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Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Passable game adaptation, Gromit

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

I love plasticine. It's a wonderfully versatile substance. You can make juvenile structures and appendages from it, explosives of various kinds, and can even create large-scale animated recreations of what it's like to live Up North with it. Indeed, it's the hand-modelled plasticine that gives the Wallace and Gromit animations so much of their visual charm; it's a great pity then that some of this charm gets lost in the [gaming journalism cliché alert] Inevitable Game Adaptation of what is a very enjoyable animated romp.

Unfortunately, the visuals are cartoonish. Ordinarily that would be all well and good for a game aimed squarely at the kids. But Wallace and Gromit isn't a cartoon; it's stop-motion. Would a stop-motion-style really have killed you? Really? Perhaps achieving that kind of visual style would have required a great deal of work, and the game was undoubtedly rushed to get it done in time for the cinematic release as such things always are; alas a genuine Wallace and Gromit visual style would have to be the first thing to go.

Quite reasonably, most right-thinking people fear film-to-game conversions because they tend to be unspeakably awful. Blame Acclaim, if you must. I do. However, in this case, trepidation is not warranted, because (and I thank the holiest of holies) this isn't an awful film adaptation by a long way. I'd even go so far as to say that it's good. For a while. If you're a kid.

Too many qualifiers notwithstanding, it offers much that is right for a game pitched at under-12s. As if thumbing its nose at movie-game tradition, the developers have decided to capitalise on a franchise's content, rather than just its aesthetic and name. It even (brace yourself) broadly follows the plot. Shocking, I know.

Curse of the Were-Rabbit is at root a reasonably easy action/adventure. But it's a bit more than that, and even a bit more than a generic kids' game. Okay, it doesn't offer anything that platforming hasn't done before. But it's dynamics are well-executed, and unusual for its market. You get to play as Wallace, Gromit and a third playable character, Hutch the rabbit. The characters have differing abilities, and you can switch between them at will.

I don't know what you think you're doing to that rabbit, but I don't like it.

Also, when you're playing with one of them, you can summon the others to solve puzzles that require two people. It's this technique of swapping between characters to reach different areas, and then getting them to work together to complete puzzles that is both unusual for a game for children, and the title's greatest strength.

What puzzles there are aren't especially complex, taxing or innovative. But they are just easy enough that they will keep the kids entranced for a weekend morning or two, and that has to be worth the price of entrance. It's no Prince of Persia, but then it's not expected to be. Yet, any child who likes a spot of ladder-climbing, switch-pulling and handle-turning should find something distracting for them here.

Although it doesn't offer the stop-motion look that it really deserves, the game looks lickably lovely, to be honest. The voice-acting and dialogue is spot-on, faithful to the films, and gorgeously Northern. The brass band music is, well, brassy. People from the North are so cute. Cut-scenes are well-rendered, and are basically lite versions of scenes from the film, although with many of the good jokes removed, I suspect contractually. They are fairly long, fill out the story well, and none of them seem gratuitous or pointless. However, you can't skip them, which could be irritating for some with a short attention span or unresolved patience issues on the longer scenes.

The mobile rabbit nightclub was a great success.

Another funky aspect to the game is its use of day and night. There is a cycle of day and night (again, nothing unusual), but you can flip between both and there are differing challenges available at the different times. This helps to spice the game up somewhat, because ultimately most of your tasks begin to feel rather familiar after a while.

The kind of challenge you might expect to face are based around using your array of lagomorph-bothering paraphernalia like the Bun Gun, the unspeakably fun Bunny Hopper, and a useful Were-Rabbit Decoy. The puzzles usually involving harassing the oh-so-cute rabbits in some way, by sucking them into a big tank for later brainwashing, but there are also the usual array of collecting puzzles and such.

The control of the game is intuitive and kid-friendly, and it's easy to switch between the characters and use their unique talents. Jumping is a bit off, and a few difficult jumps I had to retry a few times, to my mild huff. You are occasionally let down by an unhelpful camera too, especially when herding rabbits, which is a shame, because you will be spending a lot of time in the company of the fluffy fiends.

Just because he's a huge clawed devil-chicken doesn't make him a bad person.

And, unfortunately, it's this consistent repetition that lets this game down at the final hurdle. There's simply too much herding required, which is ultimately not that exciting. It didn't work for 'Hurdy Gurdy', and it certainly doesn't work here. Herding is simply not a thrilling concept on which to hang a game.

All told, Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a mildly distracting, fun, cute game that manages to recreate the world of a Cartoon North, without ever really looking truly like it has leapt straight out of the (presumably flaming -Ed) Aardman studios. The gaming that it provides is not spectacular, and is not likely to grip the attention of an adult for very long, but kids, and especially those who are fans of the films, will certainly find something here to make them smile, even if only for a short while. It has straightforward puzzles, cute rabbits, an unsual-for-its-kind multi-character dynamic, and lovely brassy music. I know I'd have loved this when I was a kid. For a while. Probably.

5 / 10

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