Wallace & Gromit in Project Zoo PlayStation 2 & Xbox
Developed by Frontier Developments
Distributed by Acclaim
Released: Out Now
Wallace & Gromit have to be the best animated characters of all time. Since their first adventure, 'A Grand Day Out', they've done nothing but scoop awards and raise the reputation of their creator, Nick Park and Aardman Animations. You have to wonder why it's taken so long to create a game based on them. Finally though we have a game and you know what, it's actually been very well done and will be an instant hit with fans of Wallace & Gromit. The advantage of waiting for such a game though is that we can enjoy it on powerful gaming machines and it looks great on both PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
Do you remember Feathers McGraw, the evil calculating penguin, from 'The Wrong Trousers'? Well he's escaped from his incarceration in the Penguin house and he's taken over the local zoo. The game begins with Wallace & Gromit enjoying breakfast and deciding what to do for the day. Gromit points out that it's Archie's birthday, the polar bear who they have adopted at the local zoo, so they decide to go and give him a present. Of course when they arrive at the zoo it's closed. Wallace uses the nearby phone box to try and call the zoo to see what's happening. However, on phoning directory enquiries he is told that the zoo has gone ex-directory. Just then a lorry pulls up and Wallace & Gromit see Archie in the passenger seat. Archie has been taken prisoner by Feathers McGraw and in a desperate call for help Archie sends our dynamic duo a S.O.S. With no time to lose Wallace & Gromit create a giant mechanical penguin (so they can hide in it and gain entrance to the zoo) and begin the rescue in earnest.
You'll soon learn that Archie isn't the only animal in captivity and you'll be busy freeing all the victims of the fiendish Feathers. Project Zoo is essentially a platform game and a rather good one at that. It's not too different from Mario 64, which of course is a very good thing. As well as jumping around and collecting the various items there are quite a few puzzles to solve and bonus levels to complete. As you know, Wallace likes to ponder on things and Gromit is a dog of action rather than words so it's rather fitting that you control him. Gromit is very athletic and can do a variety of jumps, a ground pound, use many items and weapons such as the Banana Gun and Turnip Launcher and solve a multitude of puzzles. You'll have to keep an eye on Gromit's health when he's attacked or falls though. Should he get hurt he'll have to search for crackers (what else) in order to restore his health. There are many objects that are scattered around the zoo that are in need of fixing. In order to fix these you'll have to collect various items such as nuts and tools. When you have the various objects you need you can press the Y button (Xbox) or triangle (PS2) to call Wallace and he'll come and fix the object in question. The gameplay is very enjoyable and platformer fans should appreciate the quality of the game.
Graphically the game is excellent, both Wallace and Gromit couldn't have been recreated any better. Frontier have really captured the mood of the Wallace & Gromit programs and all of the characters have that modeled clay/plasticine look as opposed to looking like video game characters. The Xbox & PlayStation 2 versions are identical in every way. I can only guess that the game was first of all designed with the PlayStation 2 in mind and then ported to the Xbox because there is no difference at all. The camera can be a little bit awkward from time to time but you can rectify this by moving the right analogue stick (on both versions).
Deaf gamers will be pleased to know that Project Zoo is subtitled (but you have to enable them in the game options) although sadly it's not fully subtitled. Some of the cutscenes and bonus unlockable cutscenes are not subtitled. However all the objectives and in-game dialogue is subtitled and you'll always know what's expected of you. The only other aspect of the game that a deaf gamer might find awkward is that when you are near to a key object, a specific sound can be heard that is quite high pitched. A hearing gamer will have the advantage of knowing that an important item is within the proximity of the noise whereas a deaf gamer will not have this advantage and will have to keep searching around without any clues. It doesn't spoil the game but it does make it more challenging.
Games based on TV programs/characters seldom get it right but Frontier have done remarkably well and not only captured the essence of Wallace & Gromit but have also created an enjoyable platformer that can hold it's own against anything on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Fans of Wallace & Gromit will no doubt love it and fans of platform games in general will also appreciate the games quality and humour. It isn't the longest of games and the camera can be a little cumbersome but overall it's a quality game. Whilst the PlayStation 2 might have its fair share of platformers the Xbox does not, so for Xbox owners this is especially recommended.
Game Rating: 8.0/10
Frontier have really done well here and Wallace & Gromit is a humorous and enjoyable platformer that will even appeal to gamers who aren't wild about Wallace & Gromit.
Not all the cutscenes are subtitled and the noise that signals a key item is not shown visually but this is still a game that can be enjoyed as the in-game subtitles help you appreciate the games' humour.