Games based on movies haven’t been composed that well and the reason behind that is usually because the development team is rushed to finish the product to coincide with the theatrical release of the movie. Due to this reason, the game often feels rushed and lacks the necessary polish and dedication it takes to make a game great. Avalanche Software sought out to vanquish that idea from gamers mind and the title that would attempt to accomplish that with would be Pixar’s Toy Story 3. The Toy Story movies have long been favorites to people of all ages, but the games have been less than memorable. Avalanche’s main goal was to provide an experience unlike previous games based on the Toy Story universe and they certainly make a commendable effort in doing so. With a wide range of activities to partake in and missions to take on, the game will provide many hours of fun gameplay.
Unlike other movie games, Toy Story doesn’t follow the narrative of the movie. The story element of the game is presented on a game board, with missions taking place in select locations that will be found in the movie. If you had hopes of playing through the theatrical release with the game you’ll be disappointed. Instead of following every event of the movie step-by-step, the game opens up new gameplay ideas and offers a more varied experience that change with each passing level. The bulk of the game is platforming and several levels play and feel frightening similar to the Ratchet and Clank series. Even with a slight predisposition on platforming present, there are several levels that are purely action-oriented. Buzz will blast robots with his laser, while Woody will ride his horse Bullseye on a moving train and throw balls at alien invaders. These levels contain a nice mix of action and platforming, but not all the levels have this balance. Attempting to escape a daycare center, the entire level is based around sneaking out without being caught by the patrolling toys and Buzz. If you are spotted in your escape attempt, the entire level will start over again. The biggest problem with this level stems from the controls of the game.
Controls are a prominent problem throughout the game, and even though they won’t fail you enough to put a halt in your advancement through the game, they’ll make some spots more difficult than they need to be. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the daycare escape was one of the biggest offenders when it came to controls. In one section, you would need to use Woody’s lasso to advance Woody to a higher location, but the lasso wouldn’t deploy upon command and then forces you to start everything over again. The unresponsiveness of the controls in these situations is frustrating, but you’ll eventually figure out how to get by the section through a lot of trial and error testing.
There are only eight story levels to play through and they’ll take about three hours to complete in total – or less. Just because the story levels are completed doesn’t mean the game is over because the true heart of the game comes from the Toy Box mode. This mode is an open-word that will have you take on missions from various characters in the Toy Story universe and lets you create a town in your own image — almost like Viva Piñata. Over the course of the mode, you’ll take missions that will have you performing tons of different tasks: collecting animals, painting buildings, capturing robbers, and throwing army men of roofs, landing them on drop-zone targets, and many more. Each mission is like a mini-game of sorts and will take a few minutes to complete, letting you move on to other missions at a brisk pace. Though a bit shallow in overall depth and purpose, this mode is highly addicting and will have you playing for hours in an attempt to keep your townsfolk happy. Each mission completed will reward you with gold, which is used to purchase new toys, buildings, citizens, and tools to help expand your town. Every building has its own use — like a prison to toss the robbers in. Paying homage to all Pixar movies, you’ll be able to customize building and citizens with clothing and objects from Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Monster’s Inc, and many others.
Another aspect of the game that many will find appealing is the impressive amount of items to collect and unlock. Each level in the game’s eight story missions contains a number of hidden objects to collect and you’ll need to revisit the stage at least twice to find them all. Toy Box mode is stuffed with outfits for the citizens and extra characters hidden away. There is a multiplayer mode intact for Toy Box mode, so you can collect and do more missions with a friend or sibling at a much faster pace.
Visually, the game doesn’t look like the Pixar theatrical release, but it does come close. The graphics are impressive and capture the essence of the franchise in spades, but it just falls short of delivering the exact replicated look from the movie release. The voice work is excellent and the soundtrack is most superb. Listening to ‘You Got a Friend in Me’ on the game board screen will bring a smile to any Toy Story fan.
Toy Story 3 may not deliver all the magic of the Pixar film, but it delivers a fun and worthwhile experience that children will play for months to come. The large variety of stuff to do guarantee you a fresh sense of exploration each time and keeps the game from feeling stagnant. Controls are the biggest plunder here, but over time you’ll be able to adjust to them and get the mission done. Toy Story has a lot of fun content and it provides you with a satisfying adventure.
(Editor’s Note: The game’s story mode was completed in 2:30 hours. 15/38 Achievements were unlocked totaling 200 GamerPoints. Many, many, many hours were spent in Toy Box mode. The review was conducted with the Xbox 360 version, but the PS3/Wii version shouldn’t offer a drastically different experience. For more on Toy Story 3: The Video Game, check Examiner’s Scott Grill’s review of the Nintendo DS version right here. )