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Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures: The Last Resort

10:5822/05/2009Posted by D+PAD StaffOne Comment

Someone at Telltale clearly understands British weather: The Last Resort opens with the ever-affable Wallace and his faithful companion Gromit having their holiday to Blackpool fatally ruined by torrential downpour. We’ve all been there. After the frosty reception to the first episode, the gloomy forecast was likely felt by some when news that the second in Wallace and Gromit’s series of Grand Adventures had recently found its way onto the internet: a typical response to Telltale’s seemingly divisive nature. We quite liked Fright of the Bumblebees, though, so it was certainly exciting to launch up another romp through our eponymous heroes’ ambiguous northern town.

wg1As is always the case with adventure games, hitting the right balance between puzzles and dialogue is the key. In that respect, Telltale have struck gold. Wallace eventually gets around to the idea of converting his basement, now free of giant bees, into an all-inclusive seaside resort for himself and the town’s residents: a pitch just ludicrous enough to be interesting. It goes in a bit of an odd direction after that, involving some literal sleuthing, and incorporating the oft-used twist from the much-adored plasticine animations of a seemingly innocuous entity being the real culprit all along – Gromit sees it straight, away, of course – but overall it feels like much more of a story befitting Wallace and Gromit than the rather bizarre miracle growth formula that so much of Fright of the Bumblebees revolved around.

The gist of The Last Resort, much like the first episode, is in collecting a series of items that are being initially denied to the player. Problematic, but that’s the point. It’s a shame, however, to see some of the puzzles from the first episode being so shamelessly recycled, the chief culprit being one involving Mrs Gabberley where Wallace has to make conversation from looking at the surrounding area. It’s hardly adventure gaming at its finest when you’re completely aware of the solution because you already solved it a month ago, and if Telltale keeps the repetition up into the third episode I would recommend that their chief designer get himself checked out for severe short-term memory loss. The rest of the puzzles follow an eerie plausibility, with us finding that the brain-scratchers in The Last Resort are far less obtuse than their Fright of the Bumblebees counterparts. While, overall, this leads to a shorter experience, it is one tinged with far less frustration. A good thing, for sure.

wg2Its big problem, still, is that Telltale seem to be forgetting these are supposed to be games about Wallace and Gromit. The audience is there, primarily, to see the two interacting together but, as with Fright of the Bumblebees, the developers are far too content to put distance between the two. The preening Miss Flitt, oddball Major Crum, and the new addition of Scottish Duncan McBiscuit are poor substitutes for the two characters everyone’s grown up with, yet they’re inserted into the game with far more regularity and impetus than the star attractions. There’s just not enough of Gromit’s furrowed eyebrow and pitying stare, for instance, and we’re not playing a game called “Mrs Gabberley’s Grand Adventures” after all. That’s not to say the secondary cast are bad characters, and as an ensemble piece it works quite nicely: Telltale have given their supporting cast a lot of depth, and the script certainly provides enough opportunities for whimsy. Wallace and Gromit are, sadly, spread far too thinly, and it’s odd to see the developer fall down here, especially when considering their past history with Sam & Max, a series notable for its exchanges between the two main characters.

The Last Resort is not a perfect experience, by any means, and the community at large are perhaps too quick to forgive Telltale out of a fond nostalgia for the adventure genre in general. They’re certainly a talented bunch, but for the time, money and manpower they’ve put into emulating Nick Park’s animations it’s strange to see the dynamic between the duo repeatedly misrepresented. They’ve got so much right, however, that it just makes it especially jarring to see then unable to go the whole distance. The visuals are again excellent at aping the claymation style, and even the voice actor who does his best Peter Sallis impression seems to have done a better job than in the first episode.

Just don’t get him to say cheese, because he always mucks that up.

wg3It’s flawed, then, but that’s not to say it’s lacking in charm. The puzzles are interesting, which is vitally important, and the setting once again promises a decent long afternoon of adventure gaming. It’s a shame, though, to see the script falling down when it comes to Wallace and Gromit themselves, and it’s also a bit depressing that so many environments are recycled from the first episode. But, whilst its flaws bring it down, the game always remains charming, consistently throwing friendly, lovable moments in your direction.

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One Comment »

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