SDCC 2012: Hands-Off Preview - 'Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse'

Here's an indicator of whether Heavy Iron Studios' Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse will be a game for you (that's assuming you're someone who's still on the fence about the long-running show): in one of the two levels I got to see during a hands-off preview at SDCC, Brian and Stewie stumble into a universe dominated entirely by the handicapped, who have seized power and dominate with an iron wheelchair.

Minus a random cutaway, the Activision-published game looks pretty much like what you would consider a game bearing the license of Seth MacFarlane's show to look. You know, if it were a co-op third person shooter tripping through multiple dimensions.

The game is a sequel of sorts to the season eight fan-favorite episode, "Road to the Multiverse," where Stewie and Brian tumbled through alternate universe takes on the Family Guy cast.

In Back to the Multiverse, Stewie's pint-sized nemesis Bertram figures out a way to bounce between universes, killing different versions of the youngest member of the Griffin clan. The levels that make of the game are comprised of new worlds as well as call-outs to bits from previous seasons of the show.

In the first level I saw, the one with the handicapped tyrants, Brian and Stewie have to make their way to the top of a hospital (which, in this world, is the center of the handicapped dictatorship's authority). Lots of side jokes in posters and statues play on the premise, from prominent posters for colostomy bags to the many enemy encounters with wheelchair bound grunts.

Brian used his shotgun (you can select your weapons via a wheel displaying your arsenal) to shoot at and blow up an enemy's oxygen tank, killing the baddie and leaving nothing but a flaming chair and a bag of cash.

Brian and Stewie can be swapped out on the fly in single player, but if you have a friend, you can go at it co-op. Brian has a more practical arsenal with a normal collection of pistols, shotguns, etc. while Stewie comes equipped with some of his more sci-fi weapons. Both have special equipment: we got to see Brian's inflatable bendy guy that attracts enemies, allowing Brian ot get around them and attack while they're distracted; Stewie throws a golden egg which hatches the ubiquitous giant chicken which proceeds to beat up nearby enemies (we saw this piece of equipment in another level).

By the end of level, Brian and Stewie faced off against Joe as "Cripple-Tron," a reference to a season five episode where Joe recruits numerous wheelchair-bound characters to combine into a giant mech. During the encounter, Brian/Stewie would strafe back and forth, clearning out wheelchair-bound enemies that Joe threw their way, along with short buses, all while attempting to repair and fire a cannon.

The other level we saw was "Something's Amish" based on an episode from last season's "Amish Guy" episode. In this one, the Amish rule the world and Bertram has made a deal with the locals to give them seeds which grow the wood the Menonites need to craft supplies and goods. The gameplay didn't vary up too much here, but we did get to see one cutaway, triggered after the player entered a trigger point in the level.

The game will also include four on four multiplayer. According to the devs, their hope is to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack of third person shooters through their game's presentation and style.

I can't say with any authority how it will feel to play the other Family Guy game vying for fans' attention this year, but I can say that it meets your expectations for the mood and the humor of the series. And that would make sense given that the show's production studio, Fuzzy Door remains involved and the show's Executive Producer Steve Callahan has been available to consult on the release.

Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse will be available this September for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

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