Unable to beat many of the 3D platform genre's clichés, Futurama the game is nevertheless a witty, fun experience.
Futurama has celebrated 5 seasons of satirical and off the wall comedy, which recently came to an end in a series finale called "The Devil's Hands are Idol Playthings." This may not make much sense to somebody who has never seen the show or is not used to its type of humor, but much like the rest of the show's humor, it's a bit of an inside joke for those who are more socially aware. The average person can watch Futurama and its zany antics and laugh, but one who is more quick-witted and keen on certain things will be rewarded with healthy helping of even more laughs and deeper understandings of certain jokes. Much the same is obviously true with The Simpsons, also created and watched over by Matt Groening. The main point here is does this humor and storyline flavor present in the television series - which many of us have grown to love - translated itself in its full glory into an enjoyable videogaming experience? Is this an enjoyable gaming experience even for those not terribly familiar with the series and is it a solid one? Is it still solid even without the humor aspect, which the developers made such a huge effort to make a large part of the game? Put simply, if this game wasn't funny, would you still want to play it?
Well, the strongest point of the gameplay experience in this game is probably the story. Over 30 minutes of footage telling the story in the very style of Futurama the series will keep you interested and involved with what's going on. Not to mention, laughing very hard. On top of this, there are dozens of quick cutscenes which are sure to make you chuckle, as well, throughout the levels. The game plays out very much like a giant episode of Futurama itself, in which you get to take on the main characters' roles to fight your way through the humorous scenarios put in your way along your quest to defeat the game's arch-villain, known as Mom. The box that the game comes in puts the main joke behind her character quite simply. Nobody, except some of the top writers for the show, who were actually recruited for the making of this game, could have possibly put it any better. Read and laugh: "World Enslavement. Universal Domination. Mom's work is never done." There is a great truth to this joke that most all of us are familiar with. It might as well say, "A mom's work is never done."
As, I mentioned, the show's writers were brought in to work on this project. This is because the making of the game was a large team effort between Fox Universal, Gracie Films, and Vivendi Universal. A lot of the same artists were put on the job and most important of all, the original cast members' voices from the show are all here, as well. I must give them large credit for putting together all of this so well to please fans of the show. I would also have to say that all this teamwork behind the story has also been done pretty much well enough to the point where a non-longtime fan of the show would also be quite entertained - and that is very important. If this "episode" was a pilot for a new series, for example, it would be an almost instant hit.
To put the main plot simply: Professor Farnsworth, who you may or may not know is associated with our heroes, has finally become so senile that he has sold his company, Planet Express, to Mom and her goons. Somehow, this immediately translates into her owning over 50 percent of the Earth. She is now its supreme ruler and has enslaved the population, and has enforced a ridiculous curfew that would make sense to only someone of her age. Well, basically, by using four of the shows main characters as playable ones you are supposed to save the world and stop Mom from ultimately taking over the Universe in the process.
Playable characters include Fry, Leela, Bender, and Dr. Zoidberg. The gameplay format is mostly that of an action platformer with fairly straightforward controls. The learning curve for each character's controls is extremely quick in each case. They are typical as far as action platform games go. The Circle button will make you jump. Leela and Bender share similar controls. The X button and Square buttons represent two attack variations. For Leela you can do a kick with the X button, and a punch with the Square button. Combing the X button with a jump, she will perform a jump kick. Pressing the Square button along with the X button will perform a special move unique to that character. Likewise, Bender can do a spinning attack, charge attack, and butt slam. His super spin attack is his special move. In order to do special moves you need to collect blue orbs that represent charges. Save them for when you must confront the toughest enemies. Fry, on the other hand, uses guns instead of hand-to-hand combat. You can shoot with the X button. This is best done with the R1 button held down so that you can lock on to your target and also strafe. The L1 button is used to switch between targets you are locked on to. How well does that work? Well, it works better than trying to switch between targets in GTA3. You are much less likely to die because of it. The L2 and R2 buttons cycle through your weapons. As for Dr. Zoidberg, who only appears for a short 10 minute level, you must only know how to use the Circle button in order to jump and Left and Right on the analog stick to steer his "horse".
As you are probably wondering, what does this game have to offer to hold your interest through 22 levels of a 3D platformer other than story and relatively easy to learn controls? Well, the big thing here is the inclusion of different styles of gameplay for each character, adding dimension to the overall gaming experience. With Fry, you will be playing a game that has much of the qualities of a shooter. You may even feel a little bit like a cartoon Max Payne running around laser guns, which act much like regular guns, destroying patrol robots, mutants, and other enemies. With Bender, you get the most basic platform game type experience. One of his moves is much like the old bop-them-on-the-head trick from Mario Bros. As Leela, you will get a martial arts meets Tomb Raider type feel to the game complete with acrobatic flips. One of Fry's levels includes using a machine that is not unlike something straight out of Star Wars. In fact, the machine is called a chicken walker and it has more than a few characteristics resembling one. Unfortunately, Dr. Zoidberg's level does not add much to the mix on its own because it is very short and almost not worth mentioning. It is almost like a bonus level or mini-game, in a way. All you do is jump, steer, and move to the left and right.
One of the game's biggest problems is its camera. You can rotate it with the right analog stick like in a lot of 3D games these days, but unless you don't mind, you will probably find yourself readjusting it too often for your own liking. It is ok to use it to look around, but when it follows your character too slowly, much like it does in this game, you have to pause everything else you are doing and concentrate on to get it to look more or less straight ahead again when you need it to. You can learn to multi-task with practice and move the camera while doing other things, but it will still cause you to die in certain situations more than to your liking. The good news is, it doesn't happen too often. The camera gives you the most trouble when jumping from ledge to ledge and platform to platform or when backed against a wall.
Speaking of platforms this brings me to my next point. The game simply has to many of them in places. Especially, in Bender's levels. Very often, if you miss a jump, which is not hard to do, you will either die or get hurt. The game's biggest problem, I must now state, is the control involved with jumping from platform to platform. Miss-timed jumps will probably be the source of most of your frustration. Luckily you can also jump and grab a ledge and then pull yourself up.
Another trait common to games of the platform genre is the almost diabolical need of the developers to include things for you to collect. This makes an appearance in this game, as well. Each character has a certain kind of valuable he or she can collect in order to earn extra lives. Fortunately, you earn a new life every 25 items, so it almost feels worth it. The other thing you must collect are Nibblers. There are a certain number of these creatures hidden throughout each level.
Despite these annoyances typical of 3D platformers, though, most gamers will find this to be an overall Fun gameplay experience. The positives outweigh the negatives here.