Toy Story 3
If you hadn’t already been made aware, Pixar’s crowning glory returns to silver screens this summer in Toy Story 3 (out in the UK on the 19th July, if you’re interested) and with it, of course, is the tie-in videogame – this time from developer Avalanche Software and Disney Interactive Studios. Although movie tie-ins are often unmistakeably poor, with Toy Story 3 it’s obvious that Avalanche have thought long and hard about the game in order to deliver a rich and colourful visual style that sticks true to the franchise’s heritage coupled with platforming and puzzle mechanics that supply a good deal of challenge and entertainment for all ages.
Whether you choose to forgo the story missions that interweave between the narrative of the aforementioned CG offering, (and thus, presenting many of the new cast of characters), or jump on Bullseye for a ride around the open-world toy box, the game very rarely fails to delight. The “ToyBox Mode” open world sees Woody become sheriff of the Western-inspired toy-town, western strings plucking along to the rhythm of game play, as you complete missions and mini-games as you see fit for any of Toy Story’s excellent characters. From clearing mine shafts for Stinky Pete, to sprucing up the town for Mayor Hamm and capturing criminals to throw into the town jail, the toy box represents a good deal of gameplay in only a tiny proportion of the overall package on offer. The area is large and intricately designed enough for the more mundane ‘fetch’ tasks to remain relevant and adequately challenging, whilst also familiar enough to alleviate unnecessary meanderings. Extra toys, whether vehicles or perfunctory buildings, can be bought from Al’s Toy Barn for coins that are awarded for completing missions (each with a fantastic TV style ad to match), to add to the town. The vast weight of the game comes from the story missions that perhaps best demonstrate the game’s effective and enjoyable platforming mechanics.
Though many missions are underwhelming in terms of contextualising such instances into the overarching plot, the lay-out of each are surprisingly well thought out, enabling the game to deliver a superb single player, and even better co-op experience. Revolving mostly around 3D platforming, the controls feel sensitive and in-tune with the very best of platformers, even though the level design could perhaps be improved upon for the game to stand alone on its own terms- many of the levels being a split between ‘find the item’/mini-game/platformer. The platform sections work best, infused with puzzles that handle the ability to switch characters (between Woody, Buzz or Jessie, using L1) effectively. Each of their own unique abilities (such as Jessie’s ability to land on smaller platforms or Buzz’s laser targeting), meaning many of the puzzles that break up the platforming sections are sufficiently challenging and ensuring the game’s ability to co-op with other players exceptionally rewarding, with players working together towards the end of the level. Story missions such as ‘Junkyard’ expel all that is great about the game, with each character’s abilities intertwined and interspersed between each other towards a conglomerate resolution of stopping Rex, Slinky and Hamm from entering the mouth of the junk machine- where Jessie landing on valves allows Woody to swing to the next mechanical button, thus allowing Buzz to knock down a piece of junk to Jessie for further progression, a prime example of the developer’s quality. It is instances such as these in which the game really shows the best qualities on offer, alleviating it above other movie tie-ins that so often fail to excite.
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