With the loveable Claymation duo obsessing every generation from the playschool to the nursing home, and merchandise shooting off the shelf faster than one of Wallace’s malfunctioning porridge guns, you would have thought it would be hard for the Wallace and Grommit franchise to get any more successful. However, not content with the string of awards they have already reeled in, Aardman studios are now looking to conquer the gaming markets with not one, but four different game titles, which altogether comprise ‘Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventures.’
Developed by Telltale Games - the same people who brought you comedy titles such as ‘Sam and Max’ and ‘Strong and Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People’ – ‘Grand Adventures’ is currently being offered to customers via an online download priced around £25. This is for a bundle pack with all four games but alternatively they are available as individual episodes. So with episode 2 having just come out, the following additions will be available over June and July 09.
This will certainly be welcome news to all those dedicated Wallace and Gromit fans out there. So if you were one of the millions weaned on the movies since childhood, prepare for a nostalgic journey back to 62 West Wallaby Street to join the weird inventor and his canine counterpart for loads more bizarre and hilarious antics. However for those rare people – like me – whose enthusiasm never developed further than the occasional one off viewing of the ‘The Wrong Trousers’ and got slightly fed up having to endure the plasticine old git and his dog Christmas after Christmas, then this is probably not for you.
The games are, as you would expect, basically a series of interactive spin off episodes based upon the films. So to enjoy the game you really have to be into the series, and for odd bods – again like me - who were always more or less indifferent to it, the game has a rather limited appeal. However, despite this unfair and prejudiced opinion from a gamer who prefers some good old first person shooter carnage and bids for world domination in hardcore strategy games, that it is not to say it is impossible to appreciate what makes Grand Adventures such a surprisingly decent adaptation.
Ironically, the fact that someone who found the series slightly annoying and then had the same reaction to the subsequent game is simply a testament to how well Telltale have captured the overall feel of the Claymation movies. They deserve real credit for the level of authenticity they have managed to bring to the game, and in these times of terrible film – to - game adaptations – think Godfather 2 – Telltale have produced a spin off which Wallace and Grommit fans can be proud off. Everything from the dialogue, music, voice overs, and facial expressions, to Wallace’s bumbling walk as he plods along interacting with game’s many colourful characters are fully worthy of the films they evolved from.
This also goes for the storyline of Episode 2 which is typically quirky. It begins in West Wallaby Street with the duo preparing to travel to Blackpool on their holidays for a few days of sun and sand. However with a characteristically British twist, rainfall begins to hammer down with biblical persistence; flooding the basement and ruining the pair’s plans for vacation. So, by firstly taking control of Gromit, the player has to navigate the flooding basement, dodging electrical cables like something out of the Poseidon Adventure, and attempt to clear it of the rising water.
However with the holiday plans now in tatters, the ever inventive Wallace – always one to find inspiration in disaster - comes up with a scheme to bring the holiday to them. So this is essentially the main thread which sets episode two in motion. Periodically alternating between the pair, the player must guide Wallace and Grommit on a quest to acquire all of the paraphernalia necessary to turn the basement of 62 West Wallaby Street into a vacation spot Brits can be proud of. This includes sun, sand and an umbrella to go with the already acquired water. The only thing left is for the pair to rope in some neighbours as holiday makers and of course ask them to contribute a small fee.
So with the duo embarked on this get rich quick scheme, the plot pretty much follows the same formula as most of the films: Wallace gets himself in a mess by taking things too far, and it is left to the down-to-Earth Gromit to save the day. However, the story then takes a sort of Agatha Christy twist, developing into a whodunit mystery after one of Wallace’s neighbours gets lumped round the head after a momentary power cut. It is then up to the player to guide Wallace as he assembles clues and attempts to bring the assailant to justice.
All in all, Grand Adventures gives the player everything they could possible want to indulge their love of Wallace and Gromit. About the only drawback is that the game is actually quite short – running straight through takes about 2 hours, but it depends on how much of the world the player chooses to explore. However, given that this is only one episode of four it does make sense, and truthfully, this is the only minor criticism which can be levelled at it.
Overall, Wallace and Gromit is a film-to-game adaptation, which all others should aspire to. The feel is authentic, the script and story are original, and the graphics and gameplay are crisp and totally bug free. Although the simple controls and jokey plot are not really for people who like nothing more than grabbing a plasma sword and carving up acid - spitting - aliens in games like Halo, those looking for something more fun and light hearted would be hard pressed to find something as good as ‘Grand Adventures.’