Toy Story 3: A Review
A light at the end of the tunnel?
As you may be well aware, movie tie-in games are rarely a good sign for the video game industry and if you buy them, your wallet will agree. Yet for some reason Disney, and specifically Disney-Pixar always impress and amaze with their movie titles which I've been playing since I was a child (a good fifteen years back). I'm sure many of us have fond memories of blasting the minions of Zurg in Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue, throwing fruit at marsupials in Tarzan and the repetitive yet colourful Monsters Inc. To this day the developers have amazed me with their games and even though they don't come wholly recommended like other platform games in today's generation, all of them are playable and become cheap fairly quickly.
But this time Disney Pixar have really done it; made a lasting, replayable and even highly recommendable game that goes to show that this is how you make both your film and your future developments look good. And thanks to critics from around the globe giving this game such high scores it's likely that movie tie-in games shall see improvements in the future. If this is the kind of effort and appeal we can expect from games we once called 'cash-ins', I fully support video games being made based on the films.
"You know it's a good game when some of the platforming here puts Ratchet and Clank to shame!"
When it comes down to it, Toy Box Mode is the biggest and most focussed feature of the game, though that's not to say Story Mode is underdeveloped; however its length isn't enough to satisfy most members of the family. Let's begin with the Story Mode, something many critics and parent reviewers of Amazon.co.uk have said is a mixed bag. While the gameplay is stunning, and there are certain barricades that will make you pause to scratch your head and ponder, this isn't enough to make up for an easily noticeable 2-4 hour campaign (6 at most). Gameplay mostly consists of running and jumping throughout the different environments, and depending on which level you're on and which characters are available, the kinds of activities you'll perform will differ. For example in level 3, you'll play as Buzz Lightyear in Zurg's base not only blasting your robotic nemeses with a hand-mounted gauss cannon, but you'll also be going through flight stages which handle exceptionally well. The beef of the platform and adventure components is being able to play as three different characters and switching between them at different moments. What I love about this is that even though it's not fully explored, Avalanche didn't forget about it and included the feature at least once in each level where all characters are playable. You can switch characters freely but each have different abilities; Buzz can throw characters further; Woody can lasso using that ring-pull on his back and Jessie can balance on thin or tight surfaces where other characters would fall off.
Your main objective is mostly to reach the end of each level and complete a particular task, rather than just find your way to a portal or gateway. These goals never get old and amaze me at how incomplex they are, yet bring so much joy. And with the best physics I've seen for a video game regardless of its genre, this only adds more to the depth and wow factor to a product that could've been "just another movie game". Not to mention that while there is some toughness, it's nothing you can't handle and it finally brings back some well needed difficulty to this type of game. But the challenge doesn't come from enemies most of the time, as nearly all of them came from the level with Zurg and his minions been blasted (and with the way they explode, it's unlikely we'll see them again any time soon). So it's down to platforming challenges involving long jumps, rail grinding, throwing, swinging and fighting other meanies in the world. To spice things up you get to ride in vehicles such as Lightyear's jetpack and (see above) Bullseye in multiple stages, but these are very short and quite punishing to your health bar. The thing about this game's health and death system is that it contributes absolutely nothing; if you die, the last checkpoint won't be far away from where you fell and you've lost no collectables, so there might as well be no deaths at all. At least there's no life system, but I'm certain that'd make me more careful of what I'm doing, instead of being so reckless. And what makes this so replayable? Apart from the collectables it's only the fact that you can. There is no incentive to go through this again even if you've got all the 'cards' (used to unlock mini-games in Toy Box Mode), but it's still fresh and gleaming, whereas other games that I've replayed regularly like The Darkness 2 become rather gloomy and eventually gather dust. All I can say is that you know it's a good game when some of the platforming here puts Ratchet and Clank to shame.
"In a way it feels like Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy with its vastly open world together with rewarding expeditions to search for the sacred Finding Nemo hats!"
FOR THE EMPEROR!
If you own this game for the Playstation 3, Emperor Zurg becomes a playable character after completing a few missions in Toy Box Mode, as well as his vehicle. Not only does he get a purple Cadillac to cruise around in with his tri-gun, but he also gets exclusive missions that involve terrorising Toy Town (but don't worry, you won't lose your precious work as Woody, Jessie and Buzz in this mode) and popping green plastic balls into the heads of civilians! Bow before the might of my radioactive spheres, toy people!
It's high time we moved on to Toy Box mode which makes up the other half of Toy Story 3. If the story mode isn't enough, or you want a break, this is like playing Disney's Toontown on a console but with far more involvement (and less combat). In Toy Box mode players manage their own town, as designed by Ham the Piggybank, and adjust every single little thing from the buildings, the plots to build them on and even dress up the civilians however you like! This is the thing you'll remember most about TS3, and within good reason.
Your town starts off with very little but you're free to explore the huge badlands for yourself, taking quests as and when you wish to. Objectives begin fairly easy like building homes, customising the aliens and people that pop in every now and then, before becoming a bit more challenging involving finding missing items and rescuing citizens of Toy Town. Here you'll have the most fun collecting accessories for your townsfolk such as hats and suits based on the different Disney Pixar franchises (my favourite costumes are the Monsters Inc. ones, especially Mike's). If you've played Disney Universe the concept is very similar, and I ought to have said that at the beginning, but the gameplay is far different. You can also amass a wealth of toy money which is used to expand the town with new buildings, each with different quests and mini-games to play. So not only are you populating the town with your choices, you're actually adding more content and choosing when plus where you want it.
Unfortunately Toy Box Mode starts to wear off if you're aware of the MMORPG questing system of old, involving collecting [x] amount of [y], and scaring off [a] amount of [b], yet I can still play for hours on end. Why? I can't give a certain answer but it might have to do with the dynamic gameplay that encourages exploration, rewarding you for climbing the highest peaks and the darkest crannies. In a way it feels like Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy with its vastly open world together with rewarding expeditions to search for the sacred Finding Nemo hats!
Not only is Toy Story 3 one of the Playstation 3's most family friendly and fun platform games, it's also the most artistically impressive out of all the Disney Pixar games. Once again Avalanche leave me breathless with some of the nicest visuals for the console and it doesn't affect loading times too heavily. Not once have I experienced a drop in frame rate, glitches or missing textures in such a large playing field. To truly understand this game's graphics one has to play Toy Box Mode, but Story Mode provides a lot of visual joy, especially in the level with Zerg - the way the world shatters at your very feet is tremendous! Lip sync is non-existent unless it's a cinematic cutscene (very well done, by the way, Avalanche, instead of taking them from the film), but the other animations are shot to perfection even though Woody's could be a lot less goofy. And even though Jessie is like a ragdoll with rickets, hers are at least true to the film. If there's one thing I didn't like about the visuals it's the fact that they don't capture the world from a toy's point of view like Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue did, and the first levels don't seem to try all that hard in doing so. I'm not saying the game should be Toy Story 2 on the PS1, nor should it try to take too many chunks of it and throw them into this, but it is called Toy Story for a reason.
The soundtrack is barely noticeable and we've still got Randy Newman's "You've got a Friend in me" as the main theme, as well as it being the most memorable of them all. Even though it becomes mundane to listen to each time you see something Toy Story, I have to admit it's a very catchy and great song. It's also very important to the theme of all three films, so it shouldn't get flak regardless of how many times it plays. The voices are OK but nowhere near as good as the originals, my personal favourite being Tom Hanks (The Money Pit, Saving Private Ryan) as Woody. But each of them do their best and to their credit are convincing.
To conclude my thoughts with this game, Toy Story 3 is not just an adventure aimed at children but a continuation of our love for Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue on Playstation for those who actually played it in the day. The story mode is a good campaign for thought-provoking adventure, but if you are to get this game, be sure to try out Toy Box Mode at least once before you get rid of this game.... you won't be disappointed. Toy Story 3 scores a 7 out of 9 for its fun-filled missions, freedom of movement and management in Toy Box mode and fabulous mini-games! If this game were to get a higher score it'd have to have a few more hours of Story Mode and more emphasis on the "Toy's eye view" style of gameplay. The few things I have to say are coming up now, one of which is a personal thank you and wave to Avalanche Software for what they've done with Disney's license and a great movie! I'm perfectly comfortable with them making more games based on the Disney universe (and they are, with Disney Infinity), and I'm certain they'll do far more than what they have here. Hard to believe, I know!
Until the next time, thanks for reading, and have a pleasant day!
The Greasy Gamer video review of the Toy Story 2 game
Great fun, but the story mode needs far more to do, and a decent ending. If you don't like Toy Box mode, it's highly unlikely you'll enjoy this game at all.
Some of the most fluent controls I've ever felt, but perhaps too fluent. It's very easy to end up dying due to wobbly movement.
Even though Toy Box mode gives you a lot to do, the Story Mode isn't good enough, but the replay value (see further down) is huge. As said before if you don't like Toy Box mode, the story isn't going to last long either.
Amazing environments but too few different character models to fully appreciate Avalanche's art teams and their work.
Good when you hear it, but this is unlikely.
Depending on how much you like the story or Toy Box Mode, the scales for and against replaying this game are tipped heavily in one direction. It's all down to how you felt either mode was.