Wallace and Gromit are back on the video game scene, this time with a series of episodic games called Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures. The first episode, Fright of the Bumblebees, finds the pair in a familiar predicament as one of Wallace's inventions has gone awry. What follows is a merry adventure with all of the fun and foibles that one would expect from the entrepreneurial man-dog duo. The signature animated look is well represented, but some technical issues hinder the overall presentation a bit. Nevertheless, Wallace & Gromit's unique appeal remains largely intact, and Fright of the Bumblebees is good, light-hearted fun.
Fright of the Bumblebees begins at a logical starting place: breakfast. It's Gromit's turn to prepare the morning repast, and as you guide him through this gadget-assisted ritual, you'll notice that his wry looks and exaggerated walking animation are adeptly replicated. Although the game isn't Claymation and lacks some of that medium's subtle delights, Fright of the Bumblebees captures the look and feel of the characters and their world. Unfortunately, there are some frame-rate issues that often cause backgrounds to jitter as they scroll by, and occasional hitches interrupt the generally smooth animation. Regardless, the elaborate contraptions, goofy neighbors, and cozy suburban feel of West Wallaby Street are all faithfully represented here. The top-notch voice acting rounds out the solid presentation, which nicely captures the lighthearted appeal of the Wallace & Gromit franchise.
Once breakfast is done, Wallace and Gromit go about their daily business: coming up with harebrained schemes to get themselves out of the messes caused by their previous harebrained schemes. This sort of action is well suited to the casual adventure gameplay of Fright of the Bumblebees. The duo's existing problems and their new business plan provide more than enough activities that need puzzling out, and you'll do so predominantly by moving from area to area, collecting items, speaking with townsfolk, and figuring out how to solve your current dilemma. These range from tracking down cheese samples to help your robot mouse get out of jail to tactfully attaining an item that is indelicately perched on your neighbor's blouse. The map is pleasantly small--you'll visit only a few locations--and the narrow scope means that you'll never be at a loss for what to do next. Your adventure proceeds at a good pace, and if you get hung up, you can increase the frequency with which characters drop casual hints.
Moving Wallace and Gromit (you alternate between them) around with the controller is easy, though you may get turned around occasionally. You select objects or people to interact with by pointing the analog stick toward them, or by cycling through the available elements with the shoulder buttons. Inventory is easily managed, and in addition to bringing items to different places and using them appropriately, there are a few one-off puzzles and action sequences that break up the pace nicely. The aforementioned animation hitches become problematic here, but with a little patience, you can navigate these sections without too much trouble. It's not a difficult game, and though you'll probably run into a few head-scratchers, they're nothing a hint or some creative thinking can't solve.
The game lasts a few hours and feels ideally suited for play across a few short sessions. The light difficulty and silly sense of humor can make longer sessions tiresome, but taken in chunks, Fright of the Bumblebees feels just right. Wallace and Gromit are in good form here, and their world is represented quite well. Fans will enjoy seeing the pair through some new capers, as will anyone else with an interest in some charming, lighthearted action.