Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: High Voltage Software
Release Date: October 16, 2006
You know that you want the summation of the review right on top, and I know that I want you to read the entire review which I've just spent several hours writing. For once, I'm going to cave, partially. If you don't like the "Family Guy" television show, go ahead and scroll to the bottom and subtract about three points from my score. If you want to know why, or you do enjoy the show at least somewhat, read on and find out why Family Guy is fanboy paradise, if not too much else.
Family Guy is crazy, so the review's going to be, too. The very first thing that needs to be mentioned is the title's presentation. Go ahead and take a look at the screenshots. They're not quite unmistakable for the show, but the models are of surprising quality, the cel-shading reasonably good; to be frank, it looks fine for the PS2, and it remains faithful to the show's feel. The sound is similarly impressive, with the jazz tones being authentic to the show. There are generic game tunes, and then there are memorably generic game tunes, and Family Guy's is firmly in the latter category. It certainly helps that the show's voice actors lent their talents to this endeavor; there is no perfect sound-alike for any of the male Griffins other than Seth McFarlane himself.
The game's writing, story, and ambiance are also reminiscent of the show. For better or worse, the sense of humor in the game is exactly same as what's on the show. The levels are filled with gag after gag. Many are player-initiated, while others are obvious Easter eggs; some gags even change the levels. One example has Stewie sliding on top of a flood of fat from a liposuction machine, trying to get the parts for repair to save a doctor's life, who will then open the next security gate. Doesn't sound funny? Seeing it in action makes it work, like many "Family Guy" jokes. Unfortunately, there is also even less fourth wall in the game than there is in the show. ("I feel like there's a video game going on in my chest.")
Of course, Family Guy is just not Family Guy without non-sequiturs, and whether it's Stewie deciding that it's time for a sexy party, or Brian trying to avoid getting forced to vote by Abraham Lincoln, they're there. "However, because this is a video game, they are interactive," as Stewie puts it when you encounter the first one, and completing them offers a useful benefit for the character you are playing as.
The main game consists of three of the most generic genres – action, brawling, and stealth – with average-to-poor implementations. For the action portions, Stewie plods, double-jumps, glides, and shoots his way through bland stage designs (albeit ones loaded with gags and inexplicable design), occasionally sliding on his belly or using his Mind Control Ray to manipulate different adults to solve puzzles for him. Most of them are fairly obvious, especially if you know the show's characters at all, but it's entertaining nonetheless to witness the results.
In the brawler segments, Peter Griffin punches things, kicks, headspins, and headbutts. The difference between the Family Guy style of brawling and a decent brawling game, is that every opponent is vulnerable to one type of attack, with the sole exception being supers that use up your "Snack Meter." You hammer on things until you figure out the attack you were meant to use, and you get completely beat up in the process until you figure out a way to dodge attacks well enough to land a few spins.
The dog, Brian, gets it worst. Not only does he get arrested, being accused of getting it on with Seabreeze, the dog of one of the city's numerous rich people, but he gets the short end of the stick in gameplay, too, in the form of truly terrible stealth action. From tunnel-vision guards, to wearing a lampshade, to making increasingly insane distractions (okay, this is a bright spot in a dark part of play), Brian's game tends to be exceptionally annoying, filled with one-solution puzzles which only serve to make gameplay extremely grating. You end up relying on guesswork as to whether you're visible or otherwise safe. Getting seen even a little, or touched at all, means that the game is over, for often infuriating difficulty. (Most of the people in the environment don't even move when they see you; they just say something.)
Family Guy's gameplay is consistently bad, infuriatingly difficult in the arbitrary sense, and yet has a strange sense of accomplishment when you finally get to that new in-level gag, non-sequitur, or twist to play. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of glitches to mix things up. At least once as Stewie and once as Brian, I was able to push my way right through some walls, breaking the game's wall collision detection and allowing me to walk right through the stage design. Some of the glitches aren't so helpful, though, such as Brian looking invisible, but not actually being hidden from the game's sight detection when he clears certain non-seqiturs, or the game failing to register hits when Peter attacks. So the code's about as good as the gameplay.
If you like the "Family Guy" TV show and you're willing to tolerate sub-par gameplay if the writing's good enough, go grab Xenosaga II, and go ahead and snag Family Guy while you're at the shop. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) The writing really is like the show, only less censored, and works out to be hilarious enough to carry the gameplay even at its worst. Go ahead and give the game a rental to see what you think, but keep in mind that the game isn't exactly the longest ever, so you may end up clearing it within that rental period. If you enjoy it enough, you could, of course, buy it for replaying in the future, but that's your prerogative, not mine.
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