Toy Story 3

Platform: PS3*/Xbox 360/Wii/Mac/PC/PS2/PSP/DS
Genre: Action/Adventure
Players: 1-2
ESRB: Everyone 10+ (Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief)

No discussion needs to happen on the success that was the film Toy Story 3. The film was beautiful, received wonderful ratings and was everything anyone could hope it to be. And this was practically a sure thing – how often does a Pixar film flop – especially one with this kind of pedigree?

The game, on the other hand, merits an evaluation. Licensed video games are always treacherous and more often than not garner very meager scores. This is for a variety of reasons, most importantly that film can be hard to translate to games, but it seems that all licensed games try to recreate the plot exactly anyway.

To wit: a fight scene in a movie is often not a series of repeated blows, but instead based highly on environmental factors, unpredictable behavior and strength of will conveyed through actors. These things are all very difficult to accomplish in a game. Environmental factors come off scripted. Where Harrison Ford had the whole world at his disposal, someone playing as Indiana Jones can only utilize what the programmer has deemed useful.

Unpredictable behavior is an attempt to summarize the myriad options for something like a sword fight that are offered in a movie. Coming out of a sword lock, so-and-so sweeps around the back and kicks so-and-so’s feet out from under him! Now he goes for the right arm! Now the left! This can’t be recreated in a video game. You have a fire button, a swing button, a block button and so on. Therefore it comes down to scripting enemy attacks to be blockable by the player with moves they’ve established over the course of the game. This works when built from the ground up, but when compared to your favorite movie – not so much. It’s boring. That’s why we don’t often sit and watch other people play games.

And finally, there’s always the triumphant moment when it seems Stalone is down for the count, but he comes back up and finishes the fight. Good luck accomplishing this without a cutscene in a game. Metal Gear Solid 4 perhaps came close with the business of rapidly tapping the square button near the end of the game, but for many people that was more frustrating than anything as it was the quickest way to a worn-in controller.

So let’s look at how Toy Story 3 has managed to avoid these things and become a solid title.

First, Toy Story is based on an animated title, which gives it a leg up graphically. The game matches up pretty well, though it’s easy to wonder why cutscenes from the movie weren’t implemented. Likely because it would make the contrast of appearance much more obvious.

Toy Story also got back nearly all the voice actors. Buzz and Woody stand out as two that got passed up. Woody is voiced by Tom Hanks’s brother Jim Hanks, and for the most part does a good job recreating the original. Stephan Stanton voiced Buzz Lightyear and also did a good job (though Tim Allen did do Buzz for PS2, DS and PSP versions).

So for production value we have a solid ‘A’, which is a great first step. Now for the gameplay.

A good decision was made to only loosely base the game on the movie. The story mode circumvents the story with Hamm and others filling in the spaces with commentary between levels. The big draw of the game is a completely separate sand box mode called Woody’s Round-Up, from the popular television show native to the films. This mode puts you playing as Woody, Jesse or Buzz (you can pick whichever and change whenever) and acting as sheriff of a developing western town.

The town is totally customizable. You place buildings like a bank and a tailor and can dress up the inhabitants any way you choose. The player can mine for gold, race cars around and even hitch a ride on Bullseye. Collectibles earned in the story mode unlock pieces that compliment the wealth of stuff already available in this mode.

There’s a loose story involved here too that is brought together by the missions you do for Mayor Hamm, but aside from these there are tons of side missions associated with various characters and areas you unlock including Sid’s House and Zurg’s Space Port. You’re always certain to have three or four missions in your queue while defending the town from bank robbers and gargoyles as well. This mode is really fun, well fleshed out and makes this game a huge success.

The co-op here is a nice thought, but the missions aren’t built around it, so unless the second player has played enough to know how to accomplish other missions on their own, it’s really just a hassle as it practically doubles load times and splits the screen, so no extra points there.

Overall, an outstanding title in a barren wasteland of licensed children’s games.

Bottom Line: 8.5/10

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