Making Video Games | Designing Space and Sci-Fi Games

Games of the Future | | Future Game Design

2008 is a long time from now, but it's even longer if you're a Futurama fan. The last new episode aired back in 2003, and though we've finally been promised new adventures, we're not getting them as quickly as we got the return of the Griffins. What's a Benderhead to do? There's only one place to turn right now for a fix, friends....the one place you haven't looked, the Futurama VIDEO GAME.

It was released for PS2 and XBox around the same time the final episodes were airing, and it contains cutscenes written by the Futurama staff, playing like an extra episode! The game is rare, but it's still cheap. I haven't seen it for sale in a long time, but I DID find it for rental at a video store recently. You can play as Fry, Bender, Leela, and eventually (oh yeaaah) Dr. Zoidberg riding a giant furry beast...............but I failed to make it past Fry before I had to return the game. Now I know why most people use Gamefly for these kinds of things.

The game starts at Planet Express where inside, Professor Farnsworth has GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE! I won't spoil any of this delicious cutscene; now enjoy what you're getting because it's all you'll get for over a year.

I looked on YouTube for these clips and found none of them, meaning I have the exclusive! (Until somebody decides to rip them from my site and put them there. Which should be about five seconds after I put this article up. I'm gonna find out where you losers live...)

Anyhow, avoiding as much that can be said about the previous scene as possible, the Planet Express Ship must now be repaired and cleaned. The first thing you do as Fry is search for a hammer; see below for the results of that.

To round up the Professor's tools, you're sent on a fetchquest that Fry remarks "seems like some kind of tutorial." Normally it's irritating for a game to start you out like this, but you're exploring the entire building built to the actual blueprints from the show itself. It made me giddy to actually run through this place, see where everything is, get a Slurm from the vending machine, observe that Zoidberg's human body chart is hung upside-down, search through Leela's locker without her knowledge, and other such activities.

I'd say the game is worth a purchase just to have the chance to explore PlanEx and to see the cutscenes. (As for the gameplay, uhh...we'll deal with that a little later.) When Fry enters Scruffy's boiler room he remarks "I better not step in that black stuff" while being waist-deep IN the black stuff. Though that IS something Fry would do, it was actually my fault.

Hermes' office explains why he's absent from the rest of the game. There's no sign of Amy though.

The last thing the Professor needs isn't in the building. And because all the Fry levels were stuck at the beginning of the game, he's going to have to be the one to survive out there long enough to get it. That leads you out of Hilarious Cutscene Land and into Average Gameville.

As Fry, you must enter the endless sewers. You might expect the guy whose entire body is a leg and foot, but no such soap. The mutants here are generic Creatures From The Black Lagoon. You won't see (SPOILERZ) Leela's parents either.

I'll say this about the Futurama Game--there are many crimes you can accuse the developers of, but making the game baby-easy isn't one of them. Too many interactive excursions these days are cakewalks, but this game actually makes you stay awake. It's hard for the wrong reasons, though. The levels are much much longer and larger than they should be. Every so often you'll reach a "checkpoint" that'll let you start over from that point once you lose a life, but you can't save your game until you complete the entire level. At several points you'll think you've finally reached the end, only to be greeted with another "Checkpoint" message and a new batch of monsters. Levels in "Futurama" take a half-hour at the least--and that's if you don't die, which you will. A lot.

Here's a good example of what I'm talking about: the sewer water will kill you with ONE TOUCH. So when you're jumping onto that dinky little cardboard box, you better be a spot-on foot marksman, or else you'll be thrown 5,000 feet back and you will have to shoot the 20 mutants it took to get there once again. They compensate for this kind of challenge by making the platform physics extremely forgiving....many times you'll wince as Fry misses the next platform, only to gratefully see him standing in midair right next to it. Hey, it's the future--you can't prove it won't happen.

To the right you see an alligator. What do we know about alligators in video games? That's right, they're for jumping on.

It's hard to genre-lize Futurama: The Game because it has a little bit of it all. It has run-and-gun action, platform bopping, thing-collecting, puzzle solving, etc. One of the optional goals is to find all the Nibblers in each level....which might as well be required since most of them aren't hiding very well.

You'll also be collecting money, because with every 50 bucks you gain a much-appreciated extra life. As Fry grabs cash, he says quips like "This'll go to my research to find a new flavor of crayon!" and "Finally, I'm as rich as the Pope!" Occasionally Fry will say "I'm putting this toward my college education."

But mostly, you'll be collecting ammo because you'll be shooting a LOT of things. You'll find an ammo box every 5 steps, yet even this doesn't seem to be enough to smother the game's wide array of Stuff That Wants To Kill Fry.

I thought this door was going to lead to a boss, mainly because it's the kind of door that usually leads to a boss and there are huge glowing footprints leading up to it. But I never met the thing that left them there. Turns out the game has NO boss battles, and inside the room is just another puzzle. I know I complained about the difficulty, but no bosses? Boo to that.

The second level is through the abandoned subway, and you'll actually be shooting even more in this level than you did in the sewers. There's no pause screen to switch between weapons--you gotta use the upper right shoulder button to cycle between them. The developers must have thought it'd be better to let the player do this on the Fry--er, fly--but no. It's not better. One of the weapons is the hammer, which becomes useless once you get the gun, and you can't take the hammer out of your inventory. So if you run out of ammo in one gun and decide to switch to another, chances are good you'll wind up with the hammer first and get shot 7 times before you finally have what you want.

If you ever plan to play this game, you should know that there are two kinds of troopers that look alike, yet act differently: one takes three hits to kill, the other keels over in two hits but suddenly fires one more time after falling down. Please don't ask how many times this caught me off-guard before I started reacting properly....

You can tell where the writers had influence and where they didn't. When you walk into a restroom and troopers pop out of the toilet stalls to fire at you, that's pure Futurama. When you enter a new room and they just run at you with a death wish, that's Vivendi's doing.

"Ahhh, Old New York! Hey, there's where I first got mugged!"

Old New York is the most frustrating level yet, and the one I got stuck on until I had to return the game. Maybe if I'd had the "gumption" to keep going into it nonstop, I could have passed it, but it turned into a chore. The level is VERY long, with at least 150 enemies looking for you, and some of them have rocket launchers now. Those things bite off half of your life meter per hit, and I found myself whining "Where's MY rocket launcher?" In the last couple levels I would see an enemy with a more powerful weapon, but I'd be able to take that weapon once he was defeated. Not these guys--they take their rocket launchers to the grave with them somehow. They've also become more devious with the surroundings, popping out of building windows where you can't shoot them back or sometimes even see them.

There were also small hogs carrying TNT on their backs who would rush at you every so often from behind a corner. Yeah, this level fights way too dirty.

One of the only good things I can say about Futurama's gameplay is that it's the only game I've ever seen that actually saves the extra lives you earn. If you left with eight lives, you'll come back with eight, not a resetted five. I don't know why any other programming studio can't figure out how to do that. Although the downside is that if you save with only ONE life left, it'll remember that as well. Maybe that's why.

The game's only bonus material is an unlockable collection of the load-screen advertising that appears between levels. Whenever I run across the game again, preferably BEFORE new episodes start airing, this review will continue. Until then, xcelsiorrrr!