Wallace and Gromit's Grand Adventures: The Last Resort (PC [reviewed]/Xbox Live)
Developed by Aardman and Telltale Games
Published by Telltale Games
Released on May 5th, 2009 (US)
MSRP: $34.95 (includes all four episodes)
I was a little hard on the first episode of Wallace and Gromit's Grand Adventures and I make no apologies for that. When a company that I love creates a game that combines two of my favorite things ever, adventure gaming and Aardman's creations, expectations were going to be high and I walked away feeling disappointed by technical issues.
Now we have The Last Resort, second of the four Grand Adventures games. Following directly on the heels of Fright of the Bumblebees, the intrepid heroes have their planned summer vacation rained out. Always one to make the best of a bad situation (and thereby make it worse) Wallace turns their flooded basement into a beach resort where all of the town's residents may come and have a holiday.
Being that nearly all of the characters in this episode are returning from the first, there is very little in the way of pussyfooting around. There's not much need for exposition or in-depth introductions so the game launches right into things with a short, premise-setting puzzle before diving directly into the meat of this title.
Gone are the puzzles which require you to fix one of Wallace's bizarre contraptions. His inventions do still play a major role in the story but you are no longer attempting to get some Rube Goldberg-inspired gadget to perform its intended function. It's a bit of a shame, as those puzzles were among my favorites in the first episode, but the challenges in this game are equally satisfying.
A big part of the reason for this is that most of the puzzles are more social in nature and take more advantage of the assorted characters which make up Wallace and Gromit's world. Puzzles cater to the personalities visiting the resort on Wallaby Street by making you keep them in mind when deducting their solution.
I love these characters and find them to be highly entertaining, so this is a big plus for me. It almost makes me lament the fact that there are no dialogue trees to be found in Grand Adventures if for no other reason than I'd like to get even more of them. Almost.
Once again, none of the puzzles in the game are all that difficult with most solutions being obvious. There is still a strong sense of needing to pick up everything in the game for item solutions which could be frustrating except that everything you can interact with is pretty clearly apparent. While there are no puzzles which are obviously repeated - as opposed to episode one - much of this will probably feel familiar as there are some recurring puzzle elements.
There's nothing wrong with this in and of itself. The familiarity is comforting and it's not at all meant to be a complex game. That said, it does make me worry a bit about the future of the series. Will I still be manipulating the fine citizensof the town with magazine headlines two games from this point? I hope not, as the mechanic will almost certainly have worn its welcome out by that point.
Eschewing the keyboard this time, I played the game in its entirety with a controller. It's the manner in which the game is intended to be played - which will no doubt annoy some PC owners - and it really does work quite well. The game feels much more polished this time around also, with everything running smoothly and a number of solid chuckles are to be had in the story.
Telltale seems to be much more on track with this installment, thankfully. Most of the issues I had with the first episode have been resolved. I'm still probably more inclined to recommend that players wait until the XBLA version is released if for no other reason than the controller input is standard on that platform. Nevertheless, this is a solid adventure game with a clever premise and a good sense of humor.
The Last Resort is alright. Not great, not awful. Alright. Conrad touched on the main difference between this episode and the last -- mainly, its focus on interpersonal puzzles and dialogue over wacky inventions and monster-fightin' -- but I ended up taking it harder than he did.
For me, the allure of Wallace and Gromit comes in their interactions with one another and the way they deal with the often fantastic, alien situations they find themselves in. The fewer secondary human characters there are in an average Wallace and Gromit short, the better (this is why one can mathematically prove that "The Wrong Trousers" is superior to "A Close Shave").
In Fright of the Bumblebees, where Wallace and Gromit's interactions with other people was left to a minimum, we got to witness more of their unusually loving relationship, while basking in the wonderful insanity of Wallace's cracking contraptions. In The Last Resort, however, so much of the player's time is spent interacting with the human supporting characters that they become the driving force of both the story and the humor. Sad to say, most of these characters are not up to the task.
With the exception of one or two good lines from a belligerent war veteran and an adorable puzzle where Wallace tries to cheer the newspaper vendor up, the not-Wallace human characters in The Last Resort are just plain boring. The puzzles are just as decent this time around and it's still fun just to control Wallace and Gromit as they go about their day, but characters like Mr. Paneer and the Constable are too dull to keep the pace and entertainment level as high as it was during Fright of the Bumblebees.
If you haven't already bought the Wallace and Gromit episodes, don't start with this one -- if you have, then I'm sure you'll join me in looking forward to the next, hopefully more exciting chapter in the saga.
Overall Score: 6.5 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)
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