Do you remember the time when Lee previewed the latest Family Guy game? *cue flashback gag*
Allow me to pre-empt any judgements you are currently formulating before reading the review proper. Yes, as a video game based on a licensed animated property, you have every right and reason to be cynical about Back to the Multiverse’s quality. Every major animated TV show has had a video game tie-in, and most of them have been pretty shabby; even Family Guy had its first adaptation back in 2006, which was critically slammed.
Which is why it came as an extremely pleasant surprise to be able to say that, on paper, Back to the Multiverse has all the elements it needs to be a decent title. For a start, it looks and feels exactly like the television show – I know you’ve probably heard that before, but bear with me here. The polygonal, cell-shaded assets and environments looks remarkably close to the original 2D artwork of the show and, as far as I can tell, all of the main voice actors are involved to provide voices for all of your favourite characters. Most importantly, the game matches the show’s humour perfectly. By that, I mean that this game does not pull any punches in terms of the offensive humour that Family Guy is known for, and if you are a fan of the show, you will find this game funny.
Taking inspiration from fan favourite episode “Road to the Multiverse, each level in the game takes place in a different parallel universe. Playing as Stewie and Brian you must pursue Stewie’s evil twin Bertram, and rid him from all existence once and for all; following the evil ginger child into all kinds of parallel universes.
Each of the four levels I have experienced so far are based around some sort of “What If?” scenario. For example, the first level is based around the idea of a universe run by Frat Boys. Other levels follow suit, such as a parallel universe where everyone is handicapped, or another where the Amish way of life really caught on. It’s these obscure settings that allow the game to really play on some of the obscene humour you can expect from your average Family Guy episode.
As a platformer with basic third-person shooting mechanics, you’ll be required to perform a variety of missions in order to defeat Bertram and get to the next parallel dimension. In the first level, Mort Goldman is head of the geek fraternity, and asks you to perform various tasks in order to ruin the Frat Boy’s party and get all the hot college girls to go to the geek party. Both Stewie and Brian are playable in single-player mode (or both at the same time, via local split-screen co-op) and have their own sets of weapons and usable items. Some of the items should be recognisable to fans, including the infamous Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man and the Giant Chicken, then there are bottles of Ipecac, the medicine that led to one of Family Guy’s infamous “last one to vomit gets cake” scene. These can be thrown at enemies to achieve the same effect.
The tasks that you are required to perform usually take the form of fetch quests where you need to get to a certain location and either collect particular items, interact with objects or kill particular enemies. A deep and engaging game this isn’t, although it doesn’t need to be. While Stewie & Brian are able to use melee attacks, you’ll mainly be playing Back to the Multiverse as a third-person shooter; you start off with a simple Ray Gun (for Stewie) or pistol (for Brian), but as you progress you will obtain other weapons, such as flamethrowers or shotguns.
In terms of control, I did find the aiming cursor to be very sluggish even on the highest sensitivity. The game appears to be generous with the auto-aim to compensate, although it never really felt like I was actually hitting enemies, even though they were dying.
The second level feels a bit closer to Family Guy’s humour. Set in a universe full of Amish farmers that have been tricked by Bertram into making him a wooden war machine; you just have to take them out with a handy sniper rifle. As you make your way through the level, you’ll see a portal that leads to a handy shop, where you can use the money earned by killing enemies, to purchase items, weapons, attributes and unlockable outfits (such as one that makes Brian look like Snoopy).
Moving onto the third level, and it’s clear that the game really has taken on the show’s offensive sense of humour, as you must battle the handicapped. Wheelchair-bound and machine gun crutch-wielding enemies litter the streets, and the offensive dialogue goes into overdrive. This isn’t for the easily-offended, and quite frankly if you are, then why would you play a Family Guy game? The level comes to a head as you fight the “Crippletron”; a giant “mech” built from wheelchair users.
While the game has no online multiplayer function, the Story Mode can be played with two players using local co-op, and with up to four players in several local multiplayer modes. Playing as pretty much most of the main Family Guy characters (including Adam West and Death), all with their own weapons, special moves and selectable costumes.
The game features four modes, deathmatch is a simple mode of killing everyone for points, Multiverse Madness is a Horde-type mode where players must band together to survive an infinite number of waves, while Infiltrate is a team-based mode that introduces random objectives that must be performed for points. However, my personal favourite is Family Guy’s take on Capture The Flag; Capture The Greased Up Deaf Guy. Upon catching the Greased Up Deaf Guy, you are given a flag that must be taken back to your base.
It’s the type of multiplayer that is reminiscent of Nintendo 64-era multiplayer games such as South Park. It’s perfect post-pub gaming that provides more than a few laughs, but as its offline only it probably isn’t going to keep you going for months.
That’s Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse all over. From what I’ve played of the game so far, I can say that it’s a genuinely entertaining game, that could be the perfect palate-cleanser for a holiday season full of serious first-person shooters and other violent games. It might not win any Game of the Year awards, but it’s simple, laugh-out-loud fun, and that can be as welcome as any Triple-A title.
Family Guy: Back To The Multiverse is available from 23rd November on Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3.