Review: Toy Story 3 (360)

Toy Story 3
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Avalanche Software
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 06/15/2010

The Toy Story movie trilogy has been praised as one of the best group of films ever made, so it’s only natural that each movie would have some form of video game tie-in. Toy Story 3 has arrived, and distinguishes itself as the first game in the series on the modern consoles. Is it worth playing, or do you have old toys in the attic that are more fun? Let’s find out.

1. Story/Modes:
Being a tie-in game for the movie of the same name, you can expect Toy Story 3 to follow the film’s plot pretty much down the stretch. However, the main “campaign” mode leaves huge chunks of the film out, and focuses more on the action sequences. Most of these play out in a platformer-style of control, but there are a few stages that mix things up with stealth or shooting gameplay. All of the story missions are played via flashback with Hamm, the piggy bank, telling the other toys the story of the film. The missions can be picked off of a board-game style board, and you can go back and re-play the missions if you want to find more of the pickups. There is one serious problem though, and that is the size of the game. The main story mode can be beaten in probably less than five hours by most people, and I’d bet that serious gamers can do it under four. An aggravating checkpoint and save system extends things a bit, but this game is not a long-term investment. There is the option for some two-player exploration, but that falls apart in most levels when it becomes obvious that the game is really meant for one player.

There is also a free-play mode called Woody’s Cowboy Roundup that works very much like an open-world game. In this, you pick from Woody, Buzz, or Jesse, and run around a wild-west themed area mining for gold, purchasing new buildings, and rescuing lost toys. This is fun, but it can get a bit repetitive. Still, this is an all-ages game, so having something that is completely kid friendly that you can do over and over again doesn’t hurt.

Story/Modes: Enjoyable

2. Graphics:
Probably since the first time we saw a Pixar film on the screen, gamers have been wondering when we would be able to control a video game that looked that good. Toy Story 3 comes really, really close. There are a few graphical hiccups, but you have to look for them. Sometimes a character’s mouth won’t sync with his voice, or perhaps a brief bit of clipping will occur. Most of the graphics work is just plain stunning though. The shadow work matches up perfectly with the animations, and the colors are all very bright and clean. There are a few later levels that do some great work with lighting, during a stealth mission and a space mission. It almost felt weird seeing how brightly lit the game is after playing through some of the other, darker games recently. Everything has a toy-based theme going on as well. The construction times for your buildings during Woody’s Cowboy Roundup look like Playskool toys, and the wild-west bandits are very stylized. Every image captures some of the feel of the movies, and the graphics are good enough to make you feel like you are playing the movie.

Graphics: Amazing

3. Sound:
Most games these days have three aspects to their sound: Voiceover, effects, and music. Toy Story 3 is pretty near perfect on all three. Several of the actors from the films reprise their roles, and those that don’t join in have sound-alikes that are very convincing. Jim Hanks stands in for Tom Hanks’ Woody, and there is apparently family resemblance even in their voice. John Ratzenberger voices Hamm, and as such provides most of the narration for the game. It’s a great choice to have him narrate. In fact, the voice acting really puts this game over the top. When R Lee Ermey shows up to voice the Sarge of the Plastic Army Men, I was grinning from ear to ear. Almost every line of dialogue is spoken as well, and only the Lego-style townsfolk don’t really have a voice. The sound effects and the music are both well done and appropriate to their setting. Knocking over a pile of wooden blocks sounds just like you’re five years old again, knocking over a pile of wooden blocks. There are a few “imaginary” settings, such as a runaway train and a space segment, and the sound and music change subtly to match.

Sounds: Classic

4. Control and Gameplay:
For a game that could have been a quick and easy tie-in, Toy Story 3 actually has a lot of gameplay variety going for it. Most of the game features the standard 3D platforming you’d expect, landing on tight spaces, hitting switches, the usual. The designers also worked in a few shooting, racing, and driving segments to break things up. You also have the ability to swap between each of the three main characters – Buzz, Woody, and Jesse, and each has different strengths. Buzz can throw other characters to cross wide gaps, Woody can lasso hooks with his pull-string, and Jesse can land on very small ledges automatically. There are enough fresh things going on to keep you interested, but the old cliché about doing lots of things well but mastering none of them applies. Some of the areas seem very rushed, and some of the racing controls – either car or on horseback – are painfully loose. It won’t kill your enjoyment of the game, but it will add a lot of retrying sections.

Control/Gameplay: Above Average

5. Replayability:
The campaign mode is very short, but it does allow you to play levels over and over again. The game is set out on a gameboard so you just select which level to take a shot at. There are a ton of hidden powerups scattered about, and it is nice to feel like you don’t have to grab everything on the first run. Aside from the collectibles though, there really isn’t a reason to play the campaign more than once. The free play mode provides a lot of fun with quests and general silliness, but you’d probably only want to take one shot at getting 100% of the quests.

Replayability: Mediocre

6. Balance:
Right on the cover of the game is a sticker that says “All Ages Gaming.” Either kids these days are amazing gamers or they are going to get frustrated in a hurry. This game is hard. Some of the problem is the floaty controls, but some of it is the sheer challenge of the game design. Instant death traps are everywhere. There is a checkpoint system that will keep you playing, but often you have to repeat multiple difficult segments. A few areas have timing puzzles that keep going even if you are respawning, and that gets old quick. The main story mode is pretty difficult, but the free-play mode has almost no challenge. The inability to skip cutscenes also hurts, as you’ll have to watch them over and over again. There is a hint system in place, but some of the hints are vague. If you get really stuck, most trouble areas will let you watch the computer show you what to do. Just be aware that if you get this just for the kids, be prepared to help out.

Balance: Mediocre

7. Originality:
Movie tie-in games tend to leave a lot to be desired in the originality category. There’s no room for anything new in the plot, and the gameplay gets dictated by what happens in the film. Toy Story 3 has a few of those flaws, but the presentation helps alleviate much of the tedium. There is a shooting level or two that let you play as Buzz Lightyear playing the Buzz Lightyear video game, which is a bit of a meta experience, but it works. There’s also a level with where you skate on rails taken pretty much out of a Tony Hawk style game, but the artwork and lights are very beautiful. Still, much of the game comes down to basic platformer standbys, and aside from Woody’s Cowboy Roundup, there isn’t a ton of different things to do from what you would expect

Originality: Enjoyable

8. Addictiveness:
As this is one of the shorter games I’ve played in a while, I’m not sure if I just never had time to become addicted or if it wasn’t that gripping. The game is over and done in a hurry, and while the freeplay mode is fun for a while, eventually you can just drop it and walk away. I’m also, admittedly, a bit older than the ideal target audience. What will really decide your overall love of the game is how much you enjoy these characters and their world. The story mode is fun to play for a while, and the Roundup keeps throwing wacky curveballs at you, but eventually you’re going to want something with a bit more substance.

Addictiveness: Decent

9. Appeal Factor:
As the movie is shaping up to be one of the best films of the year, and the game doesn’t feel like a cheap, rush-it-out-the-door companion, Toy Story 3 should appeal to a lot of people. As mentioned, it has the All Ages Gaming sticker on the front, so parents can feel safe buying it for the kids. All of the violence is clearly of the cartoon variety. The gameplay is good enough that older players can still get a kick out of it. The Roundup mode will keep people interested after the single player campaign abruptly finishes, and there are a lot of clever jokes to keep you smiling.

Appeal Factor: Good

10. Miscellaneous:
There is a very nostalgic feeling permeating this game, fairly obviously because of the toy-based roots that it celebrates. I choose celebrate very specifically. Not only because of the characters from the films, but because of how the game handles them. There is a segment where you can throw those little green plastic army paratroopers. The figures don’t move, but the parachute pops open just like it did when you were five or six, and the figures sway back and forth at the end of the strings. There is a care evidenced by the developers to stay as close to the subject matter and inspiration for the toys. Toy Story 3 will remind you of at least one part of your childhood every time you play it.

Miscellaneous: Great

The Scores
Story: Enjoyable
Graphics: Amazing
Sound: Classic
Control and Gameplay: Above Average
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Enjoyable
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Great

Short Attention Span Summary

While the developers could have phoned in another summer movie tie-in game, Avalanche Software made some great choices backed up with some great assets from Pixar. Toy Story 3 might look like a simple platformer on the surface, but there is some hidden depth. The graphics are astounding in action and the sound is wonderfully done, using the voice actors from the films and some very close sound-alikes. Unfortunately, the game is brutally short and the campaign can be finished in an afternoon. Controls are mostly okay, but some loose jumping and a difficulty level that expects you to know what’s coming will cause a few headaches. There is a free-play mode that extends the play time a bit, but eventually the grind of playing will cause you to put this one back in the toy chest.



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