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Wallace And Gromit’s Grand Adventures: Fright Of The Bumblebees [PC]

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the two names, Wallace & Gromit, is fun since this dynamic duo is the epitome of British quirkiness – a squirrelly British chap and his silent dog.  So when I got the chance to play the first segment of the Wallace & Gromit’s adventure, Fright of the Bumblebees, I thought it would be a great opportunity to experience a fun interactive romp.  Unfortunately, the game’s developer, Telltale Games loses sight of the fun factor by weighing down the game in conventional and frustrating adventure game mechanics.The premise is entertaining enough with Wallace given the business proposition of repaying a shopkeeper, Mr. Paneer, for the damage Wallace’s Sniffer 3000 cheese-detecting prototype caused to Paneer’s shop.  The repayment comes in the form of Wallace delivering 50 gallons of honey to Mr. Paneer.  The strange thing is that you don’t get to see the extent of the damage since the game starts with Wallace waiting for Gromit to make his breakfast and Mr. Paneer appearing at Wallace’s breakfast room window.  This seems like a strange omission since there are otherwise plenty of cutscenes that appear at key moments during the game.  Oh well, I guess you just have to use your imagination.As I mentioned, you start the game figuring out how to make breakfast for Wallace and this is where the game’s puzzles kick in.  There is a problem with the puzzles though, and that is the issue of inconsistency when it comes to logic, especially when you factor in the targeted demographic for this title, which includes very young players as well as casual gamers (of all ages).  You can dial down the difficulty, which provides more visual clues and hitting the tab button highlights items that can be interacted with, but it’s not enough to make things less frustrating for those who might be new to puzzle-based games.A prime example of this is when Wallace tries to spring his Sniffer 3000 from the local jail. The only way you can free your robotic friend is to get it to face Dibbins, the police officer.  How do you do that?  Get him to take his hat off so you can toss a wedge of cheese into it.  Once the cheese is in his hat you then use the Sniffer 3000 remote and dial in the type of cheese that’s sitting in there.  The problem arises when you realise you need a different type of cheese from the one you picked up off the sample tray in front of Mr. Paneer’s shop.  Where is it?  All the way back at Wallace’s house and no, it’s not in the kitchen or breakfast nook – it’s sitting on his bedside stand, of course!  You don’t want to know how long it took me to figure that one out. And there are other examples that can be just as frustrating if you happen to overlook an item.So the game devolves into an exercise of searching for everything, grabbing it and then hoping you haven’t missed an item crucial to advancing through the rest of the game.  Players who are familiar with puzzle games probably won’t have a problem but more casual gamers will be making a beeline to the web for a game guide.  It’s not all search and pick up as there are a couple of mini-games such as turret-style shooting of giant bees and a queen bee but they really don’t amount to much and come across as almost an afterthought.  It’s too bad since the developer has done a great job in other areas of the game such as the art and sound.The art style is exactly what you would expect from a Wallace & Gromit animation feature, whether it be the cutscenes or the actual gameplay itself.  The cast of characters look and sound great with the voice acting being topnotch.  The environments are also impressive and are chock full of detail to help keep you immersed in Wallace & Gromit’s world.  This first episode is a bit limited in terms of where you can go but since everything looks as good as it does, I can’t complain.  Everything runs pretty smoothly even on a low-end machine, which is what I used to play this episode.  The only blemish with I found, and this might be a personal thing, is the lack of a dedicated volume control for the music.  The whimsical tunes fit in perfectly with the game but become annoying since you cannot lower the volume without affecting the voice audio.  This is a standard feature of every game I’ve played so I’m not sure how this was missed before the game was released.Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures gets off to a shaky start with Fright of the Bumblebees as it gets dragged down with somewhat frustrating puzzles and a lack of gameplay variety.  It might appeal to die-hard fans of the animated characters, but they need to be well-versed in puzzle games to enjoy things.  For the rest of us, this episode misses the mark when it comes to having some fun with our favorite British animated characters.

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