Incorporations of well-known television programs into the video game world are held to a different standard than the more usual video game fair. The expectation is that you’ll have less of a game and more of a novelty for fans. Some call this a bad reputation, but is it? Perhaps for a hardcore gamer it is, though those aren’t the only folks who own Playstation 2’s in this day and age. In the case of Family Guy, if you are a fan of the show looking for a fix, rather than a hardcore gamer seeking something to mix up your night between rounds of Halo, you will find some of what you’re looking for here.
Best news first: the cast is here for the voice-acting and there is original content. That alone might be worth the roughly $20 you’d pay for this title at the time of writing. Early on the player is introduced to their favorite characters and their respective catchphrases. Sadly, much of this is not based on interaction with those characters; a good deal of it simply happens as you cruise by fulfilling your tasks. Sometimes you feel a little like you’re on the rails of a Disney ride. Perhaps this ignores the power of an interactive medium, but granted this is an action and platform title, not a role-playing game.
Ignoring the moments the long-dead jokes reintroduced for novelty’s sake, some of the new situations and humor are quite funny. The voice-acting and gags are on par with any episode of the show. Even mixed in with old material, it isn’t so sparse that you’re left alone with the game waiting for the next nugget of non-sequitur hilarity for too long.
The game beneath all this needs discussing of course, even if it is seen as little more as your means of exploring the comic material. The game is made up of a series of segments based on different styles of play, each with its own character. It ranges from Peter’s arcade-style fisticuffs (in much the style of his lengthy yet legendary combat with a man in a chicken suit) to Brian’s sneaking about a police station, striving to keep from the officers’ limited lines of sight. The difficulty level isn’t as toned down as much as you’d expect in a game aimed at more casual players and even a more experienced gamer might find themselves attempting even earlier scenarios several times. The mechanics are fairly simple, yet in the tradition of platform games good eye-hand coordination and timing are needed. Simple as they are, mastery of a few advanced techniques are needed to play. In Stewie’s shooter levels, a button can be held to alternate between moving and aiming mode. While this technique is effective, it might be a foreign concept to non-gamers, and playing the game without it will cause some heartbreak.
Sadly, difficulty doesn’t imply depth, and much of the challenge is frustrating rather than stimulating. Defeating innumerable foes of the same sort in the same situation, only to fail due to a slip up and restart the process, will become a familiar pattern. Most boggling are Brian’s stages in which the notion of the puzzle is reduced to a mindless trial-and-error process. Here is where the dialog, as sharp and well-executed as it is, will lose its strength as you hear the same wisecracks on your tenth attempt.
The strengths and weakness of the game are fairly pronounced. Is it worth a purchase? An educated decision from a buyer who knows what they want might be “yes” and that person might be happy to spend a rainy day with the Family Guy cast. The lower-than-average price tag will of course weigh into such a decision. However, is this the case for most people? Probably not. The frustration of the game play itself is likely to drive off players too early to consider the game a good value.