Over the years we have seen countless tie in titles to numerous films and television programmes and it is fair to say that more often than not the same few things can be said about them, first of all they are nearly always platform games and secondly they are nearly always rushed out to cash in on hype and end up being worse than a collective bunch of army men games. So imagine the slight veil of dread that hung around us when a 3d platform title centred on the ever-popular Wallace and Gromit appeared.
However, the one thing which brought a slight feeling of hope was the fact that Wallace and Gromit did not really have anything to promote, the game coming years after the original films where created and would need to be able to stand on its own merits to keep fans interested and stop the market as a whole ignoring the title out of hand.
The story goes that the evil penguin that appeared in classic film ‘The Wrong Trousers’ has taken over the Zoo of Wallace and Gromit’s friend Monty and has all the animals doing his dirty work for him. It is up to Wallace, but more importantly Gromit to save the animals and stop the evil penguin once and for all. Players control the heroic dog of the pairing, but in a twist to the normal platform formula Wallace must be lead to certain areas in order to make or fix anything requiring a more mechanically minded person.
It is clear right from the start that project zoo is far more than just another quick cash in rushed out to make some money. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the presentation with the developers making sure everything has the right look and feel to it, meaning fans of the series will quickly become lost in a whole world of creature comforts. Most impressive of these are the perfectly animated cut scenes that appear at numerous points in order to keep the story progressing in a very Wallace and Gromit tone. Not only is the animation spot on but both scripting and style are also of an excellent standard, so much so that the game seems more like a new film rather than a series spin off.
Set across twenty-three missions based around six worlds the platform action is a mixture of the slightly original and things that we have seen a fair few times before. Essentially, each level comes down to the same thing- Gromit must go around collecting cogs, bolts and tools, Wallace must then be called to a place where these things can be used to fix or make something, thus allowing Gromit to continue on. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff but none the less it helps the the game stand out a bit.
Gromit himself has a wide variety of moves with which to move himself around the levels. Reminiscent of the type of movement Jak was afforded in the first Jak and Daxter title Gromit can roll, crouch, high jump and a number of other things not a million miles away from other titles. Saying that however there are a few nice little moves in there as well. Gromit is able to do a Devil May Cry 2 style run up the wall type move, which is a touch amusing to watch considering Dante and Gromit are not exactly the same type of hero. Various weapons are also on offer such as banana cannons and while all the moves and ideas are not that original they all come together to form a decent enough package that feels a little different.
A small problem that shows its self from time to time is that Gromit is a touch slow and clumsy when executing moves, this is due to the fact one animation must be completed before allowing our hero to initiate the next. This means that doing long jumps can be a touch tiresome as Gromit must roll and then jump exactly at the end of the roll animation as pressing the jump button while in mid roll simply does not initiate the jump command. This problem shows itself is other places as well but on balance throughout the title the times where this occur are few and most of the time they do not lead to death or injury.
When looking at Wallace and Gromit project zoo it is difficult to see what could have been done (a few niggling problems aside) to improveit. The big question surrounding it is ‘will the fans like it?’ and the answer to that is a big yes, there is so much Wallace and Gromit charm on show that any self respective fan of the duo should really go out an purchase it as it acts as more or less as another film with all the cut scenes. Furthermore, there are a host of extras to be unlocked and to top it off the game is not bad either. Project Zoo acts to show how a license can be done if put in the right hands.