Completely bucks the trend for movie licensed games.
"What's this?" I hear you ask. "This guy has actually bought a game based on the Toy Story 3 film? Is he mad? For one, movie licensed games are rubbish and Pixar games have one of the worst reputations..."
I hear you. And I agree with you. I found myself saying exactly the same things when I allowed myself to get dragged in to the hype of Pixar's latest masterpiece. Having just come out of the cinema, having seen the excellent film, and immediately popped into my local games shop and picked up Toy Story 3. I'd heard some good things about it, with the open-ended nature of the 'Toy Box' mode being singled out for praise on a few game sites, but it's still a movie game - and worse than that it's a Pixar movie game.
Colour me surprised, then, because here I am (over two weeks later) and I'm still playing it and having an absolute blast.
There are two very distinctive parts to Toy Story 3, and one is notably better and far more interesting than the other. First, you've got the story mode: a series of eight or nine levels loosely following the plot of the film, but not to the extent that you'll spoil the film if you haven't yet seen it. In fact, if you haven't seen the film yet then you'll be scratching your head trying to understand what's going on. The story mode will only take most people around four or five hours to complete, and if you play it in co-op then it will probably take you even less than that.
However, the story mode itself is still varied enough to stay interesting, thanks to the variety of environments and gameplay; you'll be doing some basic platforming, solving puzzles, swapping characters constantly LEGO style, doing a bit of on-rails flying with Buzz and some third person shooting, a bit of melee combat and more. It's actually surprisingly varied.
The level variety is definitely what makes Toy Story 3's story mode worth playing. One level is made up of some fun little mini games in Sunnyside Daycare, and one is an on-rails flying combat game which later turns into a third-person-shooter, based on the terrific videogame sequence from the start of Toy Story 2. There's even a 'My First Splinter Cell' stealth mission!
The co-op also makes the story mode more enjoyable, even if it cuts as much as up to an hour off the total length of the game. Co-ordinating with a friend to complete puzzles is far more enjoyable than switching characters around yourself, and a fully controllable camera as well as splitscreen means that the co-op is never frustrating as it can sometimes be in other games of this type.
As you can play the story as either Buzz, Woody or Jessie, the co-op is even more advisable as each one has their own special moves. Buzz can throw the other two characters to otherwise unreachable areas; Woody can use his pull-string like a rappel gun and Jessie can jump further and balance on small objects in the environment.
The one big issue that left me with a sour taste in my mouth after playing the otherwise-enjoyable story mode was the ridiculously frustrating final level. It's unique to the game (being only implied in the film) and is actually a pretty cool idea, but I won't spoil it for you here. The problem is the number of cheap deaths I suffered in this level: it was incredible. You know those annoying enemies in games with their annoying knockdown attacks? You know games when your character takes ages to get back up and proceeds to be knocked down again before he can stand? That happens a lot in the last level.
Overall, the story mode is solid if a little unspectacular, but it certainly has some neat ideas and fun moments.
The real bulk of Toy Story 3, though, is the fantastic Toy Box mode. Here, you're thrown into a Wild West environment as either Woody, Jessie or Buzz, and are appointed as sheriff by Mayor Hamm. From then on you can run around a pretty big open world environment, taking quests from the townsfolk as well as the main Toy Story cast (Slinky, Rex, etc). And of course there are, like in the story mode, plenty of collectibles to find.
So far it sounds a bit like a cross between World of Warcraft andRed Dead Redemption in a fluffy coating, but what really sets this apart is the customisation. You can change the appearance of all of the buildings and characters in the whole area, therefore adding a bit of The Sims style personality to the game. A lot of the customisation is inspired by other Pixar films, so you can paint a building to like a giant Nemo or dress up some townsfolk to look like The Incredibles.
As you complete missions and find collectibles, you'll gain gold to spend at Al's Toy Barn. Here you can buy toys that completely alter the world. Stunt parks, cars, a rideable Bullseye, aliens in a variety of costumes, weapons, buildings and more are all available. The three biggest investments though are Sid's Haunted House, Lotso's Enchanted Den and Zurg's Spaceport. These three buildings open up completely new areas of the world, themed differently to the standard Wild West setting, and also unlock even more missions and collectibles. However, you can also choose which one you want to be 'active', meaning that the chosen building will then be able to affect the Wild West zone. So if I chose Sid's Haunted House to be 'active', ghosts and other nasties would invade my town and terrorise the townsfolk. The Toy Box mode is completely dynamic and always changing, meaning that you can sit there for hours playing it whilst still having a blast.
Another great feature about Toy Box is that the co-op carries over. It's also splitscreen, so both players can do different missions and explore different parts of the world at the same time. The unique special moves of each character don't carry over though, and thus your choice of character is purely for cosmetic reasons or preference.
That is unless you're playing the game on PlayStation 3, in which case you can play as The Evil Emperor Zurg in the Toy Box mode. Playing as Zurg gives you access to specific missions and also allows you to use a unique Zurg-style super-car, resplendent with mounted turret, and also use your own personal gun to blast foam balls at your enemies. It's definitely a significant enough extra to warrant buying the PlayStation 3 version if you have more than one console to consider.
Another thing worth noting is that the PlayStation 3 version will have access to exclusive bonus levels, which will be compatible with PlayStation Move when the peripheral is released in September. These missions will be free to download from the PlayStation Store around that time. So, basically, if you're debating which version to buy, get the PlayStation 3 version.
Toy Story 3's gameplay mechanics are simple but effective. The platforming can be a little bit finickity, but is fine for the most part; whilst the shooting, flying, sneaking and other gameplay styles work reasonably well too. The driving can be a bit of a pain, but overall Toy Story 3 is more than enough fun to play through without significant problems.
The game's presentation is also one of its big strong points. The game looks fantastic with its varied environments, and they all exhibit fantastic attention to detail; they almost look like they were ripped straight out of the film. The characters look great as well thanks to great animation, and they also have a fine attention to detail. When entering a dark area, for example, Buzz's suit will glow in the dark - it's these fine touches that really make you feel as though you're playing the movie.
The voice acting is very good as well, although it's a shame that the only two actors not to reprise their film roles are Tim Allen and Tom Hanks. Their sound-alikes do a decent job, though, and the rest of the cast are great. I did however notice a distinct lack of Mr Potato Head and his missus, and I really don't know why. The most prominent NPC is definitely Hamm, and he does have some pretty funny lines here and there.
The music is all straight from the film series as well, and any game with 'You've Got A Friend In Me' as a menu tune is an automatic win in my books.
Toy Story 3 completely bucks the trend for movie licensed games. It has a tonne of content, the gameplay is fun, the co-op is well designed, it looks fantastic, sounds great and is overall a very enjoyable game. If you're a fan of the film then don't think twice.
-Good level variety.
-Toy Box mode is a ton of fun.
-Story mode is very short.
-Some dodgy gameplay mechanics.
Final Judgement: Toy Story 3 completely bucks the trend for movie licensed games, and that's in no small part down to the open ended Toy Box mode which can provide dozens of hours of fun.