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This Wallace & Gromit game seems to have popped up from no where. Fans around the world love Wallace & Gromit and have probably been waiting around for a console version of their favorite paring for sometime, well this time round Bam! Entertainment have control of this license, something I was just a tad worried about a first. But anyway, here are the main features and a basic look at the story:The diabolical penguin has incarcerated all the baby animals in order to persuade their parents to do his bidding and manufacture gems from the coal being mined using the incredible diamond-o-matic. Wallace & Gromit have smelled the fishy presence of Feathers and developed an elaborate plan to infiltrate his domain. And so the indomitable duo has to construct the integral part of their scheme, the Trojan Penguin. When the giant wooden bird is placed at the zoo gates Feathers' narcissistic personality embraces the 30-foot tribute and makes it the zoo centerpiece. Unbeknownst to Feathers, Wallace & Gromit reside in the Trojan Penguin complete with resplendent standard lamp and armchair. At night the pair can start their amazing adventure.
Wallace & Gromit: Project Zoo is very similar to other platform titles that have been released over the last couple of years on the consoles. The closest one it resembles though is Jak & Daxter - the best platform title available anywhere today (Until Jak 2 is out later this month). So from this you may have already gathered the main aims are to complete various "objectives" such as pulling a lever to open a new door, find nuts and bolts or spanners to give to Wallace so he can fix a broken switch or create one of his Contraptions like a Banana gun or a turnip launcher.
You play the part of the dog - Gromit during the game, he can do various actions like run, swim, hop, jump, roll, crouch, sneak, somersault and do lots of roundhouse kicks. During the game (and early on) you get your hands on a few weapons to help you through the levels. These come in the form or Wallace's contraptions that I mentioned earlier. During every level there are a number of nuts and bolts to pick up, these can be used by Wallace to create your weapons or sometimes, special add-ons like Springy boots that let Gromit jump higher than he can regularly.
There are quite a lot of sub games to do during Wallace & Gromit: Project Zoo - for instance, say you get Wallace to fix some lever, it can then possible open up a sub game in which you have to run round a level, through various check points so once you reach the end of the checkpoints in the set amount of time you can get a "Zoo Token" for your trouble. The more of these tokens you collect, the more extras you can open up at the main menu such as Interviews with the creators, animated Wallace & Gromit shorts and more. It is a good thing for platform game makers to add to games as it gives people a reason to replay through the levels so they can unlock everything.
There are also various bonus levels scattered about the game, usually hidden away in places like waterfalls or broken mines, these also tend to lead you to a "Zoo Token" for your troubles. There are more bonus sections and contraption levels like the Mine cart and flying along in the Gyrocopter.
So there is a lot to do in Wallace & Gromit: Project Zoo but there are problems, the controls are not the easiest to get to grips with, and the camera angles can get on your nerves when playing the game (You use the right thumbstick to control the camera, the left one to move your character) which can lead you to falling off edges that you didn't mean to. The game is also quite easy, but in saying that, it isn't aimed at master gamers as a lot of younger people will be itching to play a game featuring Wallace & Gromit. It certainly isn't the perfect game, but it does play well and can be quite amusing at times.
Graphics & Sound
Graphically Wallace & Gromit: Project Zoo is very good, the characters are near perfect representations of the ones you will see on TV or in the upcoming (well 2 years away) film. As some of the PR blurb has been saying, they have made use of a number of Xbox effects to make it look as good as they can without straying too far away from the animation we're used to with Wallace & Gromit. You can also see far into the distance on the levels which is a good thing when trying to find hidden items and more nuts and bolts.
The great thing here is that various cut scenes have been done with the in-game engine and they haven't jumped back into animated scenes like they could have done, and the engine is good enough to pull these scenes off well thanks to the design of the characters and the excellent voice work.
Now onto the bad points - the frame rate, sometimes the frame rate can really run down slow, this isn't a major problem in a game which is not really fast paced (unless you are on a platform which is collapsing) but it is very noticeable even in areas where it does not seem like much is going on. But the worst graphical problem I have been seeing in the PAL version is what looks like VSync problems, where the game can look as if the screen is tearing at times, it is very off putting.
The sound is as close to Wallace & Gromit as we're likely to get, its all well voiced by the right actors (Peter Sallis as Wallace) and it's also well scripted too with the exact right feel of the Wallace and Gromit series of animations.
Fans of Wallace and Gromit can't go wrong here, it is probably as close as they will get to being able to have their hands on their favorite characters. Graphically Bam has been almost spot on with their 3D versions of the Claymation characters, but the frame rate and the tearing on the screen has let the game down a bit. Sound is also excellent, thanks to Peter Sallis's voice work as Wallace and the music in the background is suitably Wallace and Gromit. The game play is good, it isn't excellent, it isn't really original either, but it is probably the best use of a license for some time.