First cancelled, then resurrected, now more shameless than ever, Family Guy overtook The Simpsons as best-fat-idiot-cartoon on TV about two seasons ago. Trouble is, Seth MacFarlane's MTV-attention span show doesn't seem like the best candidate for the joypad treatment. Incest gags? Racial stereotypes? Jokes about Margot Kidder that we actually had to look up on Wikipedia to 'get'? It seems like development suicide. And it is.
First things first, though: is it funny? Well, sort of. Most of its one-liners are nicked directly from the series, so you'll have heard nearly all of them before. The upside is that you'll also recognize all the sight gags, of which there are dozens: from the evil monkey in Chris' closet to Meg hanging out with her roadkill 'boyfriend' at the morgue. The game's full of nudge-wink moments that'll be totally incomprehensible to non-fans: from the child-eating candy tree to the long-armed guy tickling a midget. In one bizarre scene, Stewie has to steer Peter's dad, Cleveland and the Greased-Up Deaf Guy into the erogenous zone of Peter's mind so that his single braincell can turn them into cheerleaders and increase the blood flow to his spuds. In the next, he's battling hundreds of Lois clones, all dressed in lingerie and karate suits. Get it?
FLASHBACK TO THE FUTURE
The show's trademark flashbacks are turned into ten-second minigames, so you might suddenly be transported, mid-level, into one of Stewie's sexy parties or the time Brian got into a fight with Abraham Lincoln. There are also generous dollops of the show's ridiculous sense of humour - knock a pointy hat onto a police officer and his mates will burn him as a witch. And in case you were wondering, it doesn't pull any punches just because it's a videogame - in one section, you bounce on pregnant ladies' stomachs and make them give birth to mutant babies. Ick.
Is it fun? Well, no. Stewie's sections are the most tolerable: decent platforming punctuated with the occasional stupid swimming bit. Stewie also gets a mind-control device, so he's in charge of cameos from secondary characters: from scaring nurses with moon-chinned pervert Quagmire to, um, killing nurses with Death. Second best are Brian's stealth sections: but that's only by default. Disobeying the first law of non-frustrating videogames, they don't make any sense - sometimes you'll be spotted by a cop at a near-impossible angle from behind a table, but at others you'll be able to run straight past him in full view. So, because it all feels so random, there's no real satisfaction in completing these bits - you just survive them to see the next joke.
Worst of the lot, though, are Peter's beat-'em-up sections. Here's the funny bit: Peter thinks obscure US sitcom butler Mr Belvedere is controlling Quahog, so he roams the streets punching out toddlers and grannies. Here's the not-so-funny bit: he's useless. Every enemy only responds to one attack - children and dogs have to be kicked, adults have to be punched, normal cops have to be headbutted and special forces have to be hit with a sweep. Do anything else, and it won't affect them, even if the attack connects - they'll just stand there punching away at your face.
Not only does this make no sense - why wouldn't a kick affect an adult? - it makes the game almost impossible, since any crowd is likely to contain two or three different types of opponent and therefore can't be hurt whatever you do. Peter's sections are also the shortest on gags so there's little to distract you from the tedium of being killed by babies because you were trying to headbutt them instead of using the kick.
Ultimately, it never feels like you're playing Family Guy for the fun of it - you're simply enduring some god-awful game design in the hope that the next bit's going to be funny. Please, people: no conversion of American Dad.
You could suffer in the hope of a smirk or you could just buy the DVDs. Giggity-goo! Etc.
- The occasional chuckle
- Bad taste
- Stupidly frustrating gameplay