I have to be up front about this one. I remember when the game was launched and I had to try the demo for Telltale’s newest game. I was hot off enjoying Sam & Max Season 2 and seeing another franchise I loved, I had to see how it worked… and I was unimpressed. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t as good as what I had just finished playing by the same developer. So I let it go as not worth the cash and walked away.
A few years later, I picked it up dirt cheap on gog.com. They were just starting to have summer and and winter sales to compete with steam, and frankly I decided why not for a few bucks. I have now taken the time to play the first of the four games in the collection, and while I’m satisfied with what I’ve played, I also kinda feel sorry that I took so long to play it. Right now, it’s a good game I have a hard time recommending because it’s only going to get harder and harder to get your hands on.
Story: Wallace and Gromit are open for business! This time, Wallace has decided honey is the way to go, and not only come up with a clever way of delivery (in which he installs a faucet into the homes of his customers through which to send fresh honey on demand) but even a specialized type of bee hive to streamline the process. But that doesn’t help pay the bills until you have customers, so even before you consider recent events that the inventor must pay up for, the situation is far from the best.
That is until the owner of the store involved in this recent incident, Mr. Paneer, shows up. It seems he’s in a bit of a pickle. He was going to run a festival by the end of the day and needs 50 gallons of honey for it. Any sane person would have looked at their single hive of bees, even when that single hive is so streamlined it can help the bees within convert flowers directly to honey in a few seconds, and said “not possible.” But our intrepid inventor is not always the most rational person and with the promise to quickly pay off all his bills, he agrees.
From this point on, if you are a fan of the claymation show, you probably know nothing of this will end well, and you would be right. Lab experiments and mistakes will only cause problems for everyone involved, though explaining how would be ruining the experience for everyone who enjoys the escalation our heroes are known for. Is it formulaic? Absolutely, right down to the last punch for that one last smirk shows like this are known for. But if this kind of humor is for you, you will appreciate that. On top of that, unlike many episodic games today, this story actually feels complete rather then just a beginning. I do not even get the feeling that last punch is necessarily a tie for the next episode.
Graphics: I have to be up front, the graphics, while good, are a bit dated in this game, but that is to be expected for a game from five years ago. You will appreciate the level of detail added to make this game look and feel like the TV show, from the very jerky motion used to talk (as if they actually had to switch mouths like they would in the claymation show) to even the finger prints in the model bitmapping to show where artists may have pressed just a little too hard. Telltale really went all out to get the feel of the show in the look of the game, and I have to appreciate the results.
But at the same time, this game also has the noticable angles when looking at round 3D models from time to time that one simply doesn’t see half as often anymore. It’s a sign of the times the game was made, but thankfully it wont take away from the game, as it really only stands out in one of it’s earliest scenes (making breakfast with a closeup look at an egg).
The interface going over all of this is slick as well, opting for a very minimalist approach. Most of the time, you will see nothing except the cursor and maybe the corners of an area you can click in the environment to interact with it when that cursor is above it. When this happens, a small display will tell you what you can do when you click. If you need your inventory, it comes out on command as a transparent list on the side of the screen. Add to that a fairly steam-punk (which is normal for this series) styled interface for your menus and it all comes together in a very nice and neat package.
Sound: Just like with the graphics, Telltale Games went to great lengths to ensure what you hear was true to it’s origins, taking it’s library of music directly from the show for the most part. Nor did they skimp out on how much music or the quality of it. It sounds great and will fit into the fun atmosphere of the game easily. Nor is the game notably missing in the sound effects department either. Everything you need to hear is given character by the noises it makes from the buzzing of the bees to the chittering of an annoying squirrel who lives to steal shit from Gromit.
But the real star in the audio world is the voice acting. Crisp and clear for the most part, everyone sounds exactly as you remember from the show, which is quite an achievement considering this is not the original cast. That is not to say the voices are perfect, but I can not blame that on the acting. I did, however, note Wallace’s voice when on the phone mid-way through the game was a little muffled and had some audio pop in it. It’s literally in only one part when you are in one room, but especially compared to the work in most of this game it stands out as a fly in the ointment.
Gameplay: Fright of the Bumblebees is the first of 4 episodes in a Point & Click adventure game, and for the most part, it will play like you expect. You will wander around the maps available collecting items and completing puzzles that will move the game forward to it’s conclusion. These puzzles are divided into three parts with a finale sequence to finish the game. Each part contains a core theme you need to accomplish before the game will proceed. For example, the first part is simply getting Wallace’s breakfast together while playing as Gromit, while the second will have you playing as Wallace while trying to gather what you need to get enough flowers to make 50 gallons of honey fast. Between each section, your inventory will reset, so there is no way you can forget something early in the game and screw yourself over later to make the game unwinnable.
Doing this will require three basic controls with a few extras: You will use the WASD keys to wander around while the mouse lets you interact with the world around you. If you need to use an item with something, shift will open your inventory so you can access it. The puzzles you will be doing at this point run the gamut from completely obvious to you probably would only know if you were a fan of the show. You shouldn’t need a lot of help to solve the game, but there are occasions where you might want more of a hint then the game offers you or you could be stuck till you accidentally find out what you needed to do.
But talking/item puzzles are actually not the only thing you will find here. There is a shooting mini-game that appears a few times which will require you to use your cursor like a crosshair as well, though this too will require you to figure out the puzzle behind it in both cases.
Overall, this game is not so much challenging as it is unclear at times. You will probably want to look up a little help now and again.
Bugs: While the game ran great overall, there was one bug towards the end with the audio where Wallace actually said part of his line, the scene finished, and then he said it in the correct place. It’s annoying, especially considering how much Telltale Games usually does an amazing job with this kind of thing, but it was there, so I have to comment on it.
Overall: While this game was definitely on the lower end of Telltale Games works, it definitely wasn’t bad. It was a solid story with overall good puzzles to keep you occupied and it actually finished up it’s own story nicely despite effectively being chapter 1 of 4. There are modern adventure games that could learn a thing or two from it.
But that said, this is also blatantly point and click and blatantly Wallace and Gromit. If you are a fan of either, you might want to check it out. A fan of both probably should, but it will be a bit harder then it should be to do so. (As I will discuss in the source.)
Source’s Listed System Requirements:
- please see source
- AMD Phenom II 6X 1100T (6 core) processor running at 3.3 Ghz
- 8GB RAM
- Nvidia Geforece 760 GTX with 2GB VRAM
- and Windows 7
Source: We are in a rare situation where I can not list a source for the game, as there is no way to get it new anymore. In January, Telltale games lost the rights to use the franchise and as a result have had the game removed from all digital stores for all platforms. The only way to get the game now is to go on Half.com, amazon.com, or another online store where people can sell their own games and look for a disc copy (yes, they exist but they may have to come from European countries only and will only be for PC).