Review: Toy Story 3

August 17, 2010, Author: Ray Willmott

Pixar seem incapable of putting a foot wrong and continue to produce quality animated products that are suitable for every age. However, the sceptic in me still couldn’t believe they were daring to go to the Toy Story franchise for the third time and I was scared that they may have finally considered the lure of money over quality. While the film proved me utterly and completely wrong as its absolutely brilliant, I was tasked with seeing if the game matched the same quality. With the history of film/game cash-ins, my expectations weren’t high, but with such a high quality film, surely they can’t get it wrong?

You’ve got a friend in me!
Hopefully I don’t have to explain what Toy Story is to any of our readers, but for the select few who’ve had their head in the sand, Toy Story features a group of toys who come to life whenever their owner, Andy, isn’t looking and illustrates their escapades and adventures that stem from beyond a small bedroom, going out into the big wide world. The premise of  Toy Story 3 has the family of toys coming together to try to get their owner Andy, who is now 17, to play with them before he goes to college. Since Andy has grown older, his interest in playing with toys and figures has diminished quite a bit (I mean come on, he’s got a laptop and a mobile phone, why would he want a Mr Potato Head?!), so it doesn’t look good for the toys who are stuck in a box in his room, wondering when they will ever be recognised again. However, as Andy is moving out, his sister is moving in and will be taking his room for herself, thus Andy’s mum wants him to dispose of anything he isn’t taking with him to college, including his toys! She suggests donating them to a Day Centre and before they know it, the toys are about to experience a new adventure with a whole new set of children ready to play with them and a other group of toys, who are not all they appear to be.

Reach for the skies!

Press start to play
The game takes place on a game board, and has eight storyline levels which you’ll need to unlock by completing the level prior. The board also features the Toy Story movie theatre where you can watch all the game’s cut scenes, Al’s Toy Barn where you can unlock new items having collected cards on each of the levels and the Toybox. The Toybox deserves an explanation on its own, as that is where you’ll be spending most of your time, but I’ll come back to that shortly.

The game is only loosely based on the film, with some of the levels in the game representing pivotal scenes in the film, such as the train ride and the prison break. However, the antagonist in the game unusually appears to be a character whom actually allies with the toys in the film. I’m not quite sure how that works, seeing as how the movie has various characters that could easily slot into this role, nevertheless it is what it is. Throughout most of the levels the main characters you’ll play are Woody, Buzz and Jessie, but of course all your familiar favourites from the series make an appearance such as Slinky, Potato Head and Rex. You’ll also get to meet some of the new characters featured in the new film such as Lotso, although not all can be found in game, for example, Ken is conspicuous by his absence.

There are eight levels in the main game and the character you choose has an impact on the unique ability you can use. So Woody can swing on his whip from place to place, Buzz can glide and Jessie can land perfectly on anything with the press of a button. Some levels remain exclusive to one character, such as playing the Buzz Lightyear video game only enables you to play as Buzz, but as you get further into the game, you can use all three characters simultaneously and more prominently on the last level, you’ll need to use all three of the characters abilities to solve puzzles and help each other to access different areas. If you’re playing Single Player, a simple button press will allow you to alternate between the characters at any time. However, there is also co-op available in this game, so you and a friend can team up at any time to make your way through the challenges that lie in wait. There are also many collectibles to be found throughout each of the levels, such as cards that can then be redeemed at Al’s Toy Barn to unlock items within the game. You’ll probably need to go back on some levels to make sure you collect everything, although I’m sure there are some of you out there who are meticulous enough that one playthrough will be enough!

The storyline seems to end quite quickly in TS3, it kind of ends just as it gets started, and while that would be the end of a lot of these types of games, I assure you, Toy Story 3  is only just getting started!

Is it me or does a Cowboy seem out of place in this picture?

I’m sure by now you’ve heard all the talk about the Toybox mode in Toy Story 3 and wondered what all the fuss is about. Well, this is where the bulk of the game takes place in a sandbox type environment called Woody’s Round-up. It’s difficult to put into words what’s been created here, but if I were to hazard a comparison, I’d say somewhere between a young person’s Red Dead Redemption and Animal Crossing.

Obviously the cowboy theme of Woody’s Round-up and the very essence of the toybox is going to make you think back to Rockstar’s rather epic game, but obviously it’s a lot less violent, a lot less bloodthirsty and a bit more kid friendly on the whole. It is your duty as Woody, Buzz or Jessie to attract as many residents to your town as possible, completing as many missions as possible for a variety of folks and earning money to bring various skills and buildings to your little city. However, you’ll also be purchasing familiar characters from throughout the entire series to walk around your city and buying cars to do races with. There really is a lot contained in Woody’s Round Up and several gameplay mechanics have been meshed together, although some are more successful than others. You start out in a Wild West town and build a barber shop, an embroiderer, you develop a TNT making shack. But then later on in the game, you can build Sid’s Haunted House, Zerg’s spaceport and a tree of love to expand the city, unlocking new areas and a sea of new missions, complete with more familiar Toy Story characters and a new set of challenges. The area is quite huge and I think many people will be genuinely surprised by how much there is to do in the game. Put it this way, I was playing the game on Playstation 3 and just by running through the main storyline without hardly any play on Toybox; I only scored 23% of trophies. So yeah, this is vast!

The customisation in the game is surprisingly good, and at anytime you can pick up a little character, throw him into a barber shop or tailor, and change the way they look, giving them a beard, a hat, even a caveman suit. This is a great feature for kids who can dress up the town residents in any number of wild combinations and share them with their friends.

A Spaceman and a Stallion walked into a bar...

Watch how much I animate with my karate action pose!
This is a really well animated game and captures the characters perfectly. The graphics can be a little blocky on occasions, with a slight glitch here and there, but generally this is brightly coloured and vivid and will really draw children and adults in with its colourful charms.

I also like how diverse the environments are in the game and it really showcases a creativity befitting of the series, so you’re finding yourself in space, in the Wild West, even in a trash compactor. There’s even a level where you’ll find yourself in a dream like World, which is essentially a bedroom that has been flooded and you’ll need to navigate your way around using typical household appliances without drowning. Features like this in Toy Story really help it to stand out. This even applies to the Toy Box mode in the game and the way that it transfers from the Wild West to a Haunted Mansion and to Zerg’s Space Port is quite seamless, although there is a brief loading screen which pops up and can sometimes be quite frustrating and can detract from the seamless illusion the game is trying to create. Nevertheless, these are niggles more than concerns and ultimately Toy Story 3 does a great job.

Just pull my arm and I make sounds!
I’m a stickler for authenticity and sadly, the voices for the game really annoyed me. Hardly any of the main cast has been kept on for the game and I can’t quite understand why. I understand Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are highly sought after stars and it was probably difficult to get hold of them, but surely Disney could have collaborated with Pixar to get some sound bites. Instead you have poorly voiced imitators for the majority of the characters. No Tom Hanks, no Tim the Toolman Taylor, just actors of actors. I know it’s a petty complaint but it ends up frustrating me. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good enough that they’re passable but when you’ve got the license for the official game, you would expect the same kind of authenticity from the voice acting cast. A poor show here.

The music is pretty Toy Story compliant, with the familiar ‘You’ve got a friend in me’ playing on the title screen and various other orchestrations that suit the tempo. Sometimes the tunes can be rather repetitive and annoying and cause you to groan with frustration whenever you’re forced to replay a certain area. While the voice acting is a poor effort, the music however, does remain faithful to the films and on the whole is done pretty well.

Cartons, Water and Woody. Eek...

Just another cash-in?
Toy Story 3 is a really good game and I had some real debate in figuring out how to mark it. On the one hand, I wanted to slap a buy it on it, but then realised it’s not going to be for everyone. Some would consider the customisation not of a high enough standard, or the storyline too easy, or the subject matter was too childlike and the sandbox areas can become repetitive and there isn’t enough reason to sustain their interest. However, I thought that slapping an Avoid It on it would be totally unfair as the game is probably the best film to game collaboration I’ve seen in a very long time (that’s considering every film released and not just animated motion pictures).

Coming into this game, it will definitely help if you’re a Toy Story fan or if you love sandbox games. Toy Story 3 is no Red Dead Redemption (even though it feels like it’s trying to be a corny rip off of it), but it is by far the best possible way for a child to play a dream game based on Toy Story and get some experience as to how a well designed sandbox game can be. There’s no doubt about it, this is essential for kids as there is enough content in here that will keep them entertained for hours. Toy Story 3 is probably the best Disney game based on an animated adventure I’ve played since Mickey Mania. There’s real effort gone into this game and it shows. This is what we want to see when a game comes out to coincide with the launch of a film. A really good game that deserves to be considered the definitive Toy Story gaming experience.


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