The most surprising thing about Telltale Games’ latest episodic adventure is that you quickly forget it’s from an American developer. That’s no small feat when dealing with something as quintessentially British as Wallace and Gromit, nor is that – for the most part – it feels right. It doesn’t simply resemble the original stop-motion cartoons. It absolutely nails the look and feel, right down to the fake fingerprints embedded in the characters’ 3D modeled plasticine. There’s no Peter Sallis (the voice of Wallace in the animations), but everything else is exactly what you’d hope for in a W&G conversion.
This series is four episodes long – Telltale’s shortest yet – with installments due on a monthly basis. This first one, Fright of the Bumblebees, is relatively simple. Wallace and his long-suffering dog Gromit have just set up their latest home business, making honey for their sleepy northern town. They need 50 gallons of the stuff by nightfall to pay off a debt from their last wacky business, only Wallace has forgotten to plant any flowers for his bees. The solution is obvious: whip up some quick grow formula for the daisies, and if you can’t guess what happens next, you may in fact be legally dead. Sorry to break it to you. Can we have your stuff?
That’s the only real problem with this episode’s story. It’s a fine premise, but not one that lends itself to many twists and turns. Much of the fun in the original shorts comes from the tight mix of down-to-earth northern-UK style and outlandish escapades, and while you may not know exactly what’s coming up in the next puzzle or scene, you can have a pretty good stab at predicting the general sweep of this story before the introduction is over. In a similar vein, if you’ve played any of Telltale’s previous games, you know how the adventure part works already. Lots of Three Trials-style puzzles so that you always have multiple objectives on the go, relatively simple one-step solutions, and a couple of more dynamic set-pieces thrown in for good measure.
This familiarity is somewhat disappointing, if not a killer. Like Sam & Max and Strong Bad, W&G is a fun, casual adventure. It’s simply that the focus is clearly on getting several episodes out, relying on a handful of inoffensive techniques to build puzzles and structure the adventure, rather than necessarily looking for innovative ways to handle each new license.