Just for kicks, here's my Family Guy theme tune cover: http://youtu.be/Dzz3dSaZQLI
It seems today, that all you see, are video-games based on stuff from TV (source: my 007 review, coming soon). No bad thing! Some great TV/movie tie-in games over the years, though Family Guy's recent Time Warped on iOS was a somewhat underwhelming 2D platformer that never really held my attention. Being a huge fan of the TV series I was excited to see a console release, particularly as this time I could play through with a proper controller, as opposed to those horrid soft-keys on tablets.
With a Metacritic score of just 40 you could be forgiven for passing this one up, but "nothing ventured, nothing gained", as they say! Family Guy's appeal was too great to resist, so I re-charged the wallet, cleared some space, and prepared to spend a few hours fighting evil. Hero!
Round 1, fight!
Back to the Multiverse has Stewie and Brian travelling through space and time (easy!) in pursuit of Stewie's nemesis, Bertram. Each game level has a very distinct theme, based on reality but always with a bizarre twist, which offers a great degree of variety and ensures the environments never feel stale. Pirate ships to Santa's workhouse, hospitals to outer-space, let it never be said the game lacks environmental scope!
Sadly, one glaring omission in the level selection though is a Star Wars chapter. With so many great TV episodes devoted to Star Wars parody, it would have been fantastic to have this as a playable element of the game.
Levels are generally "progress from A to B" affairs, with clear progression markers and collect-em-up secondary objectives. Finding the hidden articles unlocks new weapons, costumes and multi-player characters, so they are definitely worth the time to hunt down during missions.
The game rewards kills and exploration with cash to spend on character upgrades, which become important on the later levels when Bosses become that little bit harder. Generally though the degree of difficulty is quite low: power-ups re-spawn and generally enemies do not, even following a continue. There is no difficulty selection from the main menu and the levels generally have some parity, with only a moderate increase in difficulty as you progress though each stage. Until the last chapter that is. Strap yourself in for that one.
Throughout the game, the player has the option to hot-swap between either Stewie or Brian, with each having specific weapons to help waste Bertram's army of evil minions. Besides the primary weapons and grenades, collectable "specials" are also available to offer temporary close support. Joe with a machine gun? Done. Big yellow maniacal chicken? The best!
A nice touch for each character is a taunt, usable at will which adds a flourish with some amusing dialogue, particularly with Stewie. Peter is playable for one level later in the game, which though quite easy to progress through, definitely added to the experience overall and the game is certainly richer for his appearance.
Your time is most often spent running, jumping and shooting in pursuit of your mission goals, and I'm happy to report the control mechanic is tight and accurate. For the experienced shooter players out there, mowing down hoards of enemies will feel second nature. A few of the boss battles requires some accurate shooting, but thanks to the solid controls, failures are most often of your own doing, which then never leaves you feeling frustrated in having to battle the controls or camera along with the boss guy.
In addition to the main story, the games offers a "Challenge" mode and a couch competitivesplit-screen multi-player. Challenge is a score chase hoard mode, set within various levels as visited in the story mode, with the aim to collect stars for completing objectives within a given amount of time. On the harder difficulty levels, these are really quite difficult, with less time and a greater number of enemies. It's in these additional modes that other characters are available to play, such as Louis, Chris and Cleveland, all with multiple costumes taken from various key TV episodes.
Drawings and Noises
Besides the outstanding animation of the TV show, Family Guy has an abundance of wonderful music, some of which makes it to the game. An additional DLC (Opening Number pack) provides variations of the main theme to menu background music, which in turn adds substance to the overall game package.
Most of the main show characters make an appearance at some point, dressed and voiced appropriately for the particular level design. The constants on each level are the Griffin family, often found in some amusing situation, relative to the stage. My first laugh of many in this game came from seeing Peter being paraded on a show float, performing his version of "Milkshake". Humour is abundant throughout the game, with very many show references, including some subtle ones for the Family Guy nerds (i.e. the likes of me!). Giggidy.
Voice acting is a mix of clips direct from the shows and others recorded specifically for the game. The show audio always works well in context and again will be appreciated by fans of the series. Character animation is slick and all the models accurately represent the show, even down to the fringe characters. Granted we are dealing with reproducing a cartoon, not actual real life locations nor people, but the developers made a good job of bringing the Family Guy cast and set alive as a recognisable environment. Present anyone with Back to the Multiverse for the first time and they will quickly identify it as Family Guy.
Shut up, Meg
Given the fairly forgiving degree of difficulty, I found myself playing this game often in short 30 minute to 1 hour stints, as a quick pick up and play. Without expending too much time (around 5-6 hours), I was able to play through, unlock a few specials and complete the main game. For me, this title sits as an intermediary: something to keep you entertained when gaming time is short, else when you are in-between AAA titles.
Though we don't normally do scores at ABOG, I cannot help but think the Metacritic average is definitely on the low side, given the game has no major flaws and is generally well executed. For a game scoring 40, I would expect clunky controls, poor production values, shallow story or other such annoyance. Truth is, Back to the Multiverse delivers a well rounded, well produced, pocket-sized and humorous experience, much like the TV show itself!
This review is dedicated to the memory of Sir Patrick "GamesMaster" Moore, who sadly passed away in December 2012, aged 89.