Let’s be honest, game adaptations of family movies do not have a good track record. There have been a lot of bad ones, and very few good ones. You can hardly blame the publishers, however. They know that parents will flock to the stores without reading a single review, just so their young kids can see their favorite cartoon movie characters jump into action on the TV screen. I’m happy to say that Toy Story 3 breaks the mold. It is not a simple cash-in. This game is one of the biggest surprises of the year, and it actually provides many hours or entertaining gameplay—and not for just kids, either.
When you begin, you’ll be introduced to the Wild West setting from the Toy Story 3 movie, and you’ll see all of the familiar characters and be introduced to all of the friendly new faces. Then, you’ll jump into the Story Mode. Now, the best way to describe the story mode is to say that the sum of most family movie game tie-ins adds up about to Toy Story 3’s story mode. There are 8 levels, and it is hardly at all related to the movie plot. It is worth playing through one time, but will not bring you back for more. The levels are not badly done; they are simply not extremely entertaining or attention grabbing. You’ll finish the story mode in anywhere between 2-5 hours, based on skill. As I said, most games would end here.
It’s at this point, when you get through the story mode, that you’re introduced to the real meat of the game: Toy Box mode. You’ll drop right into a place called “Woody’s Roundup,” which is a sandbox-type world full of towns, mountains, caves, and more. In this world, you’ll be able to act as different characters, undertake countless missions, buy new toys and buildings, race cars, and even customize all of the existing structures with paint and accessories. There is no shortage of fun to be had here.
The friendly people in the town, such as the sheriff, farmer, and mayor, will have tons of tasks for you to complete. Missions include painting buildings, collecting cowbells, sheep herding, mining gold, catching criminals, and even dressing up aliens in scary Halloween costumes. If you run out of things to do, you can simply head over to the toy store where you can purchase new people, toys, and establishments that will uncover new missions, relationships, and abilities. And the best part is, you can customize everything, from the attire of the townspeople to the shape and color or the windows, doors, and flowerbeds of the buildings.
This game presents enough challenging and complicated settings to where it’s easy for me to imagine young kids being confused and intimidated by it. For this reason, it’s my opinion that this truly is a game meant for all ages. Even for an experienced gamer, the Toy Box mode will take about 20 hours to complete in full. This is unheard-of in family movie tie-in games. While some mission types can get repetitive, such as the collection missions, there is certainly enough variety to keep you entertained throughout the experience.
In terms of actual gameplay, I was surprised at the level of sophistication in certain areas of the game. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly does not feel like a polished, hardcore game. The controls are very loose at times, and the camera is not always as cooperative as I would have liked. But as this turns into a free-roaming type of game, the loose controls are not detrimental to your success a large percentage of the time, which in turn makes it less of an issue. A huge positive for the game is the ability for a second player to jump into the game in full-on co-op mode. This gives two players the ability to jump into a level completely, not just for the second player to control a second reticle as we’ve seen in some titles as a poor excuse for a co-op mode.
Toy Story 3 is not quite on par with the big boys as a hardcore adventure game. However, I can safely say that this is the best family movie tie-in game I have ever played—and I’ve played a lot of bad ones. The brief story mode with the Toy Box mode added on make this a surprisingly lengthy adventure that is full of fresh content and new things to explore. And while the controls are somewhat loose and elementary, there is much fun to be had here for all ages, especially fans of the Pixar and Toy Story universe.