|System: X360 (XBLA), PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Telltale Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Telltale Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 5, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Fright of the Bumblebees, the first entry in Telltale Games' new Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures series, kicked things off with a solid start packed with jovial humor. The episodic debut of the cheese-obsessed Brit and his silent-but-brainy pooch companion pleasantly captured just the right spirit and vibe of the claymation series its based on, and in adventure game form, the duo's antics and comedic mishaps mesh well with the nature of the genre. Episode two, The Last Resort, does a commendable job of keeping the adventure feeling fresh but leaves some of the excitement found in the first episode at the door.
When we last saw the peculiar pair, one of Wallace's crazy inventions had caused havoc at the local grocery store, forcing him to ramp up production of his basement honey-making operation to foot the damages bill. Needless to say, things go awry, sending swarms of giant mutated bees out to terrorize the neighborhood. At the opening of The Last Resort, the bee situation has died down and Wallace and Gromit are eagerly looking forward to a sunny beach holiday. Unfortunately for them, a vacation respite simply isn't in the forecast. Not only do tumultuous thunderstorms and torrential downpours ruin their chances of a nice holiday, they cause the basement to flood dangerously. This gives Wallace the idea of turning the entire basement into a temporary beachside vacation hotspot to keep the neighbors happy and earn some extra cash. Appeasing guests is harder than it appears, since personality differences lead to some bizarre occurrences and an unfolding mystery to solve.
Sticking to adventure gaming tradition, much of the gameplay focuses on exploring different areas and clicking on everything and everyone in sight to see what unusualness unfolds. There are plenty of items to pick up and fiddle around with and numerous surprises to dig up. You'll cover a lot of the same ground over and over again in this short adventure, but the situations change as the story and mini-chapters progress, requiring you to retrace your path for new clues. The balance is just about right; it keeps the game from progressing in too linear a fashion but doesn't make it branch out so far that it becomes confusing to figure out where to go next.
There are a few opportunities to explore out into the village where players tread heavily in the first episode, since The Last Resort focuses more on Wallace and Gromit's abode. The development team has done a great job of changing familiar environments to make them look and feel completely new, despite the curious location constraints. Thematic adjustments and grand decoration tweaks to the settings make up for the fact there's only one real new room to explore and you don't venture far from the house this time around. Many of the same folks from the previous episode appear again, only they're all packed in the house during much of The Last Resort. Having them all densely located in such close proximity to one another certainly makes character interaction a busier affair, and these encounters help drive many of the game's puzzle obstacles.
Solving puzzles generally has you relying almost solely on your ability to pay attention to clues in the dialogue and your surroundings and figure out how to get the items you need and where to use them correctly. Some hints are fairly obvious, while others are not. Again, there's enough balance to keep you from getting stuck easily or for very long. The game makes frequent use of plot twists to send you on scavenger hunts. Other times you're presented with slightly different puzzles, like having to select from a bevy of random items laid out on a table to trigger snippets of conversation and drive the dialogue to produce the desired end result. Many players will appreciate the games' cleverness and the way humor is casually woven into most areas of the adventure. In the rare moments where you do find yourself in a bind, the help system can be scaled up or down as needed. When it kicks in, it often repeats important lines of dialogue you might have previously breezed through to jog your memory.