Telltale Games is slowly bringing the adventure genre back into the mix. Services like episodic content on the PC and Xbox Live Arcade have given the developer a chance to deliver pockets of content at affordable prices, giving gamers a chance to experience a complete narrative in bite-sized portions. The latest example of this comes to Xbox Live with the release of the next three chapters in the Wallace & Gromit series, which is known on the PC as Grand Adventures. The quirky and humorous dialogue mixes with traditional point-and-click adventure gaming to create one of the most entertaining packages available on the service.
For anyone unfamiliar with the series let me give you a quick rundown of what to expect. Wallace & Gromit is a popular claymation show that stars and absent minded inventor named Wallace and his companion Gromit who is an anthropomorphic dog that expresses himself through expression rather than words. The games follow the same type of humor and writing as the acclaimed British TV short, and are often heralded for their witty humor. The premise of the game will be familiar to anyone who played a lot of PC titles in the past. Point-and-click adventures used to be the FPS of the PC world. Wallace & Gromit reintroduces that trend along with a few of Telltale’s other recently released titles. The gameplay focuses on solving puzzles by interacting with objects and people within the environment. It is amazing how well this holds up after so many years.
Episode 2, which is dubbed The Last Resort, begins with our duo creating a beach resort in their basement after Wallace’s plans to visit a real one are thwarted by a round of bad weather. The focus in this incarnation is more about some of the outside characters and not so much on the two main protagonists. The flavor of dry humor may not be for everyone, and if you haven’t seen the show some of the subtle nuances and details that the developers painstakingly added will be wasted on you. However, if you are a fan then there is quite a bit here to enjoy even if the game focuses more on side characters instead of the loveable duo.
The point-and-click action has always been a hindrance on the console and this chapter is no different. Navigating to each item and checking it with an analog stick just detracts from the experience you get on PC. Telltale has done a commendable job of streamlining some of the actions by making the cursor more responsive and adding the ability to highlight all selectable objects, but it still pales in comparison to playing the game with a mouse. The puzzle-solving (which we all known is the bread and butter of this type of game) feels much more rationalized this time around. Instead of bumbling through ridiculous and zany conclusions most of them are solved by instituting logic. This may not please fans of the obscure puzzles of past, but I personally found it refreshing.
This allows you to simply enjoy a lot of the experience instead of trying to concoct the most bizarre solution to a puzzle. Fans of the series will truly appreciate how much effort and detail has gone into the game. The voice work is absolutely fantastic and really exceeds in delivering the subtle humor the show has become known for. Unfortunately the main voice of Wallace does not make an appearance, but his stand-in does a laudable job of filling the role. As I mentioned earlier though this game focuses on outside characters more, and that is actually one of its biggest flaws. There is almost too much action to stay focused on one thing. It also doesn’t help that the game is roughly two hours long, which isn’t really a complaint considering the cost, but it almost becomes too erratic for its own good.
Visually I love the style of the game. The claymation look and feel has been transferred to digital form nearly perfectly. The biggest problem is the same one that plagues all Telltale games on Xbox Live Arcade; frame rate. There are times in this game where the frame rate drops way too low and disrupts the animation and action. It amazes me as these are not exactly the most intense visual games out there. I more attribute it to poor porting than anything else. That said the setting is also a tad disappointing as the entire experience revolves around just a few areas giving the player the same scenery for most of the experience.
If you enjoy the genre and are a fan of Wallace & Gromit I recommend taking the second chapter for a spin. This is a great way to deliver this type of content and the fact that XBLA has gotten into the mix is definitely a good thing for the service. At $10 a piece these episodes are just long enough and entertaining enough to keep digging through them.