselves. A case in point is Mr. Paneer announcing work during a pie-eating contest in the third act, which drove me to the brink of despair with its incessant repetitiveness. The stray dogs are, however, quite adorable.

After coming away from The Last Resort with the opinion that it was one to avoid, it’s great to be able to say that Muzzled! is much easier to recommend for any console-playing adventure gamers out there. It’s far from the best example of the genre on XBLA (you should grab The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition, and the Sam & Max series before this), but it’s a fun romp that won’t put any serious strain on the ol’ noodle, and the best episode of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures thus far.

Rating Category
7.5 Presentation
The fairground is great, and Gromit's expressions are finally being put to good use.
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7.5 Gameplay
Although not an amazing experience, the game is made up of entirely solid and fun adventuring.
7.0 Sound
Mr Paneer's announcements in the third chapter are enough to drive a man insane. Otherwise, the voice acting is solid throughout.
5.5 Longevity
Again, the game is very short. Even getting all 200 achievement points won't take more than a few hours, but it's an enjoyable few hours.
7.0 Overall
A big improvement on the last episode, Muzzled! is a worthwhile purchase for both adventure aficionados and fans of the cheese-loving duo.

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