"It's never overtly bad. It's just grossly unambitious, lacking in any real flair, and growing stale at an alarming rate. So while Grand Adventures has been a fun ride, it's for the best that it's reached its conclusion. It just could have done to finish last month instead."
After four months of regular instalments, Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures has reached its conclusion.
Which might seem like an odd thing to say, considering the seven, six and eight out of ten scores I've awarded so far - all decent marks - but there's a reason. Run anything for long enough, or regularly enough, and eventually it starts to lose its charm. The initial thrill of, say, seeing your favourite animated television series brought to life in interactive 3D wears off. So yes, Grand Adventures still looks stunning, with all its claymation-esque fingerprints and imperfections. But it looked that good from the start, and while I may have brought it back to your flapping attentions last month, it stopped being so remarkable approximately two hours into the first game. And yes, it might neatly capture the Mancunian atmosphere, but we got over that after the first episode.
Such is the problem with episodic releases. Keep them fresh, or things start to stagnate pretty rapidly.
Grand Adventures attempted to bypass this problem by having each game focused around a self-contained story. The first release saw the duo take on a swarm of killer bees; the second surrounded a mystery in a home-made holiday park; the third involved an evil dog stealer; and now, in this final episode, the pair find themselves entrenched in twin stories, with Wallace having accidentally proposed to his neighbour in Episode 3, and a bitter police constable attempting to shut down a country club shrouded in mystery. Ooooh.
In actual fact, the separation of the individual stories has been to the series' detriment. It's meant that each game's begun with a collection of monotonous, mundane tasks, before the main bulk of the story has kicked in. Episode 3 managed to sidestep much of it, but here, we're back to old habits. There's a full two hours of nothing much interesting happening, with only a single clever puzzle breaking the pedestrian flow during that time.
The Bogey Man is marginally linked to the previous outing, with Wallace attempting to sort out his marital problems throughout, but it's far from being the focus of the game. It also leads to a stetch of aimlessness at the start. We're instructed to eavesdrop on Wallace's bride-to-be and her Great Aunt Prudence, and vaguely pointed in the direction of joining a country club the family dislikes, but it's all a bit imprecise, and results in plenty of wandering and experimenting without a clear goal. It's a problem that's rectified by later puzzles, but really, there's a hefty chance people's interest might not hold out for that long.
The main sticking point is that, throughout this waffle, it's almost never funny. The first time The Bogey Man even raised a smile was a couple of hours in, with a golf gag so awful you simply have to give it some credit. Until that point, it's not even that it's trying hard but failing. There just aren't really any jokes. It's all terrifically bland, with any of the Northern British wit that remained simply falling further from view by the second.
In other words, it's already down near the lower regions of the series' quality. For the finale, you'd expect something more immediately gripping, more pacey and directed. But it's probably the most sluggish of the lot - a contender, at least. Then again, if you've played and enjoyed all the previous releases, you'll have had to pre-order the whole series anyway. So there's probably not that much point in reading a review. Be off with you. Go enjoy the game.
Because if you're already a fan, you'll probably be able to look past the narrative shortcomings and wandering puzzle mechanics. You might even be able to forgive the typos in the subtitles, the frequent graphical oddities and occasional stutters. My game crashed impressively around a third of the way through, locking up when I examined an object and forcing me to ctrl+alt+del from the game, losing my recent progress. For some reason, this is by far the least stable of the series, and in dire need of some patching up.
Away from this technical inconsistency, it's never overtly bad. It's just grossly unambitious, lacking in any real flair, and growing stale at an alarming rate. So while Grand Adventures has been a fun ride, it's for the best that it's reached its conclusion. It just could have done to finish last month instead.
Freelance review by Lewis Denby (August 06, 2009)
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