Review: Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventure: Fright of the Bumblebees

The Xbox Live Arcade is seriously lacking in quality point and click adventure games. Microsoft gamers were not gifted to the magic spun by Telltale Games via Sam and Max, so perhaps this is penitence. As it turns out, four episodes of the Wallace and Gromit series are currently in development, so if you happen to enjoy the first one, you’ve got four more coming your way!

The first adventure is called Fright of the Bumblebees, starring lovable claymation characters Wallace and Gromit. Wallace has done it again – he’s founded a business that he runs out of his own home entitled “From Bee to You.” The business seeks to deliver homemade honey to customers. If he has to whip up a big batch of honey, he simply uses a super-grow mixture on the flowers his bees use to pollinate. There’s only one problem – the bees grow to enormous sizes as well. They’re not too happy, either. It’s your job to help curb the bee problem so that Wallace’s business will run smoothly rather than fall to pieces.

This is a simple point-and-click adventure that anyone regardless of age can enjoy. In order to accomplish certain tasks, you’ll simply move your cursor around the screen in order to investigate objects, move them, speak to other characters, or solve simple puzzles. You’ll need to make use of both Wallace and Gromit in order to solve tag-team puzzles, and admittedly some of the puzzles may require you to (gasp) think! You’ll collect items that you will need to remember for future usage, and you’ll experience much of the trademarked Wallace and Gromit mayhem along the way. Remember, they did start out as Claymation shorts! If you’ve enjoyed Sam and Max or Strongbad’s Cool Game for Attractive People (which Telltale Games is also responsible for) then you should find yourself quite at home with these offerings as well.

Since this is an Xbox 360 port of what would work best as a PC game, the controls have been altered a bit so that the cursor moves slowly enough for analog sticks to work well with. You’ll also take control of characters rather than simply relying on clicks of the mouse as you would on the PC counterparts, so the control scheme works rather well, in my opinion. Since it’s not difficult to create this way, more companies should follow suit. You’ll find that scenes transition quickly and smoothly into another, and there are few hiccups to impede your progress. Considering Sam and Max had quite a few issues with this on the PC versions, this is a welcome change.

Fright of the Bumblebees looks absolutely gorgeous, yet still retains that handcrafted feel that Wallace and Gromit is known for. Since this is claymation, Telltale opted to take the road of imperfect character models – it looks as if they were really created by human hands rather than polygons and digital animation. This goes quite a long way in keeping with the charm of the brand. The voice actors chosen for the job put on quite an outstanding performance as well. If you’re a fan of the shorts then you’ll find that the original voices are re-used in the games.

Though the rest of the game is quite entertaining, easy to follow, and quite funny, there’s one glaring issue: you can finish this game rather quickly. If you’re an experienced puzzle solver well-versed in the art of sailing through adventure games, then you can finish this installment up in a matter of hours. Since there are more episodes to be delivered this could be excused but at the purchasing point on Xbox Live, you may wish to wait and buy when the game is on sale on the Marketplace or when you’re sure you can get all of the installments at a decent price – remember, there are going to be four.

Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventure: Fright of the Bumblebees is a charming diversion that should keep you (or the kids) entertained long enough. It’s fun, friendly, and easy to get into. While it’s not exactly worth the Microsoft points asked for it, if you have a spare amount of points lying around this is an adventure game that you should enjoy spending an afternoon or two with.

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