reviews\ Sep 23, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Futurama - PS2 - Review

When Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s show Futurama hit the airwaves, it immediately gained a cult following with its unique blend of sci-fi kitsch and snappy dialogue.  However, the show failed to achieve mainstream success and was cancelled, much to the dismay of the droves of loyal Futurama fans.  Well, it seems as though they could be getting their second chance with the Futurama gang as Futurama is hitting the PS2.  While the gameplay may leave something to be desired, much of the talent from the TV show, be it voice, writing or otherwise, has ported over to work on the game, giving the game all the wit, humor and feel of the fantastic TV show.  Futurama fans rejoice; your game is here and it’s not half bad.                   


The plot of Futurama plays out like an episode of the TV show.  Mom has taken over the Planet Express from Dr. Farnsworth, and now rules the Earth with her army of battle bot’s.  You play as Fry, Bender, Leela and Dr. Zoidberg (at different times) and attempt to end the threat of Mom, her robots, and her Old-Fashioned Robot Oil empire.


The in-game dialogue and cutscenes were written by Matt Groening and the folks behind the TV show, so fans can expect the half-hour of cutscenes to play out with all the feel and snappiness of the show.  Favorite line: Dr. Farnsworth – “Okay, okay, in hindsight, I guess it wasn’t such a good idea to sell the Planet Express.  It must be my hind cataracts.”


The gameplay is decent, but not great.  The game is a simple platformer, involving lots of jumping puzzles.  These jumping puzzles can be very frustrating at times, given that the collision detection isn’t quite where it should be.  It kind of reminds me of old-school Nintendo games like Ninja Gaiden, where I’d get to a certain jump and die consistently at that part every single time.  This isn’t such a problem in the Fry levels at the beginning, but it gets extremely annoying in the Bender and Leela levels later on.  There are a few vehicle levels which are fun and relatively easy, like when Fry pilots the Chicken Walker or the Dr. Zoidberg sections.  Although the game can be extremely cheap and frustrating, it is quite short, clocking in at well under ten hours.


The graphics are a hit and miss.  The simplistic cel-shaded look goes well with the game and does a great job of mirroring the show on which it’s based on.  The characters look very true to their onscreen counterparts, although some (like Bender and Dr. Farnsworth) better than others.  The environments are teeming with atmosphere, and filled with quirky nuances from the TV show.  The only real problem with the graphics is the horrible framerate.  If the graphics were more complex, then perhaps this might be acceptable.  However, Futurama doesn’t even come close to flexing the PS2's graphical muscle, yet for some reason (a lack of polish, perhaps) the framerates are all over the place falling well below 30 frames per second.


The sound effects are where Futurama shines the most.  The snappy dialogue (which I noted earlier) is extremely well-delivered by the original voice cast from the television show under the voice direction of David X. Cohen (also of Futurama).  The sound effects and music are also lifted directly from the show, and sound fantastic.


How much you enjoy Futurama the game will depend on how much you enjoy Futurama the TV show.  If you’re not really into the show, then you may not like the frustrating jumping puzzles and otherwise simplistic gameplay. However, if you are a fan whose been wearing black in mourning since the show was canned, then you’ll probably love the game, as it’s probably your last chance to see new material from the creators of the TV show.


Reviewer’s Scoring Details

Gameplay: 6.8
Futurama’s gameplay is very simplistic; platform-jumping puzzles are practically the meat of the game.  To make matters worse, the controls are quite inaccurate, and the lousy collision detection will have you ripping your hair out.  However, the gameplay does diversify a bit with vehicle levels and the ability to play as four different characters from the show.

Graphics: 7.9 
The game’s cel-shaded look works nicely and the characters accurately represent the TV show.  Also, the environments have tons of atmosphere.  However, the framerates are in the gutter for much of the game.

Sound: 9.0
The voice acting is superb, featuring the talents of Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, and many other voice actors from the TV show.  The theme music from the show has also been lifted and placed in the game in the form of various remixes.

Difficulty: Hard
The game is relatively short, it is quite frustrating given the plentiful jumping puzzles.

Concept: 8.5
All of the elements from the show have been fantastically preserved, and fans of the show will be pleased with the storyline and script.  If only the gameplay weren’t so simplistic.                                                                                                                       

Overall: 7.0
Futurama does what it sets out to do: it appeals to fans of the TV show and gives them a chance to play through a “lost episode” of the TV show.  However, the game probably won’t appeal to those who weren’t really into the show to begin with, since the gameplay is simplistic platforming and not much else.  


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