Family Guy, which is developed by High Voltage Software and published by 2K Games, is probably the funniest video game I've ever played, but at the same time, it's also one of the most cliche, boring and tedious ones, as well.
High Voltage has successfully recreated all the disturbingly and inappropriate humor that fans have grown to love from the series. However, all that humor only goes so far. And when you've played enough to see beyond its beauty, you quickly realize that High Voltage has just crammed several genres into one game, and it really doesn't work so well.
You may remember the first Family Guy video that was released a little more than a week ago. At the time, I thought it was an actual gameplay video, but after playing the game, I realized it's only the game's introductory cut scene. The game's graphics do look good, don't get me wrong, but they're not as sharp or detailed as the video led me to believe.
Also, aside from a pretty long initial load time at the beginning of the game, the rest of the game loads relatively quickly.
Three Men and a UMD
The game is broken up into three scenarios (which are pretty much three different games in one) - Peter's, Stewie's and Brian's.
Peter, who is rushed to the hospital after a satellite falls on his head, awakens to believe Mr. Belvedere is holding his family hostage, and it's up to him to save them. His scenario is basically a straight up, side-scrolling beat 'em up complete with the flashing "Go" signal when you've cleared a section.
Stewie, in his constant battle with his half-brother Bertram, must shrink himself and descend into the depths of Peter's testicles to foil his nemesis' plans for world domination. Stewie's scenario is more of a traditional platformer with some-puzzle solving aspects thrown in for good measure.
And to round off the trio, Brian is again accused of deflowering Seabreeze, and is locked up in the "Big House." He must use stealth and guile to escape the police department.
How the Game Turns
While none of the storylines are really connected, the game has you play a separate character's scenario one level at a time, rotating to a different character after successfully completing a level. I can only assume High Voltage did this to vary up the game's gameplay since each scenario is tied to one specific genre. However, there's no transitions between stories, and it just doesn't seem to work very well. Once you beat a level with Stewie, you play Peter's level and then on to Brian's. Then, you complete the cycle again.
Normally, this would be forgivable if the gameplay was ... you know ... good, right? Well, like I said in the introduction, most of the gameplay is pretty bland. In Peter's levels, you beat up all the characters on screen. And that's it. Now, kicking the crap out of small children is pretty damn fun at first, but after you've beaten the ninth wave of brats coming at you, a man tends to get a bit tired. Your main weapons are kicking and punching, but you can do combos, as well. The most frustrating part of Peter's levels are enemies don't seem to have set health points. Instead, many times you have to finish them off with a combo of kicks or punches depending on their height (if they're short, you gotta kick them and if they're tall, you must punch). This gets really frustrating later on in the game when a swarm of people of various heights attack you, and you need to punch and kick alternatively to fend off your foes, but you can't kill anyone. This lead me to die several times and caused a lot of unneeded frustration.
And Brian's levels don't get too much better. In his levels, you have to get from Point A to Point B without policemen noticing you. The problem here is Brian moves so damn slow that it takes entirely too long to get anywhere. Plus, in several areas, you have to actually crawl in front of a copper's desk. This makes the already slow Brian even more slow. While at first I enjoyed Brian's stealth levels, like Peter's, they quickly grew tiresome and boring due to repetitive gameplay and ridiculous character limitations.
Perhaps the game's saving graces are Stewie's levels because the game really shines here. It's a shame, though, that you don't get to play as Stewie more because High Voltage is really really on to something. In his levels, you'll jump across tall platforms; solve simple, yet interesting puzzles; shoot through waves of baddies; collect bolts for weapon upgrades; and control other characters with your mind-control device. The control is pretty tight and responsive, and there's so much to do in his levels that there could easily be an entire game built here. And it'd be pretty good, too.
Also, I don't remember the last time I actually laughed out loud while playing a video game, but I was laughing left and right here. Whether it's jumping onto a pregnant women's stomach to have baby Quagmires pop out or having to travel through Peter's testicles, the laughs just keep coming.
However, my one and only complaint about Stewie's levels is the auto-lock on can be somewhat unreliable when there's a few enemies coming at you. You'll tend to want to lock-on to an enemy and walk away from them while shooting so you won't be attacked. But if you do that, Stewie will turn in that direction, and you'll lose the lock-on. Pretty lame, but I found myself adapting to this small flaw, and it quickly became an afterthought.
Throughout the game, you'll encounter a variety of mini-games, such as tapping the X and O buttons to have Brian dig a hole or play a game of Simon Says to help Peter take a crap. Normally I'm all for mini-games, but I like my games to actually tell me what to do in them. In Family Guy's mini-games, you have about one second to read an obscure direction before it thrusts you into playing. Usually, unless you're extremely lucky, you'll fail the mini-games the first couple times until you realize how to play. After that, they're pretty easy, and you can even go back and play through them later on.
Family Guy is a very funny and graphically sound game that is crippled by boring, repititive gameplay. I think if High Voltage would have stuck to one specific genre (i.e. Stewie's levels), they could have made a much better game. Instead, you have a clusterf**k of three separate genres crammed into one game for no rhyme or reason. That combined with storylines that aren't very well connected and have no transitions between levels don't make for a very entertaining game.
PSP Fanboy score: 5.5/10
(Note: The images are from the PS2 version.)