In a moment of diet wrecking madness, I’ve just bought and devoured a milkshake from a well known fast food outlet. And now I’ve sat and thought about it, and prodded the leftovers in the paper cup with a little plastic straw, it occurs to me that it isn’t really a milkshake at all, but a freezing cold goo that sits in a bizarre halfway house between a proper drinkable milkshake and a full-blown ice cream. In fact, it’s so thick that attempting to drink it through a straw is like trying to suck a Ford Zephyr through a letterbox.
And on the subject of freezing cold goo, Muzzled, the third instalment in Telltale Games’ Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures, is all about frozen dairy products; ineffectual eccentric Wallace’s latest invention is a modified van that can make ice creams of any flavour; stick an apple pie in the glove box and moments later apple pie-flavoured ice cream appears – it’s a contraption that would make Heston Blumenthal simmer with envy.
As ever, Wallace’s invention is a jumping off point for yet another bizarre point-and-click adventure, this one taking in a pack of wayward whippets, a quaint town fete and a moustache-twiddling villain called Montague Muzzle. Unsurprisingly, the ice cream machine features heavily in the puzzle solving, though there are plenty of other oblique conundrums to solve as well, from cheating an old man out of a packet of biscuits to using a dog’s heart condition to escape from a prison cell.
The graphics and sound are as faithful as previous episodes, with everything from Gromit’s plaintive expressions to Wallace’s voice lovingly recreated (it’s a testament to the abilities of Ben Whitehead, the stand-in actor for Peter Sallis, that I never noticed the difference between the two until it was pointed out to me last week).
Like my gratuitously thick milkshake, Wallace & Gromit‘s patented whimsical nostalgia will give you a sugar rush of enjoyment or an ice cream headache, depending on your point of view; Nick Park’s Wigan is like a northern Narnia, a town of garden shed inventors, senile old majors and terse bobbies-on-the-beat, a utopia that never was.
Thankfully, there’s enough sly humour in Muzzled to prevent things becoming overly twee – oblique references are made to the recession, animal cruelty (Goldfish ice cream? Told you Heston would be jealous), and there are a number of double entendres that appear to be fast becoming a series feature (or maybe I just have a filthy mind – though if greasing up a quivering whippet and forcing it into a dark tunnel isn’t the product of a dirty imagination, I don’t know what is).
And while Muzzled does display some infuriating lapses in logic – some puzzles aren’t so much solved as clicked into submission through good old-fashioned trial and error – for the most part this is a funny, lightweight yet thoroughly enjoyable scoop of entertainment. Like the previous two episodes, Muzzled is surprisingly brief, but like Nick Park’s original television features, it’s a pleasing way to spend a lazy sundae afternoon (sorry).