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.
One 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 Groening's characters?
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 dirtball. Morbo 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.
The 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.