Stop motion animation legends debut first iOS experience
Platform: iPhone / iPad
Okay, quick background for the uninitiated: Wallace and Gromit is a comedic claymation franchise that’s been around since the late 80s, celebrating traditional stop motion animation. It’s made by British animation studio, Aardman Animations (also responsible for Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run, and Flushed Away) and follows eccentric cheese-loving inventor Wallace, and his faithful companion, the silent anthropomorphic dog Gromit.
The pair have featured in a number of outings across TV and film, with the main series encapsulating four 30-minute specials and a feature length movie (The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) between 1989 and 2008.
But now they’re back, in an iOS app that in no way tarnishes the brand. This is no quick-fire cash grab – this is a brand new adventure. The set up is that you become an employee of Wallace’s new company, a kind of handyman business. Over the course of a few weeks (which is how long it’ll take to play, as the story unfolds gradually) you will gain experience from a multitude of jobs, which range from picking up key client Mr Grubb’s pie tins, to fixing signs, and more. The whole thing takes place in Bristol, the British city home to Aardman’s studios.
When you first start, the game can be quite overwhelming as various aspects vie for your attention. You’ve given a homescreen, almost like a virtual employee notice board, where you can get to grips with what you’ll need to do. From character intros to invitations to the various parts of the app, it steadily guides you through. You’ll want to get started by picking up a job. The first handful don’t require any special skills and you can get started pretty quickly. However, as the jobs come rolling in, which you can interact with by listening to a series of answerphone messages from characters explaining their requirements, you’ll need a variety of acquired skills to take part.
You’ll also need to build an arsenal of machine-based helpings. Thankfully Wallace (previously voiced very famously by the late Peter Sallis, but now voiced by the equally brilliant Ben Whitehead) supplies you with a variety of crates over the days that follow which include spare parts and blueprints.
One of the early jobs involves sending along an animated cooker to fit Wallace’s techno trousers, electronic slacks that are misbehaving. This is where the augmented reality element comes in. To carry out the job you open your camera via the app, point it to a flat surface, and place the machine you’ve assigned to do the job. From here, a little animation plays out in front of your eyes. This, along with a little puzzle or two keeps things entertaining.
Which is certainly required. Because when we mention the whole thing will take a few weeks to complete? That’s not because it’s big, it’s because jobs can take hours to complete, and there’s little for you to do inbetween. While it’s mildly frustrating to be prevented from progressing a game, Aardman do seem keen to point out this is more of an interactive story than a game, and as with all great stories, the pace is decided by those that make it.
And it doesn’t take away from the joy of the return of these cult characters. The story is entertaining, the interaction a joy and the animation and AR is incredibly well executed. Kids and grown ups will likely find equally enjoyment in this long-running, idiosyncratic humor.