Licensed games, particularly those for licenses that aren’t necessarily action packed, can be tough. Half the time it’s just re-purposed jokes slotted in wherever to make for what is essentially an interactive clip show episode and the other half of the time it’s just generic genre fare with the license du jour slapped on it like a coat of paint. Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse suffers from both these problems but I can’t quite find it in myself to hate on it the way many other reviewers have been. To be clear this game is not worth the $50 asking price but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth something.
I’m not really sure what I was expecting out this game, all I knew going in was that it was a third person shooter based on Family Guy, and I guess that’s what I got but there are influences here gameplay-wise I wasn’t expecting. This game essentially plays like a third person version of Serious Sam, lot of melee enemies running at you with a few ranged guys thrown in to keep you moving while you blast everything with increasingly more powerful weapons.This is not a game so much about aiming (which is good because even with the fidelity of a mouse the aiming ain’t great) but about the good old spray and pray style of gunplay that we just don’t see too much anymore. The other major influence here would be the Ratchet and Clank series, the weapon selection gets goofier and goofier as the game goes on and the platforming that shows up in the last couple levels (while not good) is reminiscent of Insomniac’s style of platforming challenges. While it may not do either of these things particularly well it doesn’t do them bad enough to be offensive, so y’know small victories.
Speaking of small victories, this game is really really easy, like almost insultingly so. I blew through it in about five hours and that was with me spending a good chunk of time dicking around looking for collectibles in the early levels. There just wasn’t much standing in my way; enemies are pushovers, with the right weapons bosses go down like they placed their bets on you, and the extra items you can get are useless enough that you’ll never run out but useful enough that they will easily pull your ass out of a fire if everything goes pear-shaped. I will say the last few levels get a little tougher but thanks to generous checkpointing still weren’t much trouble.This wouldn’t be such an issue if this game wasn’t so content sparse, aside from the 4-5 hour campaign all you get is a challenge mode which is just retreads of campaign levels with different simpler goals and new characters and local only multiplayer with some bog standard modes attached. This is the probably one of the biggest reasons I can’t recommend this game, even if what was there was of the highest quality rather just being slightly better than mediocre it would still be iffy as full retail product rather than a downloadable.
Like all licensed games though the gameplay here is secondary to the fan service and thankfully that’s been done quite well. For long time fans of the series some real deep cuts can be seen with the references, all the unlockable costumes for example are taken from episodes spanning the show’s 11 seasons. The game is littered with obscure in jokes and does a great job of involving you in classic Family Guy bits, the best one being near the end of the game where you get to play as Peter and fight the Giant Chicken. Even the story is a continuation of one of the show’s most popular episodes “Road to the Multiverse”. The premise is that Stewie’s evil sort of half-brother Bertram who was killed in Season 9 comes back from another dimension and swears revenge on Stewie and Brian for killing him. Bertram’s plan is to gather up a pan-dimensional army and wipe the standard Family Guy dimension out completely because he can’t stand there being a universe where he doesn’t exist. So you playing as both Stewie and Brian must chase Bertram across the multiverse and put a stop to his plan, often helping or harming the places you visit along the way. It’s not a bad plot and it’s one that will be meaningful to longtime fans. Best part is we get to experience a bunch more interesting takes on the Family Guy universe and characters and it’s all supported by some decent writing. While there is of course a lot of reused material from the show in terms of quips, all the original writing on display is at least to the level of the show and I got a few good chuckles here and there.
While the original writing and the amount of it is certainly not insignificant there is still very much the problem of repeated catchphrases from the show. You will hear the same tired lines over and over again and while they are maybe funny once because you’ve haven’t seen the episode they came from in a while, the twentieth time you hear it in the same level is less than hilarious. The presentation in general has kind of a weirdly off-putting feel to it, in addition to the endlessly rehashed voice clips you’ll also get to see the game’s half-baked attempt at making a 2D cartoon a 3D video game. All of the characters models have this not quite cell-shaded look to them and thanks to all the primary colours and basic shapes, that make sense in when they’re used in animating the show, the visuals look like low poly ass. That said when you see 2D stuff like posters in and around the world they look great so it’s clearly just a case of Family Guy’s artistic style not meshing well with 3D graphics, I’ve felt the same way about all the 3D Simpsons games that have come and gone.
So yeah, not worth $50 and objectively not a good game but for the Family Guy faithful there is something endearing about this product. The obscure references and the show significant plot make it clear this was worked on by people who are at the very least somewhat fond of the source material. It has a very interesting “fuck it, just make a game so we can keep the license” kind of feel to it and that let the developer Heavy Iron Studios have some fun and make a game that was truer to the show than I was expecting. It ain’t good but it certainly could be worse and fans will find some things to like here though still not enough to justify the $50 price tag. So despite the fact I actually had some fun with it and kind of like it, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse gets a 2 out of 5 stars. While it does far more right than I expected, its short length and in places annoying or ugly presentation make it lose some major points.