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.
The third chapter in this collection returns to focusing more on the main cast, mainly Gromit. The premise of this episode is just as whacky as you would expect, but also quite devoid of the traditional humor typical to the series. Apparently a bad storm has destroyed the animal shelter and dogs are running lose about the town. Gromit quickly gets on the situation while Wallace is busy with one of his latest inventions. As I mentioned the humor takes more of a backseat this time around but thankfully it doesn’t keep the story from being truly entertaining.
The core story follows the new villain in his attempt to raise money for a new animal shelter. Monty Muzzle is the characters name and he wants to hold a fair with games and rides to raise money for the cause. Of course things seem suspicious and eventually Gromit catches on to it. Monty has taken in three of the dogs that are running loose and Gromit begins finding mysterious notes from them that begin to piece clues together. I really like how the puzzles in the game are directly correlated to the story this time around and the fact that they are all based off items in your inventory. Again that makes this chapter feel streamlined, even more so than the last outing, thus making it much more enjoyable to plow through.
Again the point-and-click nature continues to be a hindrance, but much like Episode 2 this version does implement the ability to display all selectable objects, which eliminates much of the trial and error. This game is still better suited for a mouse and keyboard setup, but it works well enough to get by. The simpler more streamline puzzle-solving is also paramount in making this episode much more playable than the previous ones. It seems with each passing entry the series continues to make strides to make it more console-friendly.
The visuals and audio are still some of the highlights as the claymation-style really does stand out when compared to other games. Of course that means the atrocious frame rate also rears its ugly head once again. The voice work continues to be outstanding and the subtle nuances of the beloved duo are captured in both sound and visual avenues. The secondary characters add the diversified charm that we have come to expect, and I love the variety of venues and areas this time around. Overall if the frame rate could be remedied this would be one of the more impressive XBLA games on the service presentation wise.
The third episode serves as a nice catalyst in the overall puzzle with cohesive puzzles and a more serious tone to the story. I love the plot leading up to the final encounter and Monty Muzzle is a clichéd but fun villain. If you have enjoyed the series up to this point this latest outing is different, but familiar enough to keep your interest piqued and prepared for the final chapter. Personally I think I am slowly becoming a fan of the quirky duo the more I play these wonderfully charming titles.