Also available on: Xbox 360
Developer: Telltale Studios
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Point-and-click adventure
Release date: Available now
A few years back, the point-and-click adventure looked all but dead, but recent times have seen a revival of sorts. Telltale Games has been at the forefront of this movement, delivering a wave of episodic releases, missing none of the essential ingredients required for a good old-fashioned puzzle-fest.
The studio has already brought us some entertaining thrills and spills with the first two episodes of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures, and is looking to build on the series' success in parts three and four. Despite a few bugbears, predecessors Fright Of The Bumblebees and The Last Resort raised the bar high, so it was always going to be a question of whether there is enough scope within the source material to maintain these impeccable standards for another two chapters.
Episode three, Muzzled!, sees the plasticine pair working on a new invention, the Infiniflavour Ice Cream Maker. Although a machine that scans an object and produces a flavour of ice cream based on that analysis might sound like a work of genius, this is a creation of Wallace's we're talking about, so chaos is sure to ensue. The duo is working to a deadline, having promised to deliver the device in time for the town's forthcoming Fundraise-A-Fair, organised by philanthropist Monty Muzzle to raise money to build a new dog shelter.
As you might have guessed from the insidious-sounding name, Monty Muzzle is in fact a bit of a shady character, and his plans to house the town's homeless dogs aren't as altruistic as they seem. So, it's up to Wallace and Gromit to foil his thinly-veiled plot.
For the most part, Muzzled! continues in much the same vein as its predecessors, with its well-written dialogue, atypical characters and mind-boggling puzzles, but this chapter does make some gains in terms of cohesiveness. The storyline is largely self-contained and standalone, with enough depth and comedic charm to rival one of the duo's television escapades. Puzzles are also better integrated, rather than feeling like obligatory moments of interactivity. This chapter requires players to cast their minds back to what has already transpired, revisit previous locations with newly-acquired knowledge and use their skills of deduction to solve the problem at hand.
What really sets this episode apart is its antagonist Monty Muzzle. For the first time in the game Wallace and Gromit find themselves up against a fleshed-out villain, and this in turn elevates their status to heroes. We may have already seen our two protagonists in several TV outings, but by the end of this episode, we know more about Muzzle's backstory than any other character in the series.
The chapter's only real drawback is a lack of challenge compared to its predecessors. All of the puzzles are logic-based in a quirky sort of way, but intuitive enough to figure out after a little perseverance. Experienced adventurers will likely finish this one in a few hours, and anyone who has played the first episode might be a little disappointed to see it end with a very similar pay-off. However, an amusing cliffhanger is certainly an appropriate bridge to lead into the final part.
Chapter four, The Bogey Man, finds Wallace desperate to escape from the tangled web of matrimonial misunderstanding he got himself into at the end of the previous episode. Having accidentally proposed to neighbour Felicity Flitt, the inventor must figure out a way to prevent his bride-to-be's mother giving her blessing to the union. After a touch of eavesdropping, it is revealed that Wallace's would-be mother in-law has quite the distaste for golf, so the most logical solution appears to be enrolling in the local country club.
Unfortunately, membership to the club is highly exclusive, so the first problem to puzzle your way around is Wallace's lack of sporting prowess. Granted, this may not be the kind of climactic plot that you might expect from the final entry in a series, but once our protagonist joins the ranks of the Prickly Thicket country club, it isn't long before he learns the group's dark history and uncovers a mystery with frightening implications for life on West Wallaby Street.
Even with a conspiracy and an age-old conflict thrown into the mix, there still isn't quite enough to send the series out with the bang everyone was hoping for. Although it has its twists and turns, the plot doesn’t measure up to that of the penultimate episode, perhaps due to the absence of a strong antagonist like Monty Muzzle.
However, the puzzles and level of challenge have considerably improved. The problems the player is presented with are definitely more taxing, requiring foresight and experimentation. At times, the developers have gone a little overboard in this regard, with several solutions flying in the face of logic, leaving you trying every inventory item with every object on the screen.
On the whole, the increased difficulty is a welcome departure from Muzzled!, but this appears to have compromised its pace. For much of the duration, the episode plays out with the addled momentum of the second chapter The Last Resort, rather than the grand finale it should have been. It does, however, make amends for this by signing off with an excellent action set piece.
As expected, the final two episodes offer nothing new in presentation and gameplay, but this is no bad thing. The claymation visuals remain of the highest quality and the voice cast do their bit to complete the authentic West Wallaby Street experience. Minor control issues from the previous episodes remain, such as the irritating tendency to find yourself walking in the wrong direction during screen shifts, but this does not hamper the overall experience too much.
Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures certainly has its fair share of pros and cons, but looking at the big picture, this is very effective use of the characters' licence and a faithful adaptation of Nick Park's creations. Episode three may be a little on the easy side and the final chapter something of an anticlimax, but it's impossible not to recommend the series as a whole, particularly to fans of Wallace & Gromit and adventure games in general.
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