Wallace and Gromit

Telltale has done it again.

By “it”, of course, I mean “find a humorous property and turn it into a point- and-click adventure game,” and not necessarily “rolling around naked in fat sacks of cash,” although frankly I’m pretty sure they’re doing that as well.

Their latest victory, as they trundle across the face of PC gaming like Germany crossing Belgium, is Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventure, a series of 4 games for Windows PCs and the Xbox 360. The first episode, Fright of the Bumblebees, does a good job of successfully transplanting the feel of a Wallace and Gromit movie to your computer screen.

The plot – and the humor – is spot on. At various times in the game you control either Wallace or Gromit, and the sorts of puzzles you’re called upon to solve could be lifted straight out of a short. The game can be configured to offer hints more or less frequently, according to your taste, so you’re only as stuck on a given puzzle as you want to be.

Not everything is wine and roses. Telltale tweaks the user interface to their games with each release. This time around, it didn’t go so well. Perhaps in an effort to maintain the “cinematic” feel of the Wallace and Gromit shorts, many of the screens have fixed camera angles that are uncomfortably tight. Coupled to this is a new control scheme where you move using the W-A-S-D keys, using the mouse mostly to manipulate your inventory. At least in the first game of the series, discovering “hot spots” is a matter of walking near an object and hoping your character decides to look at the right thing. If you ever played Lucasarts’ brilliant-yet-frustrating Grim Fandango you know the sort of scheme I’m talking about. This was a source of some frustration to me. It did, I should say, feel more natural on the Xbox Live version of the game.

Most of this frustration is front-loaded, and by the time you reach the second act of the game you’ll have thoroughly adapted. My only other complaint, of course, is that there isn’t a Mac OS X version of the game. But hope springs eternal.

Apart from this, it looks like once again Telltale has a hit on their hands. I can’t wait for this summer’s release of Monkey Island. It’s as if someone formed a company whose entire purpose in life was just to make me happy.