Par for the Course
Unfortunate and awkward mishaps seem perpetually in the cards for Wallace and Gromit. Yet the daffy British entrepreneurial inventor and his intellectually-minded canine companion manage to overcome even the most outlandish obstacles thrown in their path. After run-ins with giant mutant bees, robotic mice, grumpy vacationers, ankle-biting pooches, and a dog-napping swindler, squirming out of an accidental marriage proposal and faking some mad golfing skills should be a cinch, right? Nothing is ever as easy at it seems.
Over the course of the past three episodes, Telltalle Games has offered up a rollercoaster ride of antic-filled comedy and oddball puzzle work for the dynamic pair. However, fans who were hoping for a big finish are bound to be a little disappointed. Episode 4: The Bogey Man, the final installment of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures, may possibly be the least grand of the bunch in the action and excitement department, but it still manages to leave the duo’s wacky charm intact. A slightly slower pace also gives you more time to ponder the more elaborate puzzle challenges you’ll face.
At the conclusion of the previous episode, Wallace finds himself in a bit of a sticky situation when his neighbor Ms. Flitt believes he’s offered her a proposal of marriage – an unsavory idea to say the least. To help his human friend ward off the unwanted affections and potential matrimonial entrapment, Gromit must help Wallace become the newest member of the Prickly Thicket, a golfing organization that stems back to the olden days. Why golf of all things, you might ask? Because Flitt’s aunt harbors a hearty distaste for anyone and anything associated with the group, and she won’t condone her nieces’ union with a man involved in the “barbaric” sport. However, keeping the organization from being shut down before it becomes too late to unseal the romantic deal presents another set of challenges. Then there’s the matter of keeping the town and everything in it from being bulldozed and turned into a giant golf course still to contend with.
Not unlike golf itself, The Bogey Man moves along at a more restrained pace from the get-go. Up until now, the series has remarkably hovered right around the sweet spot in terms of balancing puzzle solving, comedic momentum, and wild action sequences. It seems odd that the team would decide to slow things down for the finale and beef up the difficulty a little. There are a few mildly exciting moments here and there; they just don’t pack as much oomph as earlier adventures. By design, you’ll spend a lot of time in the Prickly Thicket clubhouse, a new location that offers a dizzying amount of hidden secrets to uncover and piece together. Your stay there is likely to be greatly extended by the fact you’ll scour it over and over again to figure out what you need to do at different points in the adventure.
Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures typically possess a natural flow and milder difficulty curve that drops subtle clues to help players work from one puzzle to the next without excessively having to wrack their brains. Such is not the case here. The last episode’s puzzles are tougher, more complex, and take more running around to complete. Don’t expect to get off scot-free by simply using one item on a single hotspot. Figuring out what to do and where to go isn’t always as clear as it has been in the past, and piecing together the logic required to solve many of the game’s puzzles is a stretch at times. The added challenge isn’t unwelcome, but players who made it through the first three episodes with little trouble are bound to get stuck at a few points.
The fact that the previously helpful hint system wonks out in this episode compounds the increased difficulty issue. While dealing with areas that are laden with multiple puzzles – like when you’re hunting for the right sequence of events to obtain three keys mid-way – hints will be called out that may or may not pertain to the specific challenge you’re focusing on, making for moments of unnecessary confusion. You can always turn it off and seek other means of assistance, since resorting to consulting walkthroughs is a time honored tradition amongst adventure game enthusiasts.
Toughness aside, the fourth episode is still brimming with personality. The cleverness found in each of the many puzzles is a major high point, making the satisfaction gleaned from overcoming them even greater. Characters are snappy, and the often funny dialogue is as sharp as ever. You’ll only find one newcomer among the bunch, but older characters are infused with additional personality and have plenty of interesting conversational moments to share. It’s also worth noting that while other recent episodes favored either Wallace or Gromit more heavily at times, the final adventure seems fairly split between the two.
The country club and a few other new spots you’ll frequent balance out the recycled terrain that again crops up. Much of the locations used in past episodes are either inaccessible in the finale or they’ve been visually re-worked to feel new – a trick the development team has found great success with in the series. The Bogey Man’s visuals are very polished, and we’re still impressed by the way the game’s style matches the claymation look of the original film shorts while also glossing everything over with a cartoonish sheen.
It’s hard not to feel some disappointment with the way the series ends off. The episode’s final chaotic moments are certainly clever and comical, but the drab, anticlimactic conclusion deflates the fun. The golf-centric nature of the episode may also turn some players off, especially if they share Ms. Flitt’s aunt’s loathing of the sport. The Bogey Man isn’t really a bad installment; it just lacks some of the energy and flair of past episodes in certain areas. While we’re hopeful Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventures pick up again with more zany exploits in the near future, it’s unfortunate to have it sputter out the way it does.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Sprucing up old environments is turned into an art form here. 3.7 Control
Though the controls are not designed with PC gamers in mind, they’re still fine. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Plenty of funny dialogue to entertain. 3.6 Play Value
Tougher puzzles and a slower pace drag this episode down a bit. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.