With just days to go till the latest installment of Toy Story hits the UK theatres, you may not be surprised to find that hot on the tail of the films release is the video game. Licensed titles are always approached with caution, many of them can be rather cheap tie in’s with by the numbersplatforming or just overall charmless gameplay. On top of that its a multformat title and (as most Wii owners will testify) when it comes to games with multiple releases normally the Wii version of such titles tends to be the most disappointing. However this one turns out to be a pleasant surprise.
Now it should be stressed to anyone considering picking up this title on Friday before seeing the movie next week, the games hub sets itself after the events of the movie, and as such, just playing the game is a giant spoiler in general for the movie. Basically this game is designed for play after you’ve seen the film – its worth holding off as the levels tie into the movie in an interesting way without being a tired retelling of what you already saw. This review will be spoiler-free however.
The game offers 3 playable characters thoughout the game: Woody, Jessie, and Buzz. For the most part the characters are the same, though they have a few unique abilities or special areas only they can reach in the game. For example, only Woody can use his pullstring to swing across using hooks, and only Jessie can make super-precision jumps on certain objects like pins in a wall. Some levels allow for choices between the 3 and others will exclusively use a single character due to the story or location. There’s 2 main modes to play though – the traditional story mode which is your standard platforming romp or “Toy Box” mode – a “sandbox” mode with various large areas that players are welcome to roam and customise.
The story mode is pretty much what you expect it to be in terms of platformers. With all the run and jump action and mini-game action thats usually part and parcel of such titles. Along with the platforming there’s also puzzles and challanges to complete – this ranges from the usual collecting of items to more unusual things like guiding parachuting army men to targets. Graphically, the game is a little rough-looking due to the graphics being a port stepdown from the HD console versions, but it’s a small price to pay as the game itself is pretty much like it’s HD console brothers. One thing you might notice is that some voice actors reprise their roles from the movie, yet some of the main characters have different voice actors. For those not a fan of the voices, the playable characters thankfully dont quip too much. Additionally most of the music is based off the original soundtrack so it fits in with the feeling of the movie as well.
A nice aspect of the levels is that there’s a number of objectives to complete, and a certain amount of variation in each level, so its not just simply a case of jumping over obstacles and beating up baddies, theres various things you have to do before you can advance. The most impressive example of this is a level set in a child’s room, in which the child starts telling a story in voice-over, and all the things that they make up actually changes the level as you advance. The level seamlessly transitions from filling the bedroom with hazardous coffee-lava, and into blasting the toys into space. In addition, there’s a co-op mode for a friend to jump into the story. The nice thing about it is that the game allows players to work together without having to worry about lives – they just respawn at the nearest checkpoint if they get knocked out or fall, and the other player can get farther ahead for them in some cases
The only problem is that this mode is short, its about seven levels long and while they are quite big levels it’s easy to complete the game in just one sitting (as I did). Though the game is clearly aimed at a younger audience, it’s still more fun than other licensed children’s games. Players can always go back to collect the trading cards and tokens hidden in the levels if they wish… or they can move onto the much-hyped attraction of the game, the “Toy Box” mode.
This mode starts out with the Wild West town of Woody’s Round-up, and you’re asked to do tasks for various characters littered about the place. As you do these tasks, you get more characters and places in the Toy Box, and unlock more customizable options. You can change the look of the town or the outfits of the locals, you can collect items scattered all over the place, and you can even pick up and throw the townspeople just for fun (they won’t complain!). Theres plenty of challenges and missions to do and on top of that an achievements list for doing various things. Other areas are also accessible, like a Haunted Mansion or Enchanted Forest, and include a few bonus levels. While it’s not entirely customizable (buildings can only have paint schemes changed) it’s nice being able to run wild and do missions at will, and the noise the townsfolk make when thrown will put a smile on anyone’s face. Some of the fun things from the story mode are available too, like grinding rails and rideable Bullseye. There are only two major niggles for this section: there’s no co-op available for it (which is a shame, as story mode’s co-op is a lot of fun), and the costume-change missions can be troublesome if you get extra outfits early on, as you’ll have a massive amount of outfits you have to sort through to pick the right one
Overall, Toy Story 3 is a fairly fun family game with low thrills. It won’t win any awards for originality (though the Toy Box is a neat use of large gaming environments), and it’s not as long as the 60+ hour epics some gamers have come to expect, but what it lacks the game makes up for with buckets of charm that’ll leave most people with a warm fuzzy feeling without outstaying its welcome.