Nick Park's lovable claymation characters, the affable inventor Wallace, and his preternaturally intelligent dog, Gromit, are at it again in their newest video game, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Based on the film of the same name, the game is a platformer that has you controlling Wallace & Gromit as you explore a town and do missions for your fellow townsfolk. While the game does a good job at capturing the look and feel of the Wallace & Gromit universe, the missions themselves are only mildly amusing at best, and are sometimes unclear in their objectives.
The story of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit loosely follows that of the film. Wallace and Gromit are partners in a humane pest-control company called Anti-Pesto. They've drummed up quite a bit of business catching rabbits as the town leads up to the annual vegetable competition. With all the townspeople trying to protect their giant vegetables, Anti-Pesto is in charge of catching all the rabbits in town and protecting them from destruction by the furry pests. Lord Victor, a smarmy hunter, sneers at the humane methods Wallace and Gromit use to catch the rabbits, preferring instead to shoot them. But the Lady of the town, Tottington, favors the bloodless way of doing things, and contracts Wallace and Gromit to protect her house, much to the jealous chagrin of Victor. After a brief tutorial level in which you clear rabbits from Lady Tottington's house, the rest of the town is opened up, and you can wander around and pick up simple missions from the various townsfolk. The town is open-ended, so much like in a Grand Theft Auto game, you're free to walk around and explore, doing the missions in any order you please--although some areas of the town are locked away until you've completed certain tasks.
The missions are often very short and simple; they often involve going into gardens and catching varmints like rabbits and squirrels before they eat the large vegetables. Others are chores like finding three vials of holy water that the vicar has lost in the sewer, or sorting vegetables that roll down a Rube-Goldberg device that the bank manager has constructed. To do the tasks, both Wallace and Gromit are armed with a vacuum-like weapon called a bun-gun. The bun-gun can suck up single rabbits, vegetables, or other items and shoot them out. You'll also unlock other gadgets and tools along the way, like a screwdriver that Wallace can use to disarm security doors via a minigame, or umbrellas that you can use to float down from high places. Certain missions and puzzles require both characters to work together, so if you're playing single-player, you can go to certain spots and whistle for the other character to help you. You can also play the campaign cooperatively with two players, so you can work together to do these tasks. The combo tasks are usually pretty obvious, like having one character suck open a switch cover with the bun-gun while the other character hits the switch. Wallace and Gromit each have special strengths, as well. Wallace is taller and can double jump to higher places, for example, while Gromit has the ability to wall jump up narrow crevices to get to high places, much like the Prince in the Prince of Persia games.
Over the course of the campaign, you'll eventually learn the secret behind the were-rabbit that's terrorizing the town and eating all the vegetables, and you'll get the ability to switch the time from day to night and back. Certain missions that involve fighting were-creatures require you to play at night, and in these missions, you'll gather up the valves that Lord Victor has stolen from Wallace's mind-manipulation-o-matic device. There are quite a few missions to do in the game, and a good amount of things to do for the townsfolk. The problem is that none of it is particularly fun, so it feels a lot like a series of minigames instead of a coherent story that flows together. The game certainly nails down the whimsical atmosphere of the Wallace & Gromit universe, so if you're a big fan, there's some amusement to be had in the game. But eventually most people will probably grow tired of herding rabbits into vacuum-suck drains and fighting were-creatures.
As far as presentation goes, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit does a good job at capturing the look of Nick Park's claymation characters. The game doesn't look all that impressive from a technical standpoint, but anyone who's seen a Nick Park short knows that the look of his universes doesn't require a superflashy graphics engine to capture properly. The goofy animations of the characters certainly captures the whimsy of Wallace and Gromit, but if there's any complaint to be made it's that the characters don't move in that claymation fashion like they do in the films. The game also seems to use a lot of the same voice actors from the film, and the music in the game also sounds appropriately goofy and authentic in that regard. Cutscenes from the actual movie round out a game that presents its source material pretty well.
While there's certainly a lot to do in the game, a wealth of gadgets to mess around with, and hundreds of rabbits to catch, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit ultimately limits its appeal with by-the-numbers gameplay. If you love Nick Park's creations and the film, the game's worth checking out; but beyond that, there are better options out there if you're looking for a family-friendly platformer.