After an irritatingly long wait, the remainder of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures have finally been released on XBLA, coinciding rather awkwardly with a limited time price drop on the PC version, which is a celebration of the pair’s 20th anniversary.
For the purpose of this review, let’s assume your PC isn’t up to scratch, or you simply don’t want to play the games on the PC for whatever reason (otherwise, check out Paul Clark’s review of the PC version.) The XBLA release is exactly the same as the PC release, but with achievements, the obligatory (albeit pointless in this case) leader boards, a new control scheme (since console controllers don’t typically favour the ol’ point and click) and a few extra faults.
The plot of this second entry into this adventure series starts off on a suitably charming note, with Wallace deciding to battle a holiday-canceling bout of rain by building a summer beach retreat in his own basement. It’s a fun throw-back to the simple plot of the first movie, A Grand Day Out, although they miss out on a lot of obvious jokes about the weather in the UK. The various characters introduced in the game series thus far are invited to visit his resort, and after ensuring everyone’s happiness, the plot segues rather inelegantly into a quasi-murder mystery, sans both murder and mystery. It’s an odd one for sure.
For the player, this episode amounts to spending an incredibly short amount of time solving some rather rudimentary puzzles. The good news is that the puzzles are incredibly logical, never requiring you to glue a piece of ham to a vase to appease a yeti or anything ridiculous like that, neatly by-passing one of the adventure genre’s typical pitfalls. The control scheme is also a neat fit for the control pad, even if there are occasional issues with the game seemingly getting confused over where exactly you are trying to walk.
The game looks the part too, with the smudginess of the faux-clay characters being a particularly nice touch. The vast majority of characters and settings are, however, re-used from the first episode, giving this release a somewhat claustrophobic feel for anyone who played through Fright of the Bumblebees. The entire last three chapters are confined more or less entirely to Wallace’s house as well (you spend literally about two minutes outside during the third chapter). It lacks the sense of scale that the best adventure games tend to present.
The game stumbles quite severely in two key areas. The game is short. Episodic gaming is meant to provide short, sharp bursts of gaming, but for 800 MS Points, an hour and a half of gameplay would only really be acceptable if it was truly exceptional, or worth multiple play-throughs. Which leads to the second issue – the game is almost ridiculously easy.
The best adventure gaming is about using your noggin, sleuthing your way to the right character /object interactions, and occasionally, slapping yourself on the forehead when you cave and check a FAQ, realising that the game’s ingenious solution alluded you because you didn’t think hard enough. The Last Resort never really gives you that chance to pat yourself on the back. Problems have a habit of solving themselves if you simply talk to everyone. There’s maybe one particularly clever puzzle in the game, and even that one can be solved fairly fast through simple trial and error if need be.
The plot and dialogue, the other major pull for the genre, fare a bit better, but lack the wit and ingenuity that fans expect from Wallace & Gromit. A few comic inventions aside, The Last Resort is largely devoid of the elements that make Wallace & Gromit so likable. Creator Nick Park discovered early on in A Grand Day Out that a lot could be said purely through Gromit’s eyebrow ridge. Aside from the odd eye-roll, Gromit is terribly underused. The dialogue jumps back and forth between great and pedestrian, with none of the secondary characters really measuring up in terms of charm.
The Last Resort is a misstep in a promising episodic series. Regardless of the quality of the other Grand Adventures releases, this second episode is difficult to recommend to even the most hardcore of Wallace & Gromit fans.
The lack of new environments and the odd frame-rate hiccup hurt it a bit, but the clay-styled characters are spot-on.
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It's unusually logical for an adventure game, but also far too easy.
The voice acting is solid throughout, including Ben Whitehead's rather decent Wallace impression. Music and sound-effects are perhaps underused.
Distressingly, there's little bang for your buck. Some may play through again for achievements, but it would be a chore.
Although quite charming at times, The Last Resort is a disappointing entry to a promising series.