For any gamer who has logged plenty of hours behind the console or keyboard, it probably comes as no surprise that the bulk of games developed today that are based on existing television or film properties rarely end up being amazing, must-own games. Futurama, sadly, is no exception to the rule. While a Herculean effort was put into staying as true to the source material as possible, the game itself doesn't play well. Unless you're a rabid fan who simply has to be in contact with all things Futurama, this game is playable enough to warrant a rental but little else.
Based on the black sheep of the Fox Sunday TV lineup, this game features all the characters you've come to know and love from the series. Fry, Bender, Leela, Dr. Zoidberg, and even the lovable Nibbler all make appearances along the way--as well as many other members of the cast. The best feature of the game, without any shadow of a doubt, is that the voice actors and writers from the show all lent their talents to the creation of the game's story. It's a task that has been attempted many a time but rarely meets with good results. In this case, the story behind the game plays out much like a lost episode of the show. Any fan of the series will undoubtedly want to play through the game just to see how everything gets resolved in the end. That is, of course, if you're willing to wade through a game apparently built upon gameplay elements that are decidedly lacking.
Much like any other third-person action adventure game, you'll spend the bulk of your time running through a level collecting various items and power-ups and blasting enemies until you reach the end of that level. Then the process is repeated. Along the way, you'll play as Fry, Bender, Leela, or Dr. Zoidberg. Each is controlled a tad differently from the other, but, besides that, there simply isn't much variety in the gameplay. Aside from the few short vehicular-based levels in the game, Futurama plays just like every other similar game on the market. While this is good for the casual gamer and serious fan of the series, gamers looking for some form of excitement will find themselves bored by the same platform jumping, switch flipping, and button mashing that have become so commonplace in games of this type.
Aside from the trite gameplay, the game suffers from two major annoyances that mar an already lackluster experience. First and foremost is the game's camera, which suffers some serious problems in tight corners and in interior environments. Left unaided by the player, the game has a hard time deciding which angle is best. This is especially true if you find yourself backed into a corner, at which point the game will start to toggle between views uncontrollably until you regain your bearings and move. You'll spend a great deal of time coaxing the camera along just to see where you're going. In the case of indoor levels, this is made especially annoying by the fact that if you're hidden behind any geometry, it won't become transparent, so it's pretty easy to get stuck behind a wall or some other item. You then have to force your way out. The problem with a lack of transparency also rears its head when enemies are placed in corners in such a way that it's impossible to know if danger is lurking ahead or not. While it certainly doesn't fix the problem, enemy placement is always the same, so, with a little trial and error, you'll be whipping through the game in no time.
The other major problem with the game is in its targeting system. In this case, both destructible items and enemies are fair game when it comes to being targeted by a ranged weapon. While the system works when there is only one enemy on the screen, it all falls apart when you enter a room filled with crates and enemies. A great deal of the time you'll end up blasting away at a box located directly next to an enemy rather than shooting directly at the enemy. While you can manually select your targets, even this feature doesn't always work well. To say the least, Futurama's gameplay is flawed to such an extent that even the most ardent fan will probably end up frustrated to the point of resignation.
While the game does have its bad points, it does an impeccable job of bringing the familiar faces of the show to life. Rendered in fully cel-shaded 3D, Fry and all the other characters appear remarkably similar to their TV counterparts and are animated well. Taking a cue from the series, the backgrounds are also peppered with outrageous billboard ads and the like. If you've ever had a passing interest in the show, you'll be amazed at what a great job the developers did with bringing the feel of the show to life. The same can also be said about the game's voice acting, which was done by the cast from the show. In-game cutscenes play just like segments of the cartoon, which is also aided by the fact that the script was written by the same team that writes the show. It's a shame that so much effort was put into the story that the game itself just can't keep up with these production values. Had the gameplay been on the same level, Futurama could have been a great game.
That being said, if you're a huge fan of the series who simply can't get enough of Bender and Fry, Futurama is at least worth renting and struggling through just to experience the great story. Otherwise, it's best not to be tempted by yet another franchise-based game that falls flat where it counts most in a video game--the gameplay.