Games based on TV licenses don't have a great track record, but there's always the potential for something enjoyable to come out of them. Now it's Family Guy's turn, with the franchise's first PlayStation 3 title, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse. Don't hold your breath for anything amazing, though.
The story begins with psychopathic toddler Stewie's equally insane half-brother, Bertram, building a device that allows him to visit other dimensions. Bertram's intentions are to gather an army across multiple universes in order to destroy Stewie. It's your job to chase him down, while exploring a variety of different worlds along the way. The tale fits in nicely with what little continuity the TV show has, and it feels like the premise for a lost episode that you can actually interact with. Unfortunately, the bland, uninteresting activities that you're forced to complete suck any enjoyment out of the otherwise enjoyable narrative.
Fetch quests are the order of the day, and crop up in various forms across every dimension you're forced to visit. They're repetitive and dull objectives from gaming's yesteryear, and invoke a peculiar nostalgic trip. Indeed, you'll be whisked away to the 90s with memories of bad licensed games flooding your noggin. It's a strange sensation, but one that emphasises the antiquated setup. Tasks such as fetch three random items and flick three switches become tiresome quickly, and barely tie into the overarching narrative and dialogue. It's the classic example of a passive, story-based experience failing to evolve into an enjoyable interactive adventure.
It's a real shame, as the Family Guy presentation and humour are all intact. The 3D models of your favourite animated family look a little jarring at first, but do fit in with Seth MacFarlane's artistic vision. Meanwhile, the full voice cast from the show are present to add authenticity, while the script has even been penned by the aforementioned series creator. The result is a great looking and sounding experience. The banter between the characters is excellent, and all of the actor's deliver their lines brilliantly. Running jokes from the series are frequent, such as Meg Griffin's apparent disgusting appearance and Peter Griffin's endless war against the giant chicken Ernie. But the pace does hinder the humour a bit. There are jokes that are often repeated because you're in the vicinity for too long. Furthermore, the more offensive material lingers and crosses the line from funny to distasteful. It undeniably captures the Family Guy personality, but fails to deliver it to you as successfully as its television counterpart.
When you're not completing fetch quests, you'll spend your time with Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse shooting anything that moves. The anthropomorphic dog Brian is equipped with traditional firearms, such as pistols, machine guns, and shotguns, while Stewie is packing laser guns, and more explosive weaponry. With your arsenal, you're prompted to mow down everyone that opposes you. Each dimension has its own primary foe, be it high-school jocks, giant chickens, or Amish people, who will attempt to hunt you down on sight.
Fortunately for you, your folly is brain dead cannon fodder. The third-person shooting is serviceable at range but becomes a frantic mess once the enemies get close. Death is a minor issue, though, as you're merely punished by the loss of currency. This can be easily regained by destroying some environmental objects.
The currency itself is used to buy upgrades and skins as you progress, but you're likely to have purchased everything long before the conclusion of the game. Considering it's a rather short journey in the first place, there's really not a lot worth getting excited about. At least there's the promise of competitive and co-operative multiplayer to hold your attention.
Competitive multiplayer allows up to four players to participate locally over four modes: Deathmatch, Multiverse Madness, Capture the Greased Up Deaf Guy, and Infiltration. The options are pretty predictable, but function well enough – it's a shame that the action's restricted to local play, though. Meanwhile, the story can be played co-operatively with up to two people, which helps to alleviate some of its repetitiveness.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse doesn't make the best use of its licence. The humour isn't as funny in this format, and the experience is padded by repetitive fetch quests. Fans of the show may derive some enjoyment out of the in-jokes and multiplayer, but everyone else should avoid at all costs.