Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse (PC)

Family Guy Back to the multiverse title screen
Developer:Heavy Iron|Release Date:2012|Systems:Xbox 360, PS3, Windows

This week on Super Adventures I'm playing Family Guy™: Back to the Multiverse! Because suffering builds character.

Actually I'm genuinely curious about the game. I remember that reviewers thought it was terrible, but I don’t remember why. Do the jokes just not land or is the gameplay itself rubbish? I’ve a feeling the answer’s going to be ‘both’ but I’ll keep an open mind.

By the way did you know that 'Family Guy’ has been on air for 14 years at this point? It would’ve actually been 15 but the series took 2004 off due to being cancelled. The PC version of the game has taken a year off too, as it suddenly vanished from Steam back in December 2014. It's not alone though, as publisher Activision have pulled a bunch of licensed games over the years, including Deadpool and 007 Legends (it's like they don't even care about my plans to play every Bond game ever). But Deadpool eventually came back, so there’s still hope for Back to the Multiverse!

(Click the screenshots to view them in their original resolution.)



Family Guy back to the multiverse main menu screenshot
Oh wow, that cel shaded 3D is kind of creepy (and fuzzy). But I have to admit that they all look like who they're supposed to be.

The characters play out little animated gags in the background as they watch the news, and by ‘characters’ I pretty much mean Peter, and by ‘animated gags’ I mean he keeps farting, harassing his son and shoving his daughter over. Can’t say the news jokes are cracking me up either.
"Can a woman really be mayor, or will she just menstruate all over the city?"
"I'm standing here amidst the heated debate over a recent petition to change the name of San Francisco to something a little less gay."
“America’s scout masters are asking 'Why are the kids so shy in the shower?'"
Wry social commentary!

I'm glad the game hasn't forced me into using my Xbox 360 controller just because it's plugged in, but instead it's forced me to use mouse and keyboard until I manually flick the switch in the options. I guess I've gotten spoiled by all the recent games that have picked up on what I'm using automatically.

This is nice though, seeing all the different logos on the language screen. I’ve never seen a game do this before, making this perhaps the greatest language select screen in all of video game history. But probably not.

At the least it’s shown me that the series is called 'I Griffin' in Italy. It’s also showing me the ‘back’ arrow even though I can’t click it without mouse control. It’s just up there, taunting me.

I could go on to talk a little about the video options, but there aren't any so I won't. I get to change the resolution and put the game in a window and that's it. I always appreciate windowed mode though, makes it easy for me to move over to my second screen and constantly check Twitter write my notes as I play.

Anyway, story mode.


STORY MODE.


Story mode starts with a bit of story about Brian having to cancel the picnic he had planned with Stewie. But suddenly they’re interrupted by Stewie’s arch-enemy Bertrum! The character was apparently killed off at some point in the series after I stopped watching it, but this one’s an alternate version from a different universe!

Bertrum has basically materialised in Stewie's bedroom just to mock him and explain that he can’t allow a Bertrumless dimension to exist like this. So he’s going to destroy their entire universe. It’s like the plot of 'The One', except in reverse. You remember the film right? It was about an evil Jet Li killing the alternate Jet Lis from other universes to gain the power to make people his bitch, and then some stuff happened. Wow I guess I don’t remember it either.

Anyway, Stewie and Brian decide to get their guns and chase Bertrum across the multiverse to save their reality! So this is pretty much a sequel to the season 8 episode 'Road to the Multiverse'... and also the closest we'll ever get to a 'Sliders' game.


LEVEL 1: IT'S ALL GREEK TO ME.


And then Stewie’s multiverse remote immediately breaks. So now they have to explore this strange alternate reality they've ended up in and find the tools to get it fixed somehow. The awesome thing about parallel universes is that they can be any kind of 'what if?' setting imaginable, especially in a comedy cartoon... but we’re starting in 'frat house world'. So basically just a frat house then, like we have in our dimension. Pretty clever how they've subverted my expectation that they'd do any interesting with the premise.

Seem that the game’s a third person action shooter kind of thing, though I have to go speak to Mort before I can shoot anything. It’s been so long since I saw an episode that I honestly don’t know who Mort is, but there’s a diamond objective marker pointing to him so that’s not a problem.

Mort’s going to help me with the broken remote but first I have to help him out with a number of tasks, starting with shooting nerdy balloons. There's no tutorial, besides that bit of text on screen, but this is basically basic weapons training right now. Cutscenes are all skippable btw, so you don't have to actually sit through conversations, but they're half the point of the game really. I mean who'd get a 'Family Guy' game and then skip all the dialogue?

Holding left trigger zooms in a bit like you'd expect, but it also locks on a bit too and I don't like that. It's a shooting game, I wanna do all the aiming myself! There's no way to turn auto-aim off, but there's no reason I have to ever pull the left trigger either so it's fine.


SEVERAL NERDY BALLOONS LATER.


Objective #2 is to retrieve a scandalous stolen Polaroid back for a sorority girl (she “wasn’t going to leak nudes to the internet for another year”). You’d think I’d be stealing a smartphone or something, but I guess technology is stuck in the 80s in frat house world. So I'm basically just walking around the back of this other house now.

I’ve learned a few things along the way: I can collect health and ammo pick ups from around the garden, I can throw exploding diapers, and I can straight up disintegrate these jocks with my ray gun. I assumed that we'd be knocking them out or something, but I guess this thing doesn't have a stun setting. So... yeah.

They’re mostly brain dead as far as their AI goes, either running at me with a stick or standing still in the open and throwing stuff, so they're not much of a threat. Plus they stand out well from the background and their giant cartoon heads make them easy to headshot!

Okay that’s kinda dark. Also he’s underestimating by a lot, as they travel in swarms out here, cartwheeling around and trying to attack me with mace. It's turning into Serious Sam out here, going all 'arena shooter' on me.

On the plus side getting that photo back from the jocks opened up a gate to give me the run of the whole street now! (The fences all have invisible walls over them so I can't just jump into the next area). Plus I’ve switched to Brian, who seems to be basically the same character gameplay-wise, except with a different gun and grenade attack. The game has drop-in/drop-out co-op for local split-screen play, but I'm playing alone right now so I'm stuck tagging one character in at a time.

My current objective is to grab three jackets… by killing their occupants. There's a serious gameplay/setting disconnect going on. Seems like we could save a lot of lives here by... just going to a tool shop instead.

Also I don't remember 'Family Guy' having such a high 'gay joke per minute' count. The jocks keep keep saying things like "I'm angry, but not because I'm gay", Stewie starts wondering if they should have a gay frat for the sake of equality, and homophobic insults are getting thrown around all over. I know humour's subjective and everything but I don't think a gay player would much appreciate being subjected to it and I'm not exactly laughing out loud either.

Family Guy Back to the Multiverse objectives screenshot
There, all the jackets collected so now I have to go back to Mort. I have completed 0/1 of my 'Talk to Mort' tasks.

By the way if you pause the game like this it starts playing the theme tune in various different musical styles, which is a feature all games should have really. I guess the developers knew this is a game people will want to leave paused.

Well here's the house where I'm supposed to take the jackets. I'm guessing by the pink paint, the girl vomiting into another's mouth, Quagmire peeking into a bedroom and Lois singing her siren song that it's a sorority house.

The plan is for me to go around the back, plant the jackets, then petrol bomb their float to make it look like an attack by the jocks. That way the girls will all go party with the nerds instead.

Brian just likes to watch things burn I guess. But, uh, we’re supposed to be framing the jocks for this, so what am I supposed to do about all these witnesses watching me throw the Molotovs? Oh.

One nice touch is that there's different music for every house in the street. One house is playing an AC-DC sounding track, another place is playing a pastiche of 'Louie Louie'. I’m behind the girls' sorority house right now and it sounds like a The Sims game back here.


SOON.


Crap, the bloody jock boss was waiting outside to throw kegs at me and the guy’s health bar never ends! I just keep emptying magazine after magazine into him and he laughs my bullets off. Brian on the other hand looks like he fell asleep in a washing machine and his health doesn't regenerate. Fortunately the health and ammo pickups do regenerate or else I’d be screwed. Now I just need to remember where I saw them.

Why can't he get stuck on a wall or a car and let me shoot at him from a position of total safety? Other enemies have been dumb enough to get trapped on objects from time to time, but this guy's stubbornly refusing to get caught on anything.

Oh no no no, what is he doing? Is he drinking that keg to get his health back? I think he is. Shit, where are the grenades at, I need more Molotov cocktails!

I've definitely played through worse boss fights but man this is taking forever.


EVENTUALLY.


And thus the jocks were framed (and then killed) and all the sorority girls went to party with the nerds instead. In return for our hard work, Mort fixed up the multiverse remote and we were able to go back to chasing Bertrum. Hopefully he hasn't destroyed our universe in the meantime while we were screwing around here. I mean he seems like a smart kid, smart enough at least to get his universe destroying apparatus in place before warning us about it.

Oh cool, I can increase my health and ammo between levels? I’ll have some of that I think. I can afford it, I’m rich. Plus all the alternate costumes are locked right now so I can’t waste my cash on them. There’s also weapons and items to buy here, but seeing as I can kill enemies with a single headshot I'm thinking that I'm good for now.


LEVEL 2: SOMETHING'S AMISH.


So now we’re up here in a barn sniping the Amish. Why? Because Bertrum bribed them with magic instant growth tree seeds to kill us. He travelled to a dimension where everyone is Amish you see, because he figured that pacifistic Luddites would be the ideal people to build him a super weapon, and now we have to stop them.

By the way, I apologise to anyone reading this who has the same voice as this multiverse remote helper app putting messages across the bottom of my screen, but I hate it so much. SO MUCH. Every time it gives me instructions I feel like doing the opposite just to spite it.

Oh come on, how is this guy the only person in town I can’t shoot? Well okay I know it’s because Stewie and Brian can only kill in self defence, but still… I wanna shoot him! This game could’ve been a cathartic cull of annoying 'Family Guy' characters, but we’re only shooting nameless hordes.

I don’t know why I’m even bothering to shoot them as they only come back again! A door opens and more of them pop out to shoot at me with their crossbows. Then again, kills mean cash (and sometimes health or ammo), and headshots mean more cash, so it's not as if I'm not getting anything out of it.


LATER.


This level's turning out to be much more linear than the frat universe. Instead of running back and forth doing jobs for someone, I’m following a winding path, destroying the Amish forests and flooding their mine along the way.

I wonder if using the old Windows 7 busy cursor as the progress ring is meant to be a joke. It looks really out of place. Right now I'm cranking these turntables around to give an exploding mine cart a path to the dam. It's kind of like a puzzle, except I just run to the waypoints in turn and do what it says and then it works.

Please please shut up and go away forever you bloody helper app.

Also damn, I didn’t think I’d have to escape the flooded mine after flooding it! Usually I’d at least take out the snipers before exfiltrating the hot zone but I’m getting my ass handed to me here and I’m not seeing any health around. Maybe I'll just hop over and grab that money though.

I'm sure I have a portable health kit in my inventory somewhere... crap, how do I switch items again? How do I even use items? Forget it, losing too much health, going to make a run for it.


EVENTUALLY, AT THE END OF THE STAGE.


Oh, so that's the weapon they were building? A giant wooden version of Bertrum. It's a pretty impressive creation for a people who aren't into things like technology and higher education, but it's not exactly universe-destroying is it? They'll struggle to even wipe out one galaxy with that contraption.

I'm fairly sure it can handle one dog and a baby though, so I'm going to go hide somewhere and see if I can figure out its pattern.

Aha, I have to shoot his two eyes out then take a shot at the pilot when he flips open the hat! It’s like an actual boss fight with weak points instead of a brainless bullet-sponge keg launcher!

I have no idea what’s going on with that ‘you’re on fire’border though. It’s like the part of the game in charge of rendering it thinks I'm playing in a 4:3 resolution. This is actually the first obvious bug I’ve found in the game, which surprises me as the amount of hate it got made me think it was going to be a glitchy, barely playable mess. It's actually been fairly slick and solid for me.


LEVEL 3: HANDICAPABLE.


Oh man this ain’t going anywhere good. But hey looking on the bright side, at least the game's doing something with the idea of parallel universes for once. Also this setting is actually relevant to the 'Family Guy' cast in some way, as Peter's friend Joe is paraplegic. Of course that just means he's going to be the level boss.

Hey the border's working now! Also, ow.

Turns out that this level is mostly about running around an arena, disabling alarms. Once they’re all down I get to fight this bullet-sponge mid-boss and get his security code, then move on… to a near identical arena to disable more alarms and do it all over again. Well, at least I have a shotgun now.

This screenshot doesn't show off the enemies all that well, but I promise you they're all around the hospital and you can imagine what they're like. They're riding around in wheelchairs with IV drips and knives, or using machine guns as crutches etc. And worse, they keep repeating the same taunts over and over!

Alright I've fought my way down the street, through the hospital and reached this world's boss, and it's Joe Swanson, Peter's paraplegic friend! Can't say I'm entirely shocked, though the fact that he's piloting a mech made out of the handicapped is a bit of a surprise.

Also he's lobbing buses at me and that's kind of mean. I can get out of the target zone easy enough, but there's three cannons here and if any of them get hit I need to run over and repair them before I can launch my counter attack. So I'm doing a lot of running between artillery and dodging things, and it's not actually the worst boss fight I've ever been in. At least I'm not just pointing a crosshair at him and holding the button down for three minutes.

With a few shots on target MechaJoe goes down and I get another short chat between Stewie and Brian as they warp to the next stage. I have to admit, I always appreciate it when they're both on screen together. They may not be getting great lines, but the delivery is perfect. 


LEVEL 4: PUSSY WHIPPED.


Okay that actually make me smile just then. Level 4 takes place in the dimension where everyone is evil, and the evil Mayor Adam West has got nuclear cat launchers... which are basically just nuclear missiles with cats strapped to them. I don't know why cats make nukes funny, they just do.

Or maybe I'm just tired, I have been playing this for like two or three hours now. I think I'll probably turn the game off after this level, so you won't have many more screenshots left to scroll past.

Alright, on this stage I'm reprogramming radio tanks to self destruct by redirecting a cat missile straight on top themselves. Or maybe they're radar tanks, the game can't make up its mind. I suppose it's radio waves either way.

Anyhow to get to the tanks I need to clear out the turrets on either side and that's where my remote detonated satchel charges come in useful! I throw them like a grenade then trigger them just as they're arcing over the turrets! Then I do it over and over again because this game is incredibly repetitive.

I like how switching weapons with this pop-up menu instantly switches to the appropriate character as well though, that's pretty slick. Also the game seems to have the Mass Effect 2 style ammo system, where each weapon has their own pool which is refilled when I step over an ammo pick up. So ammo is universal, but lobbing satchel charges isn't costing me flamethrower fuel. And this is a good thing.


SOON, AT THE BOSS FIGHT.


Crap, I just got Stewie killed! Well I guess it had to happen sooner or later. It's pretty amazing that I got all the way to the end of level 4 without dying once, but I'm glad I did as now I know what happens. Plus I got the 'How Do I Jump?' achievement for accidentally blowing myself up with a satchel charge

Hang on, I just respawn down the road and continue fighting where I left off? THAT's the only penalty for dying? Oh, I guess I lost a bit of money as well, that's never good.

And there’s another tedious boss fight finished with! Wait, now I have to kill the Mayor as well? Aww c'mon!

Anyway I shot him until he gave up and then I gave up myself. But there's still a couple of other modes I need to try before I can turn this game off!


CHALLENGE MODE.


Challenge Mode features 7 challenges that take place on the story levels and they mostly involve shooting things.

On the Amish level I have to kill a certain number of enemies without catching too many tourists in the crossfire, which is actually very easy, especially when I throw out a golden egg and let this giant chicken do all the work for me. He just wades right in there, fists flying, and pummels the poor bastards to death, to the tune of 'Surfin' Bird' by the Trashmen (Peter's favourite song of all time!)

Makes me wish I'd tried using some of the other things I'd been hoarding in my inventory during the story mode, they might have actually been useful! They might have been able to fight the mid-bosses for me, while I went around collecting all the handicapped placards or wanted posters or whatever else the game asked me to grab.

Unfortunately the other two challenges I have right now both involve holding X in front of things until the progress meter fills up, and every time I get hit it resets the meter! I've only got like three minutes to get all of these things done. The idea is that you play in co-op and have the second player cover your back, but I'm playing alone so that's not exactly an option for me

Wait, I recognise this guy I'm rescuing! He's the same character that was in Stewie's multiverse remote giving me advice! Screw him then, he can stay in the crippling pod. 


MULTIPLAYER.


I suspect the multiplayer mode is probably also better when there's multiple players, as the game doesn't have bots. Though at least it let me play the survival mode on my own, fighting off waves off dumbass enemies.

I don't usually show off the multiplayer in games anyway, but I thought this was worth mentioning as it's purely local split-screen only. There's no online multiplayer, not in the PC game, not on the console versions, you just can't do it. Probably the most shocking thing about the game really.


CONCLUSION

I actually liked Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse more than you think I liked it, but not by much.


It's not a terrible game. Seriously, I spent the last afternoon testing a dozen semi-obscure second hand Xbox game discs, playing the first level or so of each to see if they loaded, and at this point I'm ready to instantly despise any third person action game with cute animal characters or a hint of 'attitude' in it. But I didn't hate this. Sure it's repetitive, dull, dumb, devoid of wit and downright offensive, but the running and gunning works fine, mechanically speaking. Plus it has a level select!

It's definitely a bit retro in its design though. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if you told me that it's a HD rerelease of a PlayStation 2 remake of an N64 game. Hang on, is 'Family Guy' even old enough for that to work? Wow, the first season was in 1999, so it actually is. Then again, that was the era that the series was still funny, so that ruins that theory.

The game kind of reminds me of Postal 2 in the way it likes to take refuge in audacity, pushing the offensive content up to 11 (well, more like 7.8) to get a reaction. The trouble is it does it in place of actual satire or social commentary, and Brian and Stewie haven't quite got the charm here to pull it off. And I'm an old school 'Family Guy' fan, so it's not like I don't get the series. I just didn't get the series here, I got a weird unpleasant doppelgänger instead, dressed up to look like it but missing its soul and heart (and fond of yelling insults at minorities to get a laugh). So I was a bit surprised to learn that this is actually written by two of the actual 'Family Guy' writers, who've written five of the actual 'Family Guy' episodes. But I haven't seen any of them so I can't comment.

On the other hand, the composer and voice actors are also from the show and they pretty much nail it. Seth MacFarlane and I definitely don't share the same taste in music, but this sounds dead on like 'Family Guy' should. The visuals.... well no one's going to confuse the game for Guilty Gear Xrd, but I reckon it looks alright for what it is. The graphics aren't the weakest link here.

So in conclusion: imagination and humour failure dooms this. Not a single cutaway gag minigame in the thing, couldn't believe it.


Look, the next game box is back! It took the last couple of weeks off, but it has returned with a prophecy of things to come. Plus as always you're welcome to leave feedback and opinions in the comment box below. Corrections and suggestions too. Money won't fit, you'll have to put that elsewhere, but it's good for most other things.

5 comments:

  1. Great review. I wish the energy for this was spent on a Minecraft review but next year Ray I'll send you something so you can obtain it, hopefully. Also any other Family Guy games or Simpsons (like Virtual Springfield) please keep reviewing, you are actually better then both James and Mike on YouTube in reviewing games.

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  2. I seem to remember that by the time The One begins, Evil Jet Li has already absorbed the powers of all but one other Jet Li, and the last one is just an average bloke. Who still beats Super Evil Jet Li somehow. I don't know if I can be bothered to watch it again to clarify my memory.

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    Replies
    1. The way I remember it, all the remaining Jet Lis get an upgrade after every kill as the power is divided between them (I don't think that's a spoiler). So if you ever suddenly feel stronger and more alert, it's likely because one of your parallel universe duplicates just suffered a terrible fate.

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    2. That makes more sense! You should do Jet Li: Rise to Hono(u)r one day.

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  3. "Can a woman really be mayor, or will she just menstruate all over the city?"

    Wow, wry and creative...

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