Futurama breaks down to whether or not you’re a fan of the cartoon show. Futurama is built entirely for the fans who were sorely disappointed by the demise of what amounts to be a mature version of the Simpsons. The developers spent so much time catering to the fans of the cartoon it’s almost assured Futurama won’t gain any new fans, thanks to the game’s mediocrity as a next generation platformer.
Futurama without the cartoon licensing is nothing more than an average 3D platform game. Camera Problems are still abundant, but somewhat levied with a manual camera that almost goes where you need it. Notice the word almost. Time after time, the camera won’t go behind a wall to align my character correctly, forcing an odd angle walk or jump where if you miss, you die. The camera also switches at bad times, forcing an immediate change of direction or the aforementioned plummeting to death will occur.
Futurama‘s press release makes the story sound like a time traveling ordeal. This is not the case. Time Travel occurs in three, maybe four missions out of over twenty. One of these missions is more of a mini game than a real mission. Even then, that mission is a welcome break from the rest of the average platforming. Too bad it comes well after boredom sets in.
Another broken promise is the story arch. Sure, the cut scenes are entertaining and filled with comedy, but the premises is a twenty three minute television show stretched into several hours of game time, and the story ends up losing quite a bit of steam for the big finale. Simply put, it’s a bunch of comedic leftovers from the cartoon slapped together with the tiniest pinch of continuity.
The story is based on Professor Farnsworth selling Planet Express, a shipping company where our protagonists work, to Mom, the Wal-Mart of the future. Just like Wal-Mart, Mom is bent on world domination. Thanks to the worthy Professor Farnsworth, Mom has enough control of the Earth to actually carry out her scheme. Our intrepid heroes decide to do the right thing and leave Earth. However, the Professor sold the Dark Matter engine to a pawn shop and Fry, one of our daring (somewhat) adventurers is sent to get the engine back. Don’t be fooled by what seems to be an impressive adventure, this is all you’re getting for a story during the next six levels.
As always, the first level is a thinly masked tutorial. It is an enjoyable one since the setting takes place at Planet Express; a setting fans are comfortable with. The colorful first level is a false screen. The rest of Futurama does not take place in familiar territory, a serious blunder. The rest of the game contains drab backgrounds and textures repeating themselves continuously throughout the static levels where familiar bits from the show will never pop up.
The level design is archaic and boring; a basic mixture of platforms and action. Everyone’s levels are a bit of platforming followed by a bit of action and topped off with more platforming. Worst of all, they are also completely linear. If you ever get lost, simply follow the yellow brick, or in this case, cash-laden road. What could be done in a single level is broken into three or more just to lengthen the game. Three levels of a sewer or inside a temple is mind-numbing and repetitious.
Fry, the featured character, has levels based on getting a gun and shooting something. By far and away, these are the best levels of the game, so enjoy them while they’re there. Why the developers had to mix in platforming on his levels is beyond me. Fry’s sewers level is the worst case of jumping around when shooting is more appropriate. I kept asking myself why am I jumping around when I really want to blast giant walking fish men into oblivion.
Leela, the no frills pilot, does not quite have the comedic advantage of Fry or Bender. Not only is she not funny, but her levels are hand to hand combat, and bad combat at that. Leela’s moves consist solely of jamming down a few buttons until the enemy dies. There are no new moves for Leela to learn throughout her whole boring adventure, dragging down the whole experience.
Rounding out the cast of playable characters is Bender, the mascot of the show due to his drunken robot antics. Bender’s attacks are almost unusable due to the heavy amount of lag after his shoulder charge and the tight proximity needed for his spin attack. Lots of extra time and lives are needed to perfect his moves to minimize the amount of damage taken. Even then, you need to locate every health pack in the level to clear it.
Futurama‘s biggest selling point is the voice work, which is done by the same cast that does the voices in the cartoon. The voices help keep an authenticated feel during the cut scenes. The cut scenes are interlaced with humor, but the best bits come during the game in the form of one-liners. Even the most tedious missions are bearable thanks to the never ending stream of comedy spewing from the maws of the cartoon cast. The best come from Bender, perhaps to make up for his shoddy level designs.
The music in game is decent and worth listening to, but due to the length of some levels, and the repetitive nature of the songs, keeping a cd player handy might not be a bad idea. It’s not bad; the problem lies in how short the decent songs are. The music would be fine if the levels could easily be finished in ten minutes or less and didn’t repeat from level to level, but then Futurama wouldn’t be much of a game if that happened. The developers did come through on the sound effects, which would have sounded at home on the cartoon.
There’s nothing truly eye-catching or breathtaking about the graphics, but the graphics look quite a bit like the show. Instead of flooding the screen with bountiful structures, the developers decided to let small bits of humor pop up, like a warning about swimming in lava or the very funny loading screens advertising various items, like human rinds.
The controls can be described as a single word: god-awful. Buttons have a bad response time, and moving becomes either too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Jumping from platform to platform is always made more difficult if you can never tell where you’re going to land. Fry’s gun charge worked well, too bad the aiming didn’t. Leela’a attacks require precise timing to create her ?combo’. It’s normal to go through all her levels and never hitting that combo more than a handful of times thanks to the exact nature of the button timing.
Talking about the AI is like talking about the mighty Yeti. Some say they’ve seen it, but most people disregard it as hearsay and rumors. Futurama‘s monsters do two things: spout one-liners and come at you on the straightest possible path. They avoid their own suicide (a programming plus), but being stuck behind a chair is fair game.
Playing through Futurama again is a very questionable affair. The unlockables are all the cut scenes, all the loading screens, and a few minor extras. The extra cut scenes alone are worth the time taken to find the Nibblers because they’re hilarious. That being said, the Nibblers are ludicrously easy to find and you will never play this game for nostalgia.
At least the voice acting is well done.
Futurama caters directly to the fans of the brilliant but troubled series. It has exactly what all fans require for their biased games. Otherwise Futurama is a completely average platformer that’s only worth a look in the bargain bin. What Futurama does do is succeed where the Simpsons failed; creating a decent game based on the cartoon counterpart, even if it is just for fans. And Futurama did it on its first, and probably last, try.