Futurama: RADIORAMA & Worlds of Tomorrow Review
Worlds of Tomorrow – iOS game by Jam City & TinyCo
RADIORAMA – Nerdist podcast episode September 14, 2017
In a world where there are suicide booths on every street corner, Futurama seems to be immortal. Aside from how the show itself gets cancelled & renewed, the characters are repeatedly killed & brought back to life, as well as narrowly avoid certain death just by sheer happenstance. After being killed off by the ever-cancelling FOX Network (after only 4 seasons!?), brought back to life in the direct-to-DVD market (season 5), and given a final 2 seasons on Comedy Central, we get one brand new episode as an audio-only radio-drama podcast!
Taking advantage of the audio format, RADIORAMA has all the staples of a great old-timey radio play: misleading narration, zany sound effects, & over-the-top commercials for fictional Kloch’s Borax Flakes & a new actual iOS game for your phone. It is a study in history, how entertainment is really just long-winded advertising for the producers of your favorite time-wasting diversion. But thankfully there are people out there who want to make money because otherwise us time-wasters would be entertaining y’all for free! And truthfully, it always seems like the writers, voice actors, and sound engineers love Futurama so much, they would do it for free, but Zoidberg’s gotta eat & Scruffy needs his porn mags.
The meta-plot of the episode finds the Planet Express crew gathering ’round for a new episode of their favorite daytime television soap opera, All My Circuits. Unfortunately, Calculon, the over-acting robot-star of the show, blew up back on the Comedy Central a and nothing remains but his speaker box, necessitating that All My Circuits become an audio-only podcast.
Even more unfortunately, the soap opera’s fans are demanding the return of Bender Bending Rodriguez as the worst character on the show, Calculon’s son, Antonio Calculon Jr. (Shouldn’t it be Antonio Roboto Jr.? I always thought it was a play on soap-opera actor Antonio Sabato Jr.) But Bender’s mom is dying and since she’s just a mechanical robot arm with no mouth or eyes, a podcast is the only way she’ll be able to appreciate her son’s greatness.
All the in-jokes about fan service & returning characters are played for all they’re worth. Futurama’s voice actors have all come back to spout their catch phrases & exploit their sitcom relationships. If you are a fan of the television show, you’ll enjoy the podcast. Fry & Leela do their break-up/make-up routine, Bender is great, the professor has good news for everyone, and Zoidberg asks “Why not Zoidberg?” The Planet Express crew even gets to save the world from a monstrous embodiment of unheard podcasts, voiced by king of the Nerdist, Chris Hardwick.
As someone who spends most of their day listening to podcasts, I still find it very strange when anyone talks about them as real things. I don’t mean literally real the way Klaxon is manifested in RADIORAMA, I mean it’s weird when people try to give podcasts the gravitas of a movie, television show, or even a morning radio show. Kevin & Bean on KROQ may be mostly dick & fart jokes, but they’re professional DJs. Even though a lot of the podcasts I listen to have paid commercials and are on produced networks, anyone can make a podcast about anything at anytime. There’s something still amorphous & publicly stigmatized about the medium in general.
But if anyone is on a mission to make nerds & podcasts main stream, it’s Chris Hardwick. Over the years he’s had many of the Futurama writers & cast members on the Nerdist podcast, and he kept floating the idea of doing radio-drama episodes, especially with Billy West doing almost half the voices. In fact, there’s a great episode a couple of weeks after RADIORAMA where Chris sits down with David X. Cohen, one of the creators of Futurama, to discuss the genesis & creation of this special episode.
Like everything else on planet earth, it comes down to money. While the entire Nerdist network seems to be doing fairly well, I can’t imagine the singular podcast itself is raking in fat stacks of cash, even with ad spots for Loot Crate & MeUndies. But these tappable iOS games seem designed to suck your wallet through a wormhole, and RADIORAMA is produced by the new iOS game Furturama: Worlds of Tomorrow!
Similar in style to other FOX games like Simpsons: Tapped Out or Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, the player is given a destroyed city and is tasked with repopulating it & building a new one. But as opposed to the God-like control one has in a game like The Sims or Sim City, you’re really running along the rails of a main storyline, and then a few side quests as new characters are unlocked.
After one of the professor’s doomsday devices explodes hypnowaves all over New New York, Fry & the gang spend their time clearing rubble and going to see robot strippers. Strippers who are robots, or people that strip robots for parts, who’s to say. Every month or so a new event arises with new unlock-able players, costumes, and missions. So while the games constantly has new content with quippy dialogue between your favorite characters, the main function of the game is to teach you to play it less.
When you start you can achieve goals by making characters juggle for half an hour, but after a few missions, it just becomes a waiting game. You send 3 characters into buildings for 18 hours at a time, collect a few digital resources, then go on a space adventure and do the whole thing over again. The early fun of collecting characters becomes a tedium of watching George Tekai “fence shirtless” for a few hours. And as fun as that sounds, the bit gets old after a month or two.
Between when the podcast originally aired and now, when this review is posting, the RADIORAMA theme of Worlds of Tomorrow has changed to Robot Hell on Earth. And as much as I love video games, the mini-missions require you to check in a dozen times per day if you want to get all the little achievements. You can still accomplish minimal tasks, but the hurry-up-and-wait style of gameplay may finally be wrapping up its novelty.
I recommend the podcast episode, and I think they could crank out an entire season of audio-only episodes and really make something great. I also recommend the iOS game, it’s just unfortunate that they need a semi-addicting dopamine-milking app that encourages you to turn real money into digital pizza in order to buy Chris Hardwick or finish building Robot Arms Apartments so I can get back to blasting space pirates and collecting cigarette butts for Hattie McDougal’s cats.