Toy Story 3 Review
Although standards have definitely risen over the past couple of years, videogame tie-ins that directly coincide with the big screen releases of the films that spawned them, have spent the best part of two decades nurturing a well-earned reputation for abject sloppiness and cynicism. These atrocities are often easier to forgive because the films that they were tied to weren’t anything special in the first place, but any developer who is tasked with making a game to coincide with the release of a new Toy Story film, is definitely toying with flames.
The Toy Story series is so beloved by both children and adults for its heart, humour and purity of vision, and anything slapdash about a franchise tie-in ends up feeling like something of a personal insult. The first two Toy Story games, which appeared on the Mega Drive/SNES and the Nintendo 64/Playstation respectively, were surprisingly sharp endeavours that emerged at a time when a lack of quality in such titles was practically demanded. Tellingly, those two games were developed by a small British outfit called Traveller’s Tales, who’ve gone on to much-deserved fame and fortune for their work on the terrific Lego series.
The rapturous response to the third Toy Story film has been pretty unanimous in tone; the film is by all accounts an excellent piece of work, one of the finest second sequels of all time, but not quite in the same leagues as those first two classic movies. Disney’s Avalanche studios have taken the reigns from Traveller’s Tales for the third tie-in videogame, and the critical response has been similarly overwhelming. This is far and away the best of the three games, and is already being hailed in some quarters as something of a classic. And with excellent reason.
The bulk of Toy Story 3: The Videogame consists of some tightly-constructed (linear) action and platforming segments, exactly the kind of thing you’ve come to expect from releases of this kind. Pieces of the game’s plot link very nicely with the story of the third film, although it never directly makes reference to it, so there are no spoilers here. Bits of it are exciting, bits of it are clever, and bits of it are genuinely taxing, and both the script and the strong visuals are a million miles away from the sub-par norm. The dev team at Avalanche must have grafted long and hard to craft something this coherent, addictive and amusing, and their efforts have set a very impressive benchmark.
As terrific as those segments are though, the most impressive aspect of Toy Story 3 (by quite a substantial margin) is the Toybox mode. Acting like a slightly simplified sandbox gateway for the very young, and a much more laid-back and simplified (and colourful) version of Red Dead Redemption for their elders, you play through the mode as either Woody, Buzz or Jesse, and create and maintain a sprawling environment based on the fictional TV show Woody’s Round Up. You act as sheriff and assistant to the town’s population, and can use monies earned from completing missions by expanding the town, building by building.
Toybox mode takes onboard recent refinements made to the very best of the genre – you can take on multiple tasks at a time, and everything is helpfully streamlined by waypoints – but smart additions like the ever-presence of tutorials and hints, and the forgiving nature of the combat and mission duration, means that it works as a relaxing change of pace for adults, and a potentially thrilling new undertaking for younger players. The kind of riotous fun that many adults seek out in adult sandbox titles – of the unscripted, hell-raising kind – is available in full here too, albeit of a much more innocent and comedy-centric kind.
The mode is propped up by some Pixar fan-service – be it customisable collectible designs featuring Nemo or clothing inspired by those of The Incredibles – and a large part of the game’s opening tier cleverly places an emphasis on one of the film’s most endearing characters to have their actual voice present during proceedings (John Ratzenberger’s Hamm). Toy Story 3: The Videogame is a genuine surprise in all departments, and one of the best movie tie-ins in recent, and not-so-recent, memory. The excellent film has truly gotten the game it deserves.
Watch the Toy Story 3: The Videogame Trailer here……