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 Family Guy: The Game
Oh dear. The track record for cartoon TV show tie-ins hasnít exactly been outstanding in recent times. Looking down the list reveals little more than a few average titles (Simpsonís Hit & Run, Futurama) and plenty of turkeys (South Park, Simpsonís Road Rage), so gamers across the world didnít exactly hold their collective breaths when a game based on the Fox animated comedy Family Guy was announced by High Voltage Software.

In Family Guy: The Game, you get to play as Peter, Stewie and Brian in a series of levels loosely joined together into three Ďepisodesí. Each characterís stages play quite differently (Stewieís levels are based around jumping and shooting, Brianís are stealth-em-ups and Peterís levels are like old side scrolling beat-em-ups) but are linked together by one factor: they are all awful.

The level of complexity on show here is staggeringly low; this is game design at its rudimentary worst. This game would have been considered average fifteen years ago and isnít fit to clean the boots of the arcade games that it takes its inspiration from. You simply run from A to B while shooting/dodging/punching brainless enemies in order to get to the next stage, repeat this ad-nasuem and you have a good idea what to expect. Occasionally youíll be Ďtreatedí to a flashback scene (that reminds me of the time I got my head trapped in a vice) where you get to repeatedly press a button, or two if youíre extra lucky, to complete some humorous task.

None of the levels are particularly taxing and any difficulty arises from poor design rather than an actual in game challenge. Stewieís levels are a good example of this, trying to shoot enemies that are attacking you from off-screen is a frustratingly random experience. And when the game isnít being ruined by unfair faults, itís very susceptible to glitches. On Brianís first level I managed to sail through one section by walking through the desks I was supposed to be walking around; the cops I was avoiding carried on with their work blissfully unaware of my existence.

The only time the game rises above mediocrity is during Peterís climactic final battle against Mr Belvedere, the giant chicken who makes several (long) appearances in series two and four. The fights, spread over several areas, play out just like the ones in the cartoon and are among the funnier moments of the game. Some glitches ruin what could have been a fitting reward for the few players with enough patience to play through this title.

The only saving grace for Family Guy comes from the participation of the actual voice artists like Seth McFarlane, Mila Kunis and Seth Green. Their appearance actually make some of the more tedious sections bearable (although having to view the same cut scenes over and over when you fail a task is grating) and there are some laugh out loud moments. The dialogue isnít of the same quality as the TV show, despite sharing some of its writers but the in-jokes can raise a few titters here and there from die-hard fans.

Graphics arenít too bad in general and is one of the better attempts at recreating a cartoon show in 3D; the locations are easily recognisable to most fans. Character models look good when theyíre not moving, but unfortunately the animation isnít too hot. To be honest youíd probably get more out of the cut scenes if you close your eyes and imagine youíre watching the cartoon.

Even at a budget price Family Guy: The Game is hard to recommend. While it looks authentic enough it plays poorly and even the fans of the show will find their patience tested if they want to complete it.

3 out of 10

Buy Family Guy: The Game now at Play.com
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