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Wallace & Gromit Episode 1: Fright of the Bumblebees

Score: 86%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

XBLA needs more games like Wallace & Gromit Episode 1: Fright of the Bumblebees. The service is one of my favorite features this console generation, but if you look at what it provides and what it could provide, they are two very different things. Retro arcade and console games are great, but the space also offers a great opportunity to offer something different - which is exactly what Fright of the Bumblebees offers.

It's really stunning to see how closely Telltale Games has managed to capture the look of the Wallace & Gromit shorts. The game isn't some sort of digitized claymation, but looking at some of the details, you might think it was. Little blemishes like fingerprints, small nicks and the soft bends of clay are all there. It doesn't have some of the medium's more subtle nuances, due in large part to some framerate hiccups, but otherwise it is a great accomplishment.

The look is accompanied by top-notch voicework and soundtrack. Both are upbeat and generally lighthearted. The dialogue is clever and amusing; even the more predictable situations made me chuckle.


Gameplay:

Wallace & Gromit Episode 1: Fright of the Bumblebees was my first "formal" introduction to the characters. I saw the movie, but honestly didn't pay much attention. For the uninitiated, like me, the game follows the same basic premise of the animated shorts. Wallace is a bumbling inventor who has a knack for developing well-intentioned, but usually misguided inventions. As is usually the case, he and his dog, Gromit, spend more time cleaning up his messes rather than enjoying their successes.

In Fright of the Bumblebees, Wallace gets the idea for an in-home honey service that can deliver fresh honey as easily as getting water out of the tap. His sales pitch for the idea is so good that the local shopkeeper asks him to deliver 50 gallons of honey for his party that night. The problem leads Wallace to developing giant flowers that eventually give rise to giant bees.

The game leads the two through a series of short puzzles and activities as they travel around town. Fright of the Bumblebees follows the classic adventure game model, but throws in a few twists. While you'll spend most of your time collecting random items to solve puzzles, there's also a short driving and shooting sequence to break things up. The duo's adventures have them doing everything from trying to break a robot mouse from jail to re-commissioning an old war vet.


Difficulty:

The game is broken into four short sections that aren't particularly difficult, but will still challenge you to come up with interesting solutions. Each section is based around solving one major problem, like serving Wallace breakfast, and several mini-problems that lead to getting the items necessary for solving the section. Most puzzles require some searching and exploration, as well as coming up with different solutions. Part of the fun is interacting with as many items as possible and seeing how to string them together in an effort to solve a problem. Areas are small, so exploration isn't a chore and solutions make sense. There are times where you'll get stuck, but there's never a situation that you can't overcome with a bit of logical thinking.

Fright of the Bumblebees' only major downfall is the lack of replay value. Once you know the solution to a puzzle, it loses some of its enjoyment. This is one area where the 360 version has a slight advantage over the PC - Achievements. Telltale smartly included a few Achievements that will really challenge you to rethink how you play the game and even test your skills. It won't mean much to people who could care less about Achievements, but it's a nice addition.


Game Mechanics:

Controls are one area where Wallace & Gromit Episode 1: Fright of the Bumblebees falls a bit short. I'll always take a controller over a mouse and keyboard, but this is one situation where the ability to click on specific areas would help. Wallace & Gromit move around areas like any other third-person game using the Left Analog Stick and interact with the environment using the Right Analog Stick and (A).

The setup is functional, but trying to pick up smaller objects with the Right Stick is a little frustrating. The better option is to cycle through objects with the shoulder buttons, but when there's ten items in the room, it's a little tedious. You also have a small inventory to manage. While not the best for hunting down certain objects, the interface feels great when combining objects.

Again, Wallace & Gromit Episode 1: Fright of the Bumblebees is exactly the type of game XBLA needs more of. It's different, great for short play sessions and fun.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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