How positively... undelightful.
What Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse Got Right
- + Voice-acting and trademark humour somewhat present
- + Some fanservice in costumes and achievements
What Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse Got Wrong
- - Generic shooter gameplay
- - Looping sound clips
- - Repetitive missions and objectives
- - Terrible A.I.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is another licensed title which suffers genre identity. A franchise like Family Guy isn’t one that fits to any traditional video game genre naturally or easily, and the generic third-person shooter template developer Heavy Iron Studios have chosen does not do the Family Guy property any favours at all.
Back to the Multiverse in a nutshell consists of uninspired segments of re-purposed jokes slapped in and around repetitive gameplay which shares no quality or evokes any sense to the license. From the moment you start the game up and watch the awkward opening cutscene and its mediocre jokes, you’ll know playing through this title will be a painful reminder of why licensed video games get such a bad reputation.
Watch the official trailer.
Back to the Multiverse begins with the iconic Family Guy opening song and an opening cinematic which establishes a fairly average premise to the story. Based on the Season 8 episode, “Road to the Multiverse”, the story sends Stewie and Brian travelling to different dimensions to stop Bertrand -- Stewie’s evil half-brother -- from recruiting each alternate dimension’s exaggerated populations and destroying the duo’s home universe, primarily progressing through short cutscenes at the start and end of the game’s 10 levels, and a few quick cutscene gags in between.
And that’s about all the substance or structure there is within the game. As either Brian or Stewie in single-player or local co-op, you’ll visit a broad range of outlandish settings and realities, ranging from a pro-cripple society, Amish farms, and crazy frat house-organised societies, all with equally over-the-top hostile inhabitants. Bertram has conveniently convinced everyone in these universes to side with him, so players will be going through each level blasting 90% of each universe’s unique NPCs on sight, over and over again.
The waves of mindless enemies thrown at you feel like they exist purely to artificially extend the mission's length, which is the same case in the game's separate Challenge mode. Co-op makes the campaign affair slightly more fun, as blasting your buddy instead of completing the boring “collect this” or “flip this switch” objectives never gets as tiring.
Each level takes roughly half an hour to progress through, and even with bonus objectives -- such as shooting every chicken in the level or taking down wanted posters of Stewie and Brian -- the gameplay and missions are mostly mindless shooting segments of waves of enemies with terrible A.I. The mindless aspect would be perfectly fine if blasting folks with Brian’s boring conventional weaponry or Stewie’s laser based-gadgets was enjoyable; but alas, it’s nothing we have not experienced before, or done better. Shooting crazy cripples and Amish extremists with Brian's shotgun may sound cool, but in practice, it just doesn't fit with the license.
The art style and quality of animations are some of the only strong points of the game.
Some very basic platforming sections and humorous weapons such as Stewie’s dirty diapers acting as grenades or Ernie the Chicken Man acting as a powerup summon ally mix up the dull shooting segments a bit, but otherwise it’s all fairly average stuff. There’s no real incentive to explore due to invisible walls, and no reason to care if you die, as you respawn fairly quickly in your last location with the only penalty being a loss of cash for upgrades -- which isn’t a massive consequence seeing as how the levels are littered with bills.
Back to the Multiverse’s appeal is mostly attributed to the talent of the television show’s voice actors and writers, who have injected parts of Family Guy’s trademark humour and the show’s lampooning of various facets of American culture into the game, though to a less consistent extent. The cutscenes usually contain some funny banter between Brian and Stewie, though not as consistently humorous as the show. Most of the laughs come from the often vulgar dialogue triggers while playing through the levels, or when you spot the alternate universe versions of the outlandish Peter, the hate for Meg in every different world, and the rest of the equally crazy Griffin family.
Shooting crazy cripples and Amish extremists with Brian's shotgun may sound cool, but in practice, it just doesn't fit with the license.
However, most of the voice clips are repeated on an endless loop, and you’ll soon lose interest and grow frustration hearing Peter sing, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard!”, no matter how funny the repetitive animation of Peter shaking his man-boobs on a frat-party float is.
Outside of the main story mode is a bare-bones four-player splitscreen competitive multiplayer mode, which is not worth going into detail over due to the equal lack of depth or fun within, and the ridiculous spawn points which make each deathmatch as frustrating and predictable as the rest of the game. If you were hoping to pick this up for Family Guy multiplayer madness, be aware that what little fun you will gain out if it probably isn’t from what the developer intended.
If only the chaos and satire was as fun as it looked.
The art style and animations are two aspects that developer Heavy Iron Studios did put some effort into. Each character model possesses their trademark animations and facial expressions to the detail, and matched with their voice actors, it was nice to see the visual authenticity was upheld, even if the characters and settings sometimes look fairly awkward in 3D. I personally do like the cel-shaded approach as it matched the cartoon style and felt like an episode of the show, but the quality of the presentation suffers with heaps of pop-in and muddy textures.
Thankfully, there is ample fanservice in regards to unlockables, achievements and trophies, with some funny alternate skins available for Brian and Stewie to purchase and unlock in the portal shop. Other nice touches such as an achievement/trophy for selecting a ‘worthless’ character like Meg in multiplayer or spending too much time in the same room as Quagmire are funny and in the same spirit as the show. It’s just too bad that the bland and generic gameplay can’t match up.
The Final Verdict
For the average gamer, Back to the Multiverse is a game that will probably, if lucky, hold your attention for a level or two. For more casual gamers or fans of the television show, Back to the Multiverse isn’t a completely unplayable Family Guy experience -- it is in fact, quite funny and true to the spirit of the show... only at times. As a package, the story and gameplay experience is just not that great together -- a less consistent Family Guy episode mixed with generic shooter -- and its not worth the current $50 price-tag attached to it.
By Nathan Misa