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'Family Guy' game funny but flawed

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
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Fox's animated comedy Family Guy has a huge fan following -- so much so that fans bought 5 million copies of the TV series on DVD after it was cancelled, prompting Fox to put the show back on the air.

Now fans have another reason to cheer for the risqué comedy because the Family Guy video game is now available for Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox and Sony's PlayStation Portable.

While this action-adventure hybrid is about as funny as the television show -- mainly because the same writers and actors are involved in the project, including creator and producer, Seth MacFarlane -- the game itself is merely an average experience.

In Family Guy, players can take control of three key characters in the Griffin household: Peter, the obese and impulsive father; Brian, the classy talking dog with a penchant for martinis; and Stewie, a diabolical baby bent on world domination. Following a freak accident causing trauma to his head, Peter is convinced '80s TV character, Mr. Belvedere, wants to take over the world so he vows to stop him. What's more, Brian is framed for impregnating Seabreeze, the prized racing dog owned by Peter's wealthy father-in-law, Carter Pewterschmidt. Finally, Stewie must stop his half-brother, Bertram, from executing a malevolent plan that involves shrinking down to enter Peter's body. We could elaborate, but we'll let you play the game to find out more.

The three story lines are interconnected, but the game play varies depending on what character you're in control of. Peter's scenes are brawling matches reminiscent of arcade fighting games, with the addition of Peter's Snack Meter, which involves keeping Peter's stomach full by making sure he eats food dropped by his enemies.

Brian is all about stealth because he must carefully sneak around the town of Quahog to clear his name and avoid prison time, while Stewie's sequences are "platformer" style. They require jumping, collecting items, solving puzzles and using his upgradeable ray gun on enemies.

The problem with Family Guy is that none of the three game styles is executed exceptionally well. For example, Stewie's platformer levels can be difficult to control when performing the double-jump or floating maneuver (where balloons appear out of Stewie's back), while Peter's fighting scenes grow repetitive after a while (despite the fact he can execute new attacks when his snack meter fills up).

While the game play is mediocre, fans will keep playing because of the clever writing, familiar voice talent and lovable characters, including Glen Quagmire, Cleveland Brown and the evil monkey living in Chris' closet. Some scenes are downright hilarious, especially if you find the TV show funny. Because of the show's over-the-top, adult-oriented content, the Family Guy video game is rated "Mature" mainly for its crude humor. Expect many off-color jokes about sex, religion, race, disabilities and more.

As a bonus for fans of the show, the game offers a few "non sequitor" flashback sequences that are playable as mini-games, plus you can access DVD-style bonus content from the game's main menu.

While it's an average game, Family Guy is worth the ride for fans of the TV show, but others should avoid this title like Peter avoids hard work and quality family time.

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Baby Stewie takes a break from plotting world domination to stop his evil half brother.

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