No seriously, drop dead.
They made a Family Guy video game? I haven’t been this happy since my last visit to that wonderful fantasy world.
Or wait... this could end up way worse than, well, Meg.
[image1]Yeah, I know... clever! But some people really like the Family Guy shtick, and Seth MacFarlane’s six-year-old brainchild has been there at the edge of comedic irreverence and prime time animation. Humor is already moving a few cool games off the shelves this season, so all Family Guy: The Video Game has to fear is the old curse of the licensed game. What could go wrong?
Playing Family Guy reminds me of the game I rented this summer, with that other hot Fox license, the one that got a C minus on this very site, the one I couldn’t return to the store quickly enough. It’s a high attempt at translating the property, brought to disappointing lows by hardware limitations and a few glaring oversights.
Family Guy recalls X-Men: The Original Game right down to the trio of beat-em-up, shooter and stealth character arcs. Peter, Stewie and Brian Griffin follow three wholly independent stories for the mandatory four hours of playtime, breaking up repetitive gameplay with calamitous minigames. Since the dozens of cameo characters are easily interrupted by competing sound clips, the game’s stand-out feature is the use of call-and-response button sequences to guide players through gags and finishing moves. The variety is nice, though some of these bonus stages come on a little too quickly to enjoy.
The game spirals out of focus as it drags on. Peter’s early levels promise strategy in choosing attacks that affect the right kind of opponents, but by the end of the game you’re mashing whatever button you like. Stewie stingily collects one bolt at a time to improve his ray gun, until one level practically hands you hundreds at once. Why bother? And the stages drag on and on, jumping directly from the last door of the mission to the next character’s cut scene... where are the transitions? Every level ends in an anticlimactic loading screen that jerks you into another character’s when and where.
[image2]The gameplay isn’t there, but the look and feel is definitely Family Guy. Stewie’s stages are punctuated by his menacing little pitter-patter, and Peter kicks around little kids and Indian casino braves in that fun, totally wrong way. Brian does some of the funniest work dressing in familiar costumes and eavesdropping on Quahog’s eccentric populace. You’ll hunt with the wild fire engines of the African plains and play Marco Polo with Helen Keller - it’s all here, written in that secret fan-language of catch phrases and split-second slapstick.
For fans to actually put down money on the game, however, Family Guy needs to contribute some funny new material to the repertoire. Is there brand new substance here to satisfy the audience?
Most of the game is a recycled heap of lines and gags from the show, as Family Guy would rather nudge your side and remind you of the good times than surprise or innovate. The game even tries to reproduce the show’s lightning-fast cutaways and flashbacks as bonus games, but load times occasionally kill the rhythm of both the action and the Family Guy format. A few great gags poke fun at video games until you realize they really are hijacking Centipede for a number of levels.
The television show always features the highest quality of voice work and music; it’s great to see the same loving attention has been lavished upon the video game. Most of the original cast has recorded dozens of lines, and a few orchestrated tunes give the game some extra pop. A few unimpressive rooms try to get by with one overly short clip. Sometimes you just can’t fool the ears, ya know?
[image3]By the same token, you can’t always fool the eyes, and Family Guy features an honest if flawed visual effort. The blocky character models are forgivable, but the reckless cel shading paints a sloppy eyesore of an outline around disproportioned objects. (Sounds nitpicky, but it’s like every imprecise object in the game is now obnoxiously apparent.) The bright, clean visuals actually hurt the gameplay, making it extremely difficult to land jumps or see hazards (like magenta laser beams against a red background). You’ll go wanting for a little auto-aim love, and at times you’ll actually wish the platform game was on rails.
If you need any more proof that this game is a total throwaway, consider that Family Guy shipped a day before 2K Games’ other comedy Bully. Why double-book action comedies unless you need to get rid of one? And that’s what Family Guy is, an honest-to-god try at delivering the TV experience, tossed into the wild unpolished like any other cheap merchandise.
I already suffered through the X-Men game this summer, so I figured Family Guy comedy would give the formula a much-needed lift. Clearly I’ve been betrayed, suckered into the same damn thing, and now I’m just frustrated. Family Guy has come very far in reproducing the TV experience, but doesn’t get the same ratings.