There is little doubt that hardcore enthusiasts of the quirky-claymation- Wallace and Gromit duo will already have snapped up all four of these interactive adventure games released by Telltale faster than Wallace eats a Wensleydale cracker. And if you were one of those crazed fans who grew up with the plasticine pair plastered all over your bedroom wall like some mad sexual fetish, you’ll know that these games are the closest thing you’re going to get to a new film.
The problem is, for the rest of us, who posses a more mild, luke warm enthusiasm towards the Aardman creations, it’s easy to just let the games pass you by. However for those preparing to get their hands on Telltale’s fourth instalment of the series, ‘The Bogey Man’, the sad truth is the game does not deliver the kind of remarkable and epic finale you might expect. Instead, rather than going out with a bang, ‘The Bogey Man’ sees the series gently winding down, which will leave some fans with a feeling of anti-climax.
But before you start tearing those posters off your bedroom wall just relax, because this does not mean the game is thoroughly disappointing. In fact, ‘Wallace and Gromit: The Bogey Man’ has some of the best dialogue and wittiest writing of the entire series. The story centres upon Wallace’s attempt to get out of an awkward situation which many of us can relate to. But without giving away to much, let’s just say the game manages to incorporate a much more interesting variety of characters compared to, for instance ‘The Last Resort’, in which all you got were the mostly senile inhabitants of West Wallaby Street. It also offers the player a new approach to puzzle solving which keeps the format feeling fresh and dynamic.
Unlike the previous episodes it is now possible to take on multiple puzzles at once. ‘The Bogey Man’ allows you to have up to three tasks on the go at the same time, giving the player more freedom to solve mysteries, and the game a less linear feel compared to the prior editions. However there are certain consequences to this new method of multi - tasking which, while delighting some players, will be absolutely maddening for others. It makes the game a hell of a lot more challenging, and sometimes you can’t help but get the impression the designers are unfairly winding you up.
There are tons of red herring items which you’re just certain must have some kind of relevance. However many of them are just plain useless, and after having real problems progressing through a particular puzzle, you feel you’re really being bullied by those Telltale developers. No doubt they had a hilarious time inventing all those decoys (not that it made me bitter when I was struggling of course). However some players might really enjoy this higher level of difficulty and find that it offers a much more rewarding gaming experience. The only real problem is that, having decided to tackle one puzzle in particular, the hints often overlap, and sometimes you inadvertently end up solving something you didn’t initially intend to.
On top of this the game provides you with very few new locations. The previous episodes expanded into entire new areas, with a huge amount to explore, but ‘The Bogey Man’ feels a little confined. The game is also prone to occasionally crashing, and overall, doesn’t look as smooth as its counterparts. It feels premature and almost like Telltale rushed this one to market. There are occasional audio clippings and the camera angles will sometimes zoom in on some random back ground location for no reason. These deficiencies become harder to justify when you consider that ‘Tales of Monkey Island’ has just been released by the same developers and has no such problems.
However despite these misdemeanours, the game still provides an incredible feeling of authenticity. The voice acting, plot lines and graphics – even down to the smallest detail – give the game, and the entire series for that matter, the sense that far from being a load of superficial, tacked on adaptations simply trying to cash in, they are truly credible additions to the Wallace and Gromit franchise. The problem comes if you’re not one of those die hard fans as the games lose their fundamental appeal. To appease gamers like me, it would have been nice if Telltale produced some Grand Theft Auto or FPS style Wallace and Gromit where you can massacre everyone in West Wallaby Street with some demented invention and then run from the law. Of course, this might alienate their fan base, but still, I live in hope.