As a huge fan of both the Wallace & Gromit animated shorts and point & click adventure games, I was eager to see how combining the two would turn out. The fact that it was being helmed by veteran adventure game developer Telltale Games only further raised my interest, but after playing the first episode I can easily say I was unimpressed by the end result, and find my enthusiasm to continue the series quickly draining away.
Once again we find the titular heroes trying to make ends meet by way of one of Wallace's crazy inventions, but as you might expect things don't go completely according to plan, and soon enough it's up to you to right the bumbling dou's wrongs before it's too late, or risk the constables wrath. It's a very straightforward story on the whole, but the characters are what make it worthwhile. While not quite up to the level of the Aardman originals, Telltale should be commended for doing an admirable job recreating the resourceful dog and would be inventor in videogame form, and although it takes it's sweet time to get going by the end I was just about completely sold on how the narrative had turned out.
It's the other side of the coin is where things begin to fall apart however, and that's the adventure game aspect. Don't expect to find any branching paths or dialog options, this is very much a traditional Telltale game which means confusing puzzles, lots of repeating dialog, and a general lack of player direction. I spent much of the game wandering around randomly clicking items in the hopes of triggering a cutscene, as there are just too few cues as to where to go or what to do. Without a hint system of any kind either, I was left scratching my head for the answer. Add on the clunky controls, jerky camera, and even complete game breaking bugs, and you're left with a game that is a lot more fun to watch and listen to than it is to play, which is to say not at all.
In the end I won't completely write off the series as Telltale has surprised me before with dramatic increases in quality the more episodes they get under there belt, but it's hard for me to recommend Fright of the Bumblebees to any but the most devoted Wallace and Gromit fan. The adventure game aspects are almost painful at times, and if you don't already have a fondness for the characters you likely won't get much out of it. Hopefully the next episode can improve upon what was attempted here, but for now I'm keeping my expectations in check and would advise you do the same.
Posted: 17 September 2013