It’s what Wallace and Gromit fans worldwide, both young and old, have been waiting for a long time, and now the digital version of the animated plasticine people is here. Unlike the masses, I was never much of a fan of the W&G duo, but I’m sure their charm appeals to a large number. However, it’s the game I’m here to judge, so let’s get on with it. It’s a 3D platformer. It’s based around a popular children’s television personality. Anyone expect anything new? No? Good...
The story goes that Wallace and Gromit, on the birthday of their adopted pet polar bear Archie, decide to visit the Zoo and drop him off a little something to celebrate. Upon their arrival, however, Wallace swiftly notices (largely due to the padlocks and big wooden sign) that the Zoo is locked up tight and, after receiving an ominous paper airplane note from their cold furry friend, decide to investigate.
As the dynamic duo make their entrance into the zoo, they stumble across a small penguin with a glove on his head, whom a friend of mine informs me is known as Feathers McGraw (Apparently a status symbol, with his own little cult following.) who is, and I quote, “supposed to be doing porridge in the penguin house” (and they get worse, folks.) according to the hapless Wallace.
They continue further to discover that not only is Feathers breaking whatever law it is that should be keeping him locked up, but he’s hatching (pardon the pun) yet another diabolical scheme, this time involving large quantities of diamonds and the enslaving of all the animals held within the zoo (Something to do with his machine, the Diamond-o-matic).
So you, playing as Gromit (Presumably Wallace isn’t physically able to perform the simplest task), must go around the zoo, rescuing the trapped baby animals whom were held hostage in order to get their parents to co-operate, thus putting an end to the evil penguin’s ingenious plot.
Graphically, the game is far from being the worst of the bunch. The characters retain the look that I’ve glimpsed from the cartoon from time to time, moving with perfect fluidity and without glitches, even though the animation style can’t have been the easiest to implement.
The levels are vivid and colourful, with attention to detail where it’s needed, so that you always have a near perfect view of just where you’re going, what pickups are available, and what’s trying to kill you.
The one problem with the graphics, as is the major failing in the majority of 3D titles, is that although the camera is accurately and conveniently assigned to the right analogue stick, the player can be subjected to sometimes awkward camera angles, which are fairly crucial if perfectly judged jumps are required, making you, at points, take a 'leap of faith’, without ever really knowing what you’re jumping into, which can prove frustrating after the 10th attempt.
The audio is adequate, as you’d expect, with your typical mix of atmospheric understated laid back operatic score, and the upbeat beeping and whirring that sounds like an upgraded 8-bit classic, with the added bonus of not getting annoying after the hundredth loop.
Also, there are Wallace’s little quips every now and then, with the gratuitous overuse of the word 'lad’, and mildly humorous outbursts if you get the slightest bit bored (and you may), and begin to take out your frustrations on the poor man, which makes him spurt out a lot of near nonsensical gibberish (My favourite being “Gerroff!”)
The gameplay is where Wallace and Gromit: Project Zoo was given a chance to shine, and instead decided to follow the example of every other 3D platformer ever.
It’s not that it’s bad per se; it’s just that the constant stream of run, jump, punch and kick gets highly monotonous after a while, and you can’t help thinking that it’s all been done so many more times before and in such better incarnations than this (with the most recent notable addition to this category being Jak II).
Controlling Gromit is fluent enough, with controls mapped out adequately, giving you control at all times. You have at your disposal a banana gun, for which you’re constantly on the look out for ammo, and your basic task consists of jumping across platforms or sometimes even just walking across the level collecting tools (Hammers, screwdrivers and the like) so that Wallace can fix whatever might be blocking your path, and allow you safe passage to the next area, all the time trying to complete your main objective of freeing the baby animals as well as many subquests, like collecting gold coins which will unlock special features (movies, cheats etc).
There are 6 levels overall, split in to roughly 25 missions and about a dozen mini games, all of which will keep you mildly interested for a while, but won’t ever really captivate you enough to make it a truly worthwhile game.
Ultimately, what this game lacks is that vital spark. It’s a fairly solid game, once you get involved, but the problem is that it lacks excitement, and the originality to make you want to GET involved.
Overall, this game is not for everyone. I’d recommend it for hardcore fans of the Wallace and Gromit series, or to parents who are buying their child their first games console this Christmas and need something to buy as part of a package, because it’s set at just the right difficulty level to keep the kids amused for a while. An average title, which could’ve been better with a spark of originality.