Reviewed: December 12, 2006
Released: October 17, 2006
I have to admit, while I fancy myself a bit of fan of the Fox and Adult Swim “mature comedy” cartoons, I have never really understood the popularity of the Family Guy cartoon series. I won’t argue that the series doesn’t feature its moments of comedic genius, but only dispersed amongst countless crass and unfunny jokes and pointless double entendre. Compared to the likes of King of the Hill, or the truly brilliant (and twisted) Venture Bros, Family Guy hardly deserves the half hour it takes to watch it.
Of course, this is all my personal opinion – my job here is to review the newest release by 2K games and High Voltage Software, a TV-to-videogame translation of Family Guy for the Xbox. And all personal prejudices about the show aside, I can safely say that the game is yet another poorly executed attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Family Guy license with a shallow and repetitive button masher.
Fans of the series will recognize the three playable characters in the game as the portly father, Peter Griffin, evil mastermind baby Stewie, and wise-cracking dog Brian. Each of these characters has his own forte – Peter kicks and punches, Stewie jumps and shoots weapons, and Brian works the stealth end of things – all within their own forte-specific levels. While this might sound like Family Guy might have a bit of variety to it, any of these gameplay changeups are short-lived and quickly become monotonous the second or third time around.
Peter’s levels are about as old school as they get – reminiscent of the early action beat ‘em up titles like Final Fight, gamers will find themselves doling out simple kick and punch combos to beat on an endless throng of baddies. The only real challenge here is to find out which attack is required to fell each particular foe – a challenge that is most easily overcome by simply mashing buttons ad nauseam and letting the game sort it out. My Xbox controller has not received a workout like this since the launch of the Xbox 360.
Stewie’s levels mix equal parts platform hopping and ray gun blasting, and even tosses in a dash of enemy possession here and there. Sounds a lot like Destroy All Humans, doesn’t it? Yes, the premise is a bit similar, but the fun isn’t. The platforming here is generic, tedious, and unnecessarily difficult – with the most difficult enemy being the extremely poor level layout and troublesome camera angles.
But of the three characters’ levels, Brian the dog’s stealth action takes the cake for tedium. Most gamers might associate the term stealth action to the graceful sneaking of Sam Fisher and Solid Snake, but Brian’s action is far from exhibiting any signs of grace, and is about as sneaky as a kindergartener boosting a cookie from a cookie jar. What is here is barely better than your standard GBA title, with Brian simply waiting for the enemies to run through their predetermined paces, then sprint by once their heads are turned away. True, you get the ability to dress Brian up as a cheerleader at one point, but that’s hardly the deep stealthy experience that the game promises.
While the gameplay of Family Guy is severely lacking, the toon-shaded graphics are very faithful to the television series and are actually quite impressive overall. You won’t find any high-tech bump mapping or pixel shading here, but you would hardly expect it from the subject matter.
The colors are rich and vibrant, and the characters and locations from the show are translated well into the game. Thankfully, the developers decided to stick with the two-dimensional look rather than go with the uber-creepy 3D transformations we have seen in recent Simpsons and Spongebob games. Sticking to the series art style allows the character to keep their same trademark expressions and movements – unlike the aforementioned 3D titles, which look stiff and stilted compared to their television influences.
Family Guy’s sound quality is on par with that of the television show, featuring the authentic screen actors voicing the characters in the game. But the game quickly falls victim to the pitfalls of these cheap TV-to-game translations; with in-game characters repeating the same phrases over and over, and the same generic sound effects replicated with every swing and kick.
Family Guy can be knocked out in its entirety in less than a weekend rental. Considering that the game is not all that enjoyable in the first place, the shorter the better. But that only goes to show that the game is not at all worth the $30 price tag unless you are a serious fan of the series.
There are a few replay options that remain after the main storyline has been completed, mainly in the Wario Ware-style mini-games that can be revisited. But for anyone who has actually played a Wario Ware game, Family Guy’s mini-games pale in comparison.
The recent trend of quality movie-to-game and TV-to-game translations misses its mark with Family Guy. The game might look great, but the gameplay is seriously lacking. Five years ago, Family Guy might have made a wave in the gaming world; today it makes hardly a ripple.