I’ve been badly struggling with the cold weather this winter, and there are a lot of stupidly small and stupid–yes, stupidly stupid–details that I won’t go into, but to make a long story short, I’ve been spending a lot of nights getting into bed early beneath the heated blanket. While this warms me up and keeps me warm, it does take a toll on my gaming schedule, as I’ve had to let Tomb Raider and Spelunky and basically anything sitting on a console’s hard-drive in the frigid downstairs area sit idle until I can stomach the weather long enough to play ’em properly. Heck, even playing my 3DS can be tricky, what with my arms unmoving beneath a burning blanket. I know, I know…woe is me.
And so I thought, “What videogames can I play in bed on my laptop that don’t require a lot of quick reflexes and constant attention?” Certainly not a first-person shooter. Or an RPG with time-driven combat. Ah, yes. Yes. Point-and-click adventure games. Though not all of them. If I remember rightly, the ending puzzles of Telltale’s Back to the Future‘s first episode demanded fast fingers, but not to worry–I’ve got plenty of adventure games in my backlog to devour. Slowly devour, that is. In my Steam library, I have oodles, and I honestly don’t even remember when I got them, but the entire complete episodic series of Tales of Monkey Island, Sam & Max, and Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures are there, installed, just waiting for me to get into bed.
I figured the safest–and less demanding of them all–were whatever Wallace and Gromit were up to, and so I loaded up the first episode “Fright of the Bumblebees” and tilted the laptop balancing on my chest enough that my fingers could creep out from the stashed warmth and click around. Well, Wallace has a new business called “From Bee to You,” which specializes in delivering fresh honey to customers. After some less-than-stellar results with Wallace’s prior inventions, one customer demands that he provide fifty gallons of honey in repayment. Unfortunately, Wallace has used up all the flowers in his garden and is now forced to improvise an enhanced growth formula to turn regular daisy seeds provided by his neighbor into giant bee-feeding flowers. Alas, while the formula is successful at creating giant flowers for the bees, it also turns the them into dog-size monsters able to terrorize everyone.
It’s a very cute story so far, and Gromit makes some of the best faces at the camera since Jim from The Office. I’m not too familiar with the stop motion animation movies and previous videogames–though I did lightly dip my big toe into Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit–but it is a lot of puns and kid-friendly antics and consequences, with goofy-looking characters and colorful, charming locales. Oh–and cheese. And incompetent coppers. Anyways, the graphics are nothing to write home about, and either are the puzzles, but they are fun and logical enough to solve nonetheless, and the story moves along at a good clip, not wasting your time with too many pointless objects and unnecessary observations.
A couple complaints. While not as bad as in other Telltale products like Poker Night at the Inventory and The Walking Dead, the engine hitches for a second or two when transitioning from section to section. I also had the entire game freeze when I attempted to use the fast-travel map as Wallace. Also, while not terribly game-ruining, I wish you could have Wallace or Gromit walk to wherever you click, instead of relying on WASD or the arrow keys to get them investigating a room fully. Lastly, when you use an object on another object, if it doesn’t complete a puzzle, the item disappears from your mouse cursor, meaning you have to select it all over again if you want to use it on the thing right next to the thing you just checked. That might sound like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but it can be really tedious to have to keep selecting an item over and over just to see if it works or not.
So far, I’ve looked up a single puzzle solution–it had to do with cheese, so shame on me–and from the size of the walkthrough, it seems like these episodes are actually rather lengthy. Which is fine by me. I’ll keep nibbling away at Fright of the Bumblebees until I can come out from under the covers though I worry that the story is maybe too light and inconsequential to keep its stingers hooked in me for the other three episodes. Unless they are standalone-ish and all something else entirely. Only time–and the weather gods–will tell.