Sunday, November 08, 2009

Wallace and Gromit's Grand Adventures - Episode 4: The Bogey Man
Video game review by Sombrero Grande

Telltale Games typically does something BIG for their final entry into each of their episodic games series. In Sam & Max Save the World, they reunited all the characters from the previous episodes on the moon. In Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space, they sent the Freelance Police to Hell to overcome Satan. In Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People, they trotted out fan favorite Trogdor for a showdown that spanned several retro video game genres.

Then along comes the final episode of Wallace and Gromit's Grand Adventures, wherein Telltale really drops the (golf) ball. That's right, Episode 4: The Bogey Man all about about golfing and features the most obtuse and frustrating puzzles yet found in the series, a story that barely makes any sense, frequently lengthy non-interactive portions and a plethora of bad golf jokes that even the Sunday Funnies would be embarrassed to showcase.

I don't know of too many gamers that are also into golf, which makes the choice of theme for this season closer all the more strange. That being said, sometimes a game's theme doesn't matter if the gameplay is fun enough to make it interesting, which, sadly, The Bogey Man's does not.

The story opens with Ms. Flitt, Wallace and Gromit's next door neighbor, thinking that Wallace has proposed marriage to her at the end of Episode 3: Muzzled! It's all a misunderstanding that Gromit must now fix. Controlling Gromit, the player learns that the only "deal-breaker" for Ms. Flitt is if it turns out that Wallace is a member of the Prickly Thicket country club, for some reason. So, it becomes Gromit's mission to get his master accepted into the club to breakup the accidentally engaged couple.

Once a member, Wallace finds that Prickly Thicket is in danger of being shut down because it hasn't actually got a golf course. Police Constable Dibbins, angry about his being passed over for membership when Wallace was accepted, threatens to close the club unless they can prove they actually have a golf course, the Deed to which was long ago lost somewhere in the walls of the clubhouse.

It turns out that a duo very much like Wallace and Gromit had long ago built the country club and its ultra-complicated security system, which Wallace must now figure out to save. I had hopes that the episode would find Wallace and Gromit heading back in time to actually BE the ones who set up the club, but, sadly, it was not to be. Still, that would have been a great climax to the series, but instead we get a much more mundane storyline.

Once the Deed has been uncovered, it shows that the whole town was built on top of the original course, with Wallace and Gromit's house sitting atop the 18th hole. Unless the duo can best the current club chairman at a round of golf, their domicile is done for.

Honestly, The Bogey Man is the first episode of Wallace and Gromit's Grand Adventures in which I didn't notice the awkward control scheme that I've pointed out in each of my other reviews of episodes in the series. I can't tell whether it's because the programmers finally figured out a way to make it work, or if I've just finally gotten used to it after four episodes.

What I did notice were the needlessly long "cut scenes" (it seems like it takes minutes of talking for Ms. Flitt to notice Wallace is wearing a Prickly Thicket vest at the end of Act 1) and the surprisingly unintuitive puzzles this time around. The game might as well be called "The Buggy Man" for all the bugs I encountered when trying to use the in-game hint system (when trying to figure out what to do next to complete the 17th hole, the game kept suggesting I start the 18th, which I had already completed successfully!).

Lastly, much of the animation in this final episode seems like it was rushed. It's certainly not as smooth as in previous episodes when the games seemed to try harder to mimic the claymation style of the Wallace and Gromit cartoons rather than just look like a computer game.

My pro-tip: you can afford to skip The Bogey Man, a disappointing end to a fun but flawed series on Xbox Live Arcade.

The Bogey Man costs 800 Microsoft points ($10) on Xbox Live Arcade or $8.95 for PC on Telltale's web site or the whole series on PC for $34.95.


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