We’ll kick off this review by pointing out that we’re big fans of Seth McFarlane’s work from Family Guy to American Dad to The Cleveland Show to his live action debut with Ted earlier this year, so we’re perhaps more accustomed to his style of humour than some of you reading this. With that in mind, it’s also worth pointing out that Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse isn’t very good – and that’s us speaking as fans.
There are a couple of ways to approach the game. Firstly, you can choose to see it as a fan service, cramming as many classic gags from the show as possible into an interactive experience – that will probably yield the best overall experience. The second approach, which is also the proper way, is to take it on its merits as a videogame, weighing up all the usual factors like control mechanics, visuals, level design and overall game structure. We’ll get the first one out of the way to start with…
For fans, FGBTTM is actually quite promising initially. Opening with the show’s title sequence, we’re then introduced to the story as Stewie’s half-brother Bertram emerges from a Multiverse portal promising to destroy the protagonist’s universe as revenge for killing him in a previous episode. As Family Guy storylines go, Road to the Multiverse was actually a pretty good episode, although it’s reliance on a single hook did see the gag beginning to wear thin before we reached its conclusion – which really doesn’t bode well for a video game more than ten times its length.
While the game looks absolutely awful, mainly due to the inexplicably poor on-screen character models, it was always going to be more about the writing, storyline and incidental vox-pops than the graphics and, for a while at least, it surprises by hitting the mark on almost all fronts. As you explore the first part of the Multiverse, one where Greeks have taken over (the frat ones, not the actual nationality), there are a couple of laugh out loud moments to be had at first. And then the game repeats them again. And then it repeats them again. And again. And before you know it you’re just about ready to stab yourself in the ears with a knitting needle just to make it all stop.
Unexpectedly, this is the point where the fun wears off. Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is a game that’s basically comprised of a handful of reasonably amusing ideas in theory, but when they’re put into practice, they all start to fall apart at the seams. While we can handle a certain amount of repetition when it comes to incidental one-liners from the main characters littered throughout each of the levels, it’s the gameplay that’s unforgivable.
We never actually expected the game to be good. We hoped it might somehow eschew convention and deliver at least something worth of praise, but sadly it wasn’t to be the case. As a fan service piece, it grates within a few minutes, as a game, it’s utterly hopeless from the very first moment you hit the start button.
Gameplay consists of running around the poorly rendered game world, shooting either a handgun (if playing as Brian) or a laser gun (if playing as Stewie) at an array of crappy dialogue spouting enemies and completing missions that include collecting things, shooting things or stealing things. It’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but it could have been done so much better.
The best example of the shoddy workmanship prevalent throughout the game is the fact that in order to complete one of the game’s very first missions, you need (or at least we needed to, as we couldn’t figure out an alternative) bounce along a barbed wire fence, presumably present only as scenery, taking damage along the way, to reach the other side of a frat house’s back yard. It’s not exactly intuitive, and we only tried it after nothing else worked. We assume it’s not how it’s supposed to be done, but at that point, a mere 12 or so minutes into the game, our patience was starting to wear thin.
In truth we probably should’ve just given up there and then, but being the diligent reviewers that we are, we forged ahead, hoping against hope that things would improve and from the disastrous mess of a game would rise a hidden gem, worthy of its presence in our Xbox 360.
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Instead we got more of the same shit, over and over again, albeit within different universes, each with their own distinct setting and objectives. The problem is that they all wear thin within a few minutes, offering very little original or interesting to entice the player to keep going. There’s a modicum of entertainment to be garnered from just running around and blasting the living crap out of everything that moves, and the special abilities might raise a chuckle for some, but that’s literally the extent of it.
TV show licenses rarely deliver when they make the transition to the videogame realm, but Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is very much a lesson on how not to do things. Developers Heavy Iron Studios don’t exactly have much of a pedigree, but even this was a surprise low. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Family Guy fan or not, or whether you think this might be a fun gift for someone, it’s simply not worth the money, and won’t be worth the money when it costs $9.99 in a few months time. It’s a bit of a shame, but not an unexpected one.