Review: Wallace & Gromit: In Project Zoo
Posted 08 Oct 2003 at 00:13 by Bas Oosterveld
Fans of the relatively unknown claymated series Wallace & Gromit are keeping their fingers crossed because their beloved cartoon is about to launch on the gamecube. Yes another cartoon to game conversion and with it the next game character duo can ride the wave of the now infamous yet successful duo platformer formula. Maybe British developers Frontier could surprise us and make something exciting out of a pretty much dried-up idea.
The transition from clay to bits has been a successful one with high polygon characters, good shadow and lighting effects and rich surroundings. The developers did a pretty fine job finding the right mix between the original clay models and computer graphics, but it would be even more appropriate if the backgrounds had been given the same visual treatment as the models. Not that Wallace or Gromit look any more spectacular than the dusty conservative clay puppets they already are, Frontier only took liberty to alter the backgrounds for convenience and to give it more variation. The game takes place in a local zoo filled with exotic flora and fauna where the heroic duo battles bravely against penguin Feathers and his shining private mechanical army.
When I was testing the game, my fellow colleague, busy on the phone in the same room, was suddenly asked if he was calling from the zoo. At that point some loudmouthed monkey was pounding Gromit with coconuts in the elephant hall. This is of course a great compliment for the sound effects and a confirmation that it is of crystal clear quality. As far as the soundtrack goes, nothing memorable can be said, no Groove Armada to spice things up, nor any buzzing tunes you can sing along with.
The evil penguin Feathers has imprisoned all baby animals so that the parent's are forced to work in the coal mines to fabricate diamonds and this way enhance Feathers diabolic empire. Wallace and Gromit find out about this extortion and decide to infiltrate Feathers organisation and make an end to all of these Mafia practices.
Take control over Gromit and work your way through 5 huge action packed levels that consist of solving puzzles, timer based quests, finding objectives and collect tools and bouts. Of course Gromit will need the help of tool man Wallace, who can repair devices such as switches and provide Gromit with all sorts of gadgets. There are also 12 sub quests you can discover, along with tons of secrets such as coins to unlock movies.
The idea is to release all baby animals from their electronically locked cages to advance further in the story. To do so Gromit has to find all kinds of tools and a certain number of bouts to repair control panels which unlocks the cages that keeps the animals behind bars. When you found the proper objects locate the right control panel. At this point it is time to ask the aid of Wallace, who will fix the panel so the baby can be rescued. This is pretty much the main objective of the game. It seems monotonous, but it hardly becomes repetitive because of the versatile quests and stage areas you'll encounter.
Gromit has a pretty wide range of moves at his disposal; he can swim, climb, swing lianas, do back flips and head rolls and can also sneak upon enemies. With the help of the resourceful Wallace his abilities become even more interesting with devices such as springy boots, a gyrocopter or a banana slingshot with laser visor. Wallace is CPU controlled but can be summoned by Gromit if something needs to be fixed, also Wallace provides Gromit with some useful tips.
The game can keep you busy for a while, although, and thankfully, the moderate mini puzzles won't hold up the pace too much. Finishing the game will take roughly 15-20 hours, after that it probably collects dust unless you're an addicted platform lover or just can't get enough of our plasticine heroes with their wit humour. Also the lack of multiplayer modes will make this game less interesting after finishing the story.
Wallace & Gromit is a nice combination of action and puzzling, soaked with humour, keeping the experience fresh most of time. Yes it is a duo platformer, but the game offers a lot of variety, making this title a welcome addition to the gamecube.
N-Europe Final Verdict
A well executed cartoon to videogame transition.
Wide array of moves and gadgets
No multiplayer modes.