The Wrath of Mom.
Known to many as simply an intergalactic Simpsons copycat, Futurama
has had a hard time convincing fickle viewers that it’s a good show on its own
merits. Even an Emmy couldn’t stop it from getting cancelled. Fox rarely promoted
the show and though it technically aired in primetime, 7:00 pm on Sunday is about
as crappy as primetime gets.
Ironically, Futurama has found renewed success on The Cartoon Network
as part of its Adult Swim programming. Airing after 11:00 pm gave the show newfound
success, and making it, along with other Fox refugee Family Guy, the
most watched hour of programming in the time period, beating both Leno and Letterman.
would think, then, that a video game based on the misadventures of a one-eyed
space pilot (with obvious depth perception issues), a 20th century delivery
boy, and a booze-swilling kleptomaniac robot would be perfectly timed. Unfortunately,
while retaining the humor of the show, Futurama is a mediocre game with
stale, repetitive gameplay. Why is it so hard to make video games based on Matt
The plot of Futurama could have easily been used in one of the episodes.
Huggable-yet-evil industrialist Mom has bought the Planet Express business.
This small purchase ups her total ownership of Earth’s business to 51% , thereby
giving her a controlling interest of the planet. Well, that and the countless
hordes of deathbots patrolling the streets. In the wise words of Mom, “Hell
hath no fury like the vast robot armies of a woman scorned.” You take control
of Fry, Bender, Leela, and Dr. Zoidberg and try to thwart Mom’s minions.
Aren’t you glad you live in a world in which the 400 richest people ONLY control
$950 billion of the world’s money? So what if Bill Gates is only a
couple thousand deathbots away from making this plot a reality? I for one
welcome our geeky overlord and wish him utmost success in conquering our pathetic
and I welcome this reign of terror with open arms and “may death come quickly
to his enemies!”
But I digress, and for good reason. Though the plot of Futurama is
fine and will warrant a few laughs, it’s easily the best part of the game and,
frankly, one of the only reasons to waste your time with this marginal platformer.
It is obvious the developers wanted to create a gameplay experience as close
to the Futurama TV show as possible. The graphics are good, using cell
shading to bring the 2D characters into 3D. This works better for Futurama
than other cartoons, since the show often used 3D computer generated models
in many episodes.
The voices are perfect, featuring all the actors from the show for every character.
There’s also some inspired dialogue, thankfully created by one of the show’s
actual writers. They poke fun at themselves quite well, and fans of the series
will definitely have a few laughs, but only during the cut scenes.
Once the gameplay begins, however, all laughter is silenced.
gameplay illustrates exactly what NOT to do with a contemporary platform game:
jumping, jumping, and more jumping. Futurama has you constantly
jumping from thing to thing like it’s some incredibly fresh gameplay idea. It’s
actually quite annoying, especially since the control and camera aren’t very
exact and if you miss, you die instantly. Constant checkpoints try to patch
over this obvious gameplay flaw, but the constant repetition of certain areas
make the game downright boring to play.
As if the stereotypical jumping wasn’t enough, the developers decided that
you needed something to collect. Mario has coins, Sonic has rings, and Futurama
has Dollars (Fry), Robobium (Bender), and Gold Bars (Leela). Collect enough
of the valuables and you get an extra life.
Also, Nibbler, Leela’s pet (and fearsome Lord of the ancient Nibblonian race),
has been captured along with the rest of his race. No, this is not mentioned
in the plot anywhere, except as a side note in the instruction book. Free all
the Nibblonians on each level to unlock movies and music in the extras section.
Clearly added at the last minute, the Nibblonians are just another thing to
collect. Personally, I think they should have gone with Popplers…with
a side of guacamole.
So the levels boil down to jump, shoot, collect, jump, shoot, collect, and so on. Occasionally you get a mini-game (such as laser target shooting in New New York) in an effort to break up the monotony, but it just isn’t enough. Even the worst episode of All My Circuits, the one where Calculon tries to sort books by the Dewey decimal system only to be thwarted by his nemesis half-brother who, due to amnesia, had forgotten that he faked his own death but is now secretly dating Calculon’s fiancée Monique, was more entertaining than this game. Though maybe I just dreamed that episode…
For die-hard fans of the series, I’d suggest renting Futurama
if you feel the urge to see your favorite characters in new situations. For
the rest of the gaming audience, a suicide booth
might be a bit more fun than putting up with this tedious game. Instead of getting
the entire cast back together to make this weak piece of software, they should
have made a few more episodes of the cartoon itself.