At this rate, we’re going to have to stop making predictions that games based on movies will be miserable. Even though it didn’t focus on any of the films and boasted an original storyline, we all know Transformers: War for Cybertron was inspired by the theatrical releases, and other titles like The Bourne Conspiracy , Shrek: Forever After and Kung Fu Panda have been decent. Now, we get yet another fun, solid game based on a recent movie: Toy Story 3 . The main adventure is definitely worth playing and although short, you can spend a great deal of time in the Toy Box, learning all sorts of interesting new mechanics and in general, “toying” about for ages. The graphics are nice, the sound benefits from great voice acting (as you might expect), the controls are a tad loose but still reliable, and overall, fans of the movies will find themselves right at home. Colorful and entertaining variety sits at the core of the game, and it can be quite satisfying for the right person.
They really are starting to put a lot more effort into the visual presentations of these film-based interactive experience. They used to be pathetic but I think publishers have realized that gamers don’t buy crap, and when a game looks and plays bad, it won’t sell. Hence, the graphical appeal of Toy Story 3 is an important step in the right direction. We’ve got the familiar design and sharpness associated with the animated franchise, super fluid movements, a bunch of pleasant effects, and the frame rate usually doesn’t suffer. I saw some brief hitches during cut-scenes and when things got really wacky on the screen but beyond that, it’s a pretty consistent production. Certain levels and areas do seem to look significantly better than others; even various aspects of the environment can range greatly in terms of polish and detail, but the target audience isn’t likely to notice. It looks a lot like “Toy Story” and that’s what matters.
Although we don’t have all the same professional actors always heard in the movies, we still have enjoyable and effective voices to accompany our lovable toys. The effects, much like the visual effects, are crisp and clear and the soundtrack is also quite helpful. Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” goes along with the game board (aka, the world map) and although I don’t think there are enough licensed tracks from the films, the music is always fitting. The balancing is also good and there are typically quite a few humorous voices and effects, like when you toss little aliens from a train or you throw Woody with Buzz’s extra strength. In other words, both the graphics and sound work together to present the biggest, most believable “Toy Story” world yet, so the fans should be happy. Remember when we were promised “Toy Story graphics” on the PS2? Yeah, well, we didn’t get it then but we’re much closer now.
The game starts with Woody and his noble steed attempting to save orphans on a runaway train, all the while avoiding the attacks of that evil pink pig. Obviously, you can tell the toys are simply playing a game but it’s still a great way to start, and you quickly learn the basic mechanics. You can jump and double jump with the X button, fire a projectile (in Woody’s case, a ball) by aiming with L2 and firing with R2, pick up just about anything with Square, shoulder charge with the Triangle button, and quickly switch between various pieces of equipment with the directional pad. It all works very well; the controls are responsive and accurate, the camera is actually quite good (if a bit slow at times), and the only real issue is a small lack of solidity. The control does feel a little loose at times and it’s a little too easy to fall off edges. You can actually cling to ledges ala Uncharted so it’s a little irritating when one falls and the character doesn’t automatically turn to grab the edge, you know?
I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the flight mechanics when controlling Buzz through one of his special arcade-like flying levels; even with a quick burst to the left or right, he just never seemed quite fast enough to deal with the speed of the “game.” But just about everything else, special character moves included, is just about right. Buzz can boost and toss other characters, Jessie can land nimbly on narrow landing areas, and Woody can use his lasso to throw himself about. Another cool aspect is that because all three characters often have to work together, it really promotes cooperative play. If you don’t have anyone to play with, you can switch between each character with a quick press of the L1 button, provided they’re available. You will follow a fairly standard storyline while seeing a diverse set of landscapes and environments, and developer Avalanche continually switches things up and keeps you interested.
And outside of the main quest is the aforementioned Toy Box, which is a large, sprawling corral that Woody can call his own; he acts as the sheriff of the area and he can accept dozens of different quests from characters wandering about the area. The more coins and special item pick-ups you receive, the more characters you can unlock and ultimately, you will get more and more missions to try. There’s always plenty to do and you will even come across various gameplay aspects you may not find in the main adventure. You can paint and customize the houses within town, search for hidden items, and gather up plenty of coin, which of course is used as currency. But remember, you have to collect whole sets of certain items and many are scattered throughout the main adventure levels, so it’s not a good idea to get too attached to either the plot or the Toy Box. But it’s hard not to get hooked on the latter; it sort of reminded me of the Item World in Disgaea …just couldn’t wrench myself away.
The game isn’t perfect and there are noticeable flaws concerning the control, technical aspects, and the camera (occasionally), but none of these flaws are serious enough to significantly hinder your enjoyment. I sometimes thought the challenge level might be a touch high for the intended audience but it’s a bad idea to underestimate the ability of younger gamers nowadays. The bottom line is that if you’re a fan of the movies, or you know someone who is, you probably wouldn’t regret a Toy Story 3 purchase. You can spend plenty of time doing a variety of things, and Avalanche does a good job of capturing the colorful hilarity of the film series. It feels like “Toy Story” and that’s really all we require.