Tooooy Story to the rescue!
Movie tie-ins suck. Some of them are great-bad (like Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game), some of them are bad-bad (think Iron Man) and some are so awful that Guantanamo Bay uses them as torture devices (Iron Man 2). But sometimes, in rare cases, this just isn't the truth. And – amazingly enough – they're movies based on kid's games. And Disney/Pixar movies at that!
[image1]Which brings me to the adventures of Buzz, Woody, and the rest of the gang. I don't really want to give away the story because it's also based on the new movie, so where the hell am I supposed to go from here? I could tell you that there are a smattering of areas to explore and play through, like Andy's room (which looks like a cross between a college dorm room and a little kid's “grown-up” space) and the Sunnyside
Penitentiary Day Care Center.
Each area is completely unique, with both a feel and color scheme all its own. It's not difficult to run around and reach each area in a given space, and with small unlockable goodies dropped everywhere it's worth jumping around and climbing on stuff to see what you might not have gathered yet. The goodies range from costumes and caps to future residents of the open-world known as the Toy Box.
And that Toy Box really is the shining star of this game, because you know kids who play games don't care about missions or worrying about getting from point A to point B. By default, it's a place to run around at will, aimlessly and mindlessly if you like, with optional goals and big open spaces for running and drop-kicking certain residents. (There's something so satisfying about punting someone that looks like a little Lego fella.)
[image2]Most little ones will just want to come back to the expansive Wild West-themed sandbox, where you can add new characters to the streets and new buildings, like a barbershop and a jail. You can even run around the main town finding masked robbers and drop-kicking them into the big house... and collect a small fee; of course, to buy more stuff (including, in the PS3 version, the evil Emperor Zerg as a playable figurine).
That's not to say this is as perfect as a kid's game gets. Along the way there are some camera issues, but they're only noticeable in the tighter areas of a map. Some of them can be annoying when someone finds themselves on a ledge in a corner, when you have to find the right jumping spot to make it to the next ledge. I've fallen a number of times near the end because of some odd camera angle. But that never feels like a huge deal because – like every good kiddie game – you're gifted with unlimited lives, all without any loading time in between each life. If you fall into water, off the trail, or into a cup of coffee (yup, I said coffee), you'll just find yourself back where you started.
As far as the superficial goes, the game looks almost exactly like the movie; it's bright and colorful, and every toy is so close to their movie counterpart, it's easy to think you're watching something special and not 'playing' anything at all. The voices, though, might irritate audio lovers since they aren't the actual film actors. I know it might be hard for Tim Allen and Tom Hanks to get time off between projects, but some dialogue from them would have just put this over the top for me. The actors who filled their places aren't bad by any stretch, but the authenticity should have been more consistent. Most of the other characters, like the piggy bank fella and Slinky, are done by their film counterparts.
[image3]There is enough depth here for experienced players who are forced to play with the youngsters. None of it is especially challenging (it's a kid's game, so why should it be?), but the levels are designed with some serious thought behind them, and a few of the goals are intriguing and deep. There are three characters to choose from on most of the maps: Woody, who has the ability to swing via his pull cord, complete with canned saying as he moves; Buzz Lightyear, who has a few lasers in his arsenal for some stages; and Jessie, who's more nimble and able to jump to some tiny spaces with impeccable balance. If there were a few more stages, or maybe multiple reasons to go back to a given area (beyond finding every little trinket), it would grade even higher for me, but after beating each stage there really is little reason to go back.
It very easily could be the best game for youngsters I've ever played, and with my nephew I've played a decent number (including that horrendous Teletubbies game back on the PSOne *shudder*). Even I felt drawn in for a good time, mostly throwing around townspeople and the occasional robber as I ran around the Toy Box. It's a faithful reworking of a movie in playable form. It's good to be a toy.