Developer: Heavy Iron Studios / Publisher: Activision / Played on: PS3 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Mature [Use of Drugs, Sexual Themes, Mature Humor, Violence, Blood]
Remember that one episode of Family Guy where Stewie and Brian go to a whole bunch of different universes where one distinct detail is different, like if the show were animated like a Disney cartoon, or if dogs had humans as pets? Activision sure hopes you do, because there’s an entire game surrounding that concept. Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse captures the highs and lows of the TV series it’s based on, as well as all the negative connotations one usually associates with a video game based on a show. Uninspired gameplay, recycled jokes, and incredibly offensive humor ensure the stereotype persists.
Back to the Multiverse acts as a sequel of sorts to the episode that inspired it, “Road to the Multiverse.” Brian and Stewie must stop Bertram, an evil baby, from amassing an army across several alternate dimensions and becoming the ruler of the multiverse. In order to do so, the duo travel to several distinct universes to foil Bertram’s plans and ultimately save their own universe’s future. The writing feels like something you’d see on an episode of the TV series, which is worth mentioning since it’s one of the only redeeming factors for the entire game.
The series’ often-offensive humor is on full display here, but many of the jokes fall flat, and worse, the game is unapologetically distasteful. The idea of a universe where crippled people are the majority may have seemed like comedy gold on paper but in execution it’s an awful concept that will leave you feeling dirty. Family Guy is known for its crude humor, but Back to the Multiverse relies far too heavily on the offensive to get a laugh rather than be genuinely funny. With the exception of the universe in which alien chickens have enslaved mankind and burst out of human bodies ala Ridley Scott’s Alien, the game as a whole is a mess of bad jokes and disrespectful portrayals of minorities.
You control both Brian and Stewie, switching out for one or the other on the fly with the tap of a button. Both characters ultimately play the same with the only exception being the array of weapons each character can use. Stewie has more high tech weapons like a ray gun and rocket launcher, while Brian utilizes more traditional firearms including the sniper rifle and shotgun.
Strangely the pair shares a life pool, so aside from the weapon variation switching between the two loses all strategy. Additional items can be used in battle and serves as nods to familiar characters or objects from the show. You can call upon the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Inflatable Tube Man to distract your foes, or enlist the aid of Quahog’s top cop Joe Swanson to attack your enemies. No matter which character you’re playing as or what items you use, the basics of the game never change: kill everything on screen.
Back to the Multiverse gets repetitive early, with each of the game’s ten levels breaking down to two specific goals: find so many of a specific item, and kill everything in your path to unlock a door or path you couldn’t otherwise access. The novelty of being in a drastically different dimension from the last mission wears off almost immediately when you realize that you’re doing the same thing you did before, just in a different location. Also scattered throughout each level are hidden collectibles like teddy bears or calendars that you have the option of collecting to unlock bonus content like new skins and concept art, but the incentive to trudge through every inch of a stage is more trouble than it’s worth.
Money plays a role in the game too, acting as both currency to purchase upgrades like additional ammo capacity, and life as a sort of continue system. Each time you die you are fined a small amount of money and if you don’t have any cash you’re forced to restart a level. Halfway through the game I had already accumulated enough cash to buy every enhancement and weapon, so I had thousands of extra dollars to ensure I wouldn’t be failing a stage any time soon. This takes away from the strategy of the game as I started to just run through levels firing off rockets, not caring about my health because I knew I’d just lose a small amount of cash and respawn later with full health and ammo.
Outside of the main story mode that encompasses ten levels and can be played with another player in co-op, there are a handful of offline multiplayer modes to dabble around with. A simple Deathmatch, a variation of Horde Mode from games like Gears of War, and Family Guy’s take on Capture the Flag can be played by up to four players on a single screen. Aside from completionists wanting to get every trophy, there’s really no reason to subject you or your friends to the awful gameplay of these modes.
A challenge mode is also available. These special stages give you a specific goal to achieve in a certain amount of time and only extend the life of the game another hour or so. If you haven’t picked up on this already I’ll spell it out for you: Back to the Multiverse is a repetitive, boring game that offers no challenge other than physically picking up the controller to play the game. Back to the Multiverse just isn’t fun to play.
As a third-person shooter one might expect gameplay similar to genre superstars like Uncharted, but if you did that you’d be doing Nathan Drake a disservice. The shooting in Back to the Multiverse is awful. The reticule for your gun consistently stays in the middle of the screen, so if you try to shoot an enemy to the right of you you’ll have to pan the camera around or run behind the enemy so the reticule lines up with your target. Holding L2 and aiming down the sights of the gun offers some improvement when the enemy is stationary, but since most enemies run all over the place you’re better off just shooting from the hip. There are some platforming sequences in the game that are a bit wonky, but on the whole feel fine, especially when compared to the shooting.
Visuals & Sound
Seth MacFarlane voices many of the characters in the game, including main characters Stewie and Brian. Subsequently, the sound is easily the best part of the entire game. The back-and-forth between the two is hit-or-miss in terms of humor but they both sound like their sarcastic TV counterparts. The voice talent extends throughout the entire game, with seemingly every character being accurately represented in the sound department.
Thus, even with its many overall faults, Back to the Multiverse gets points for the excellent voice acting. That said there are plenty of lines that are repeated frequently that will add to the already dismal gameplay. I got so tired hearing Stewie quip “Victory is mine!” after killing an enemy that I primarily played as Brian for most of the game.
The music is decent, with fitting songs accompany each stage, like an ominous tune for the chickens in space level and a distinctly country theme for the Amish level. Visually the game uses a cell-shaded style to capture the TV show’s 2D look. The transition of 2D characters to 3D means there are some strange looking faces and movements, but all in all the game looks fines. Despite being offensive in most cases, the variance between stages makes traveling to each new universe somewhat entertaining, if for only a short while.
Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse is a game that not even die hard Family Guy fans will appreciate. The jokes and crude humor are taken too far, even for the show’s standards. Couple that with drab gameplay and poor controls and you’ve got a game that should be avoided by most accounts. Except for a respectful job in the sound department and visuals that capture the style of the TV show well, all should avoid Back to the Multiverse and its repetitive, boring, and tedious gameplay.
+ Voice acting emulates the TV show flawlessly
– Offensive humor and dull jokes will leave you anything but entertained
– Repetitive, dull gameplay
4 / 10