The Family Guy animated TV series certainly has a ‘love or hate’ kind of effect on its audience. For those of you that ‘get’ its twisted, illogical sense of humour, there aren’t many shows around that can match its entertainment value. On the other side of the coin, you have people who find the constant changing of scenes to jokes, which are completely unrelated to the main plot odd and bewildering. However, such divided opinion will not be found with the TV series’ first foray into the videogame market, as it’s undoubtedly one of the very worst games you will ever have the misfortune of playing on the Playstation 2.
It’s actually quite a remarkable achievement on the developer’s behalf, in that they have managed to create a story that will leave even the most fervent of Family Guy fans raising one or two eyebrows at how utterly incomprehensible the three main stories are. These are centred on Peter Griffin (The incompetent breadwinner with a ‘do first – think later’ mindset), Brian (The talking dog with a love for the drink) and Stewie (the baby of the family, who also happens to be a ruthless sociopath bent on world domination).
Each character has their own little sections that are played one after the other to try and maintain some kind of variety. With Peter Griffin, you’re forced to slog through a generic 2D side scrolling beat-em-up. Here, you will be confronted by a large number of enemies in which to fight. These range from small children, police officers, and the elderly. Even God himself. Although it’s best to stay away from the latter lest you want you restart the stage again. And for the long loading times alone, you will not want that to happen too often. The game tries to mix things up by making you perform certain moves on particular characters to do damage. For instance, small children can only be disposed of with a good kick whereas adults not happy with your reckless child beating require a good solid punch. Some of the tougher enemies require you to use some of the combos you learn as you play though the game, but this soon becomes a pain staking exercise thanks to the delayed response in entering the command and it actually happening on screen.
Things only get worse when you take control of Brian. He’s been put in jail for allegedly ‘knocking up’ Seabreeze, and it’s up to the player to sneak their way through some of the most badly designed stealth sections to ever be conceived, in order to gain freedom and find out who framed Brian for a crime that’s essentially rape. There’s nothing complex with how it all plays out, players must slowly work their way through rooms collecting evidence on the way. Enemies follow a set route and hiding in the shadows and under desks ensures you aren’t spotted. The big issue here is with the A.I. It’s terribly inconsistent, so making your way through each room is more down to luck than guile. Sometimes a guard will walk right past you and continue to mutter the same phrase for the thousandth time, and on another occasion the guard will seemingly have his x-ray goggles on, spotting you from behind a desk forcing you back to the beginning… again. Pushing the player ever closer to a broken controller as well as a mental breakdown.
Controlling Stewie is a less traumatic experience than the other two and it’s probably the best of a bad bunch. Nevertheless, it’s still nothing more than your typical 3d platformer. In order to take himself that one baby step closer to world domination, Stewie must find and dispose of his evil (even more so than himself) arch nemesis, Bertram. Before you can do this though, players must navigate their way through a series of uninspired and flaccid levels full of all kinds of evil traps that could see the end of Stewie Griffin. The biggest flaw is that it’s very difficult to judge depth and distance between objects. There will be many a time when you’ll release control, thinking Stewie is about to drop down onto a platform only to be just wide of the mark. A small set of blocks, for example, soon becomes a players Everest and the only way to get any kind of accuracy when jumping, is to look at Stewie’s shadow.
There is another section, although they don’t feature as prominently in the game as they do in the show itself. These are non-sequiturs that pop up sporadically throughout the story mode in the form of mini games. Players have a set amount of time to perform whatever action it is the game asks of you, which is never fully explained. It seems High Voltage didn’t even think about putting instructions during the long, long loading times. Completing these unlocks small rewards such as invisibility for a short period of time or extra juice for your laser. It’s all very dull and not at all pleasant to play through either.
When you look at Family Guy, you have to wonder whether the members of the shows writing staff were off on their lunch break when the developers were working on the visuals. The game looks like it was drawn by children using Microsoft Paint. Character models are sketchy and they end up looking like the final product of some botched plastic surgery attempt. Environments lack any kind of charm, which is surprising for a game so focused on rich colours.
What’s more perplexing is why the cut scenes in the game have adopted this horrible, tacky cel shaded look. It wouldn’t have been difficult at all for the designers to actually animate them just like in the show, but that probably wouldn’t be in keeping with the rushed, messy feel of the game. Apart from that, the cut scenes are quite entertaining, especially those involving Peter Griffin and his relentless quest to stop TV’s Mr. Belvedere who is out to ‘get him’. The game tries to pull at the heartstrings of loyal fans by using old quotes from the show, but in videogame form, and used at the wrong time, they won’t raise anything more than just a sly grin. It all helps that the voice actors have leant their talents too.
Family Guy tries to appeal to everyone by having three different genres in one short game and it fails miserably. It never once makes any of them even remotely playable. High Voltage has concentrated more on making the game funny rather than any fun. According to the front cover, Family Guy is “Too hot for TV”. Well, it’s certainly not good enough to be a videogame and the only place it does belong is in the bin.