TellTale Games has impressed me yet again with the third installment of Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventure. This time, in Wallace & Gromit Episode 3: Muzzled!, the ingenious inventor and his trusty canine partner are up against the cunning wits of a swindler named Monty Muzzle. The backdrop for the game is, as always, West Wallaby Street.
In Muzzled!, the town’s dog shelter has been ruined, and homeless pups have been displaced. Wallace, after recently inventing a flavor-creating ice cream truck, finds his work being undone by a trio of mangy mutts. These three dogs become the center of the game’s attention as Monty Muzzle is introduced and offers to provide a home for the pups, along with profit-sharing opportunities for Wallace’s latest invention. During the town fair to raise money for a new dog shelter, the player soon discovers that all is not right, and it is up to both Wallace and Gromit to set Monty straight and save the day.
Like Fright of the Bumblebees (and unlike my review of The Last Resort), I was fascinated by the imagination of TellTale’s development and design team. The minigames sprinkled throughout the main game provide small bursts of interesting fun. Having played the first two games several times, I consider myself quite a veteran of what TellTale conjures up for side quests, yet I still found myself questioning where to go and what to do next — great questions to be asking in an adventure game!
The overall look of Muzzled! was clean and vivid, reflecting the very nature of the claymation shorts from which it is derived. The characters and their environment carry the crafty feel of clay throughout gameplay, constantly adding to the player’s enjoyment, especially fans of the franchise. I feel obliged to mention along with the spectacular graphics, the audio for this game has once again lived up to the preceding titles’ levels of excellence. Often in games, music finds itself in the background of the player’s mind, but that is not the case in these games. The music heightens the tension when Gromit is in trouble, but it quickly becomes playful again, lowering any negative fears one might otherwise have in a different type of game.
As a writer for video games, I often look to the story in games, especially adventure games, to keep my attention above pretty graphics and sound. Muzzled! accomplishes this act with flying colors. I was immediately pulled in by the timid dog Twitch and was kept thoroughly entertained throughout the game by discovering the simple twists of Monty Muzzle’s schemes. The side stories between Edwina and the Major and Felicity and McBiscuit are genuinely enjoyable and actually caused me to snicker a few times. (The scene addressing McBiscuit’s “musk” was one of these.)
In a grand attempt to not contradict myself about questions one should ask during an adventure game, I believe one of the downfalls in Muzzled! (along with most adventure games) is the unclear direction as to what to do next. I can see the potential frustration caused by wandering around aimlessly, even in this compact world, as being a detractor for younger gamers. When all else fails, approach every interactive object in the game and click it using each item in your inventory. The problem with this strategy and overall design is that somewhere amidst the clicking and trial-and-error, the fun and enjoyment can get lost.
Another point of contention — again, from a game writer’s perspective — is the amount of initial dialogue delivered by Wallace. When first wandering around the basement and interacting with the stray dogs, everything the player clicks on results in another lengthy exposition from Wallace describing what the item is — with no slight to the quality of the voice acting, the “voice” of Wallace can sometimes be grating, especially in such big doses. It is my personal belief that this game easily has the visual capacity to fully educate the player on items’ descriptions. Now, if more spoken lines were spent on describing the capabilities of these items in context of their uses in the game, then we may be on to something.
If you are a fan of Wallace & Gromit, or just a fan of family-friendly adventure games, buy this installment in the Grand Adventure series. If you have not already played the previous two games, check them out as well, because in Muzzled!, there is at least one cameo from characters in the The Last Resort, and it made me chuckle. Expect anywhere from two to five hours of gameplay, laughable moments, and somewhat tricky puzzles. Realize that no animals were hurt in the making of this game, but also realize that you cannot take Twitch home.