Toy Story 3: The Video Game ReviewBy Scott Alan Marriott - Posted Jun 21, 2010
Toy Story 3 does something old and something new for its multiplatform debut, with an open-world toy box mode serving as the star attraction. A disappointingly short story mode and several other issues mar what could have been a blockbuster release.
- Wonderful toy box mode
- Vibrant presentation
- Three playable characters
- Story mode consists of eight short levels
- Platform sequences lack precision
- Poor shooting mechanics
Traditionally, movie-licensed games based on children's films are nearly all the same. You already know what's going to happen before you snap open the case. It's a 3D platform game. It's played from a third-person perspective. You will experience at least one chase or flying scene on rails, and you will collect more trinkets and baubles than a grandmother at an antique show. Aside from potential camera or control issues, a children's movie tie-in is perfectly safe, harmless entertainment.
Move Over, Marston
Toy Story 3 offers something a bit different for those desiring a break from tradition. Sure, there are the typical platform levels in the story mode, but where Toy Story 3 switches gears is by offering a separate sandbox-style environment. Inspired by the franchise's fictitious television series, "Woody's Roundup," the game's toy box mode features a Wild West setting with lively townsfolk, quests, collectibles, and a variety of lighthearted challenges.
The toy box mode lets you play as Woody, Buzz, or Jesse, as you roam around the desert canyon area as you see fit. You'll receive quests from other Toy Story characters as well as from the tiny, LEGO-like populace, but the majority of these quests are not much more than basic scavenger hunts. In addition to gathering items, you'll pick up and throw cows in a pen, toss people in a barn, compete in races, blast areas with dynamite, and even catch outlaws trying to rob your town's bank.
Each quest you complete, which takes about five minutes, showers you with gold coins and celebrates your modest effort with a fireworks display. Though the tasks never increase in challenge, the colorful atmosphere and sense of whimsy make you want to poke around and have some fun. You can dropkick aliens, heave cows down a well, or fling people inside buildings to give them new clothes, hairstyles, and more. You can guide paratroopers through the air to various landing targets. You'll hop on Woody's horse to gallop through rings, drive a car on a stunt course, and zap fairies with a magic wand.
To Infinity and Beyond?
All while you are doing this, you're earning coins to purchase new buildings, toy figures, and other surprises, transforming your humble little town into one teeming with activity. Adding certain structures will open up themed areas in the play set with additional objectives to complete, from Sid's haunted house that adds ghosts to a fantasy setting that unlocks a fire-breathing dragon mount. The developers also included just over 100 milestones to complete, giving you things to shoot for in between quests.
There's a surprising amount of customization in the toy box mode, though if you don't care about changing windows, wall textures, and t-shirts, it's not much of a draw. Nonetheless, the longer you play, the more things you'll see and do. You'll be given tools like a pickaxe to dig for gold, a camera to snap photos, and a goo-spitting machine that can make items larger or smaller. The only drawback is that the world isn't very big, and after a few hours, it can get a wee bit repetitive.
Sadly, the story mode isn't nearly as interesting. With only eight levels to play, it’s extremely short, and each level takes roughly 15-30 minutes to complete. There's little reason to play these levels aside from gathering all the hidden cards or figures on each stage, which add new toys and playthings to Woody's Roundup. The problem with the story mode is that it has a hard time deciding what it wants to be.
The most entertaining levels involve using all three characters and their special abilities (Woody, for instance, can use his pull-string to lasso onto hooks) to solve a predicament or puzzle. Yet things start to break down during the platform and shooting sequences. The camera is too restrictive for fast action; it's hard to judge distances while jumping; objects or hazards suddenly appear out of thin air without warning; and there's an irksome delay when pressing the jump button. Shooting targets with Buzz Lightyear's wrist-mounted laser feels imprecise thanks to a large, slow-moving reticule.
Both the Wii and PlayStation 3 versions feature the same story missions and toy box mode as the Xbox 360 game. The Wii version, understandably, uses the Wii remote and nunchuk combination for controls, while the PS3 release adds a fourth playable character to the toy box mode. In addition to Woody, Jesse, and Buzz, PS3 owners can play as the Emperor Zurg after first unlocking the evil ruler. He also has his own vehicle and some character-specific missions.
Worth the Buzz?
Despite the problems, Toy Story 3 is a good game on the verge of being a great one with a little more attention. Hopefully the franchise will continue apart from the movies, allowing the developers to create a larger, more diverse toy box mode while keeping the same sense of playfulness. The story mode is not needed -- just add more playable characters, more diverse settings, and elements from games like Animal Crossing. Then you'll have something truly special instead of something that's perfectly safe, harmless entertainment.