Licensed video games never seem to have much luck. Rushed out to meet the cinematic release of its counterpart, they are usually a technical mess, completely failing as a game and failing to capture the magic of the film it’s being based off of. For every Pixar film there usually is an accompanying game, from A Bugs Life on the PSOne to Wall-E on the current generation formats. All have been below standards.
Now the video game adaptation of Toy Story 3 is here, it has a lot to live up to. Developed internally by Disney Interactive and Avalanche (with assistance from Pixar), instead of the regular developer/published THQ, this has a shot at being the best video game adaptation ever. Is it?
Toy Story 3 is a game of two halves. The game features a traditional Story mode, which follows the events of the film. The first sequence of the film involves a daring train chase and the game faithfully recreates this, and expands on it perfectly. As the game goes on, the differences between the film and the game widen, but they still remain tied into each other, but it’s unfortunate that the game didn’t stick even closer to the film, but what they have come up with is absolutely fine, even if it does gloss over the events very quickly.
Bizarrely, for a kid’s game, there is a stealth level about half way through the game, where the toys have to escape Sunnyside day care centre. The gameplay is very much trial and error and can get very frustrating very quickly, but luckily they are generous with the checkpoints. Apart from this, the gameplay is fairly standard, with platforming, jumping and a bit of shooting, along with the obligatory object collecting. It’s very standard, it doesn’t try and be unique, but its mechanics work fine.
The single player works out at about five hours, which, if this was all the game had, would be a repetitive drive. It’s functional, but it isn’t ambitious and could be so much more. Luckily, the game has another ace up its sleeve: Toy Box.
Have you ever wondered what Toy Story would be like as a grand theft auto-esque free roaming adventure? Me neither, but developer Avalanche makes it work. The idea behind Toy Box is that, as one of the three main characters, Woody Pride, Buzz Lightyear or Jesse, you explore an open world in the Wide Wild West and you complete tasks from different Toy Story characters, such as Hamm, Slinky and Stinky Pete.
Toy Box really opens up after an hour or so of play, and it gives you lots of different play options. The game utilises racing mechanics for doing stunt loops and races, character customisation options and much more besides. You can build different structures within the town, fully customise them and open up new areas dedicated to specific characters, such as Zurg’s spaceport and Lot’s-O-Huggin’s fairytale forest.
Whilst the open world is relatively small when compared to dedicated free roaming games, such as GTA, the game more than makes up for it in the amount of things you can do in it. From completing quests, new toys become available, such as Alien laser guns, photo cameras and electric wands, all increasing the variations of the gameplay.
Toy Box is an interesting concept, and Toy Story 3 completely manages to pull it off. It’s like a love letter to the universe that Pixar have created, and its Wild Wild West setting is fantastic. Whilst it doesn’t have a story, per se, Toy Box offers many more hours of fun that the rather repetitive single player, and will keep you playing for hours. It’s a shame the game doesn’t feature any online play, especially considering that there are three main characters, but there is split screen multiplayer, and as this would be what younger children would be mainly using, it isn’t a problem.
On a technical level, Toy Story 3 delivers. The game looks great. The art design is very strong, perfectly complimenting Pixar’s design whilst expanding it themselves. The characters look great, with particular attention having been done on Woody and gang. The frame rate generally holds up, although whilst playing through Toy Box I did notice some slowdown when a lot happens on screen (a lot of fireworks go off whenever a mission is completed, and as this is quite frequently, slowdown does occur). I also noticed a fair bit of screen tearing, but like the slowdown, this only appeared when a lot was happening.
The sound is more hit and miss. The game doesn’t feature the voices of the movie, and whilst generally the voices do sound a lot like their celluloid counterparts, the Tom Hanks impersonator is not good. Quite terrible, in fact. The music is taken from the films, in particular Toy Story 2, and because of this, the music gets very repetitive very quickly. No matter how good You’ve Got a Friend in Me is, it gets very grating after the tenth time in a row. Sound effects, on the whole, are generally good, but like the music, can get very repetitive.
The controls are nice and responsive. It’s very easy to pull off a lot of the jumping and shooting in the game, and this certainly made the game flow better. The camera can be very annoying, pulling right behind you’re character and sticking in corners quite often, but a nudge of the right analogue stick can usually put this right.
It’s rare that a second animated sequel is as good as the ones it’s following, but Toy Story 3 is easily up there with the other two. The game also manages to be what is very rare these days, a great video game that fully uses its license to create a fun game that fans of the films will love. Sure there are problems, but taken as a sum of its parts, Toy Story 3 is great. I wouldn’t recommend paying full price for it unless you have young children, but if do find it on the cheap, I wholeheartedly encourage you to play it. I can only hope other licensed video games turn out this good (I’m looking at you, James Bond: Bloodstone).
+ Fully uses it license brilliantly, and to its full potential
+ Toy Box is a whole heap of fun, perfectly executed
- Short and repetitive single player mode
- Technical shortcomings can dampen the experience.
Format Played: Playstation 3. Completed Single Player missions, about half of Toy Box.