Toy Story Mania review

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From the opening bounces of Luxo Jr in the signature Pixar title, to the blue wallpaper and white clouds of Andy’s bedroom, Toy Story Mania has instant, comfortable familiarity stamped all over it. Cue the introduction movie of all the toys getting ready for their playtime and before you know it you’re getting a toy’s eye view of Toy Story from the comfort of your living room. The child within smiles with glee but an hour later, you’ll either be brainwashed into a three eyed alien, or the cynical side of you will frown once again at shameless movie tie-ins.

It’s not that Toy Story Mania is a bad game per say – just very, very repetitive. Essentially it is a collection of minigames that you play through, all of which are incredibly similar. All are essentially a shooting gallery with a few infrequent similar spins on the genre every three or four stages. The theme for each game borrows heavily from the Toy Story universe, but also encompasses areas from the actual Walt Disney theme parks. The reason for this is twofold I assume. Firstly there is a ride (which I have been on – and enjoyed) at Euro Disney that has you in a small spacecraft tasked to shoot colourful neon bulls eyes, all while Emperor Zurg laughs manically behind shields until the climax where you get to honour Buzz Lightyear’s wishes and take the dude down once and for all. The second reason they utilised the resort’s areas is to merely fill the game with different environments. And it shows.

While the game is mainly 2D, Papaya have included a 3D option but bizarrely only in a few games. The 3D effect that the game employs in the handful of the minigames is not a particularly different experience due to the tameness of the 3D effect. In short, the videogame falls far short of the actual ride experience though it lasts for roughly the same time. Aside from different environments, you will literally see everything the game offers in less than 30 minutes of playtime. The Kinect aspect works quite well, even if the targeting reticule hides smaller targets when aiming. It certainly tracks better in Toy Story Mania than it does in the majority of Kinect only games.

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A story mode with no story?

The presentation is consistent throughout and that part is a pleasure. Sure the menus are a little boring, but at the beginning, throughout the game and at the end, the familiar Toy Story toys are encouraging you along wonderfully with what certainly sounds like their official voices. While the shooting galleries are playful 2D cut outs of targets, Woody, Ham, Jessie, Rex and the like are wonderful 3D models that look like they’re lifted straight from the movies. Likewise the audio track is typically upbeat and the music itself full of fun jingles that are instantly recognizable from the movies.

The gameplay itself is solid, at least from the perspective that it’s a shooter and the projectiles being shot and the objects being shot at behave with realistic physics. Although seemingly not so important if the game failed in this area, there would be very little to recommend if it did. As it is, the only real benefactors of Papaya’s labours are going to be avid Toy Story fans or a family that has just experienced the ride and are wishing they had a souvenir. Instead the only break from shooting targets is to move out of the way when the game throws a large pie back at you. Again, Kinect works very well in this instance, tracking adults and children very accurately.

The story mode has no story, just a succession of the mini games strung in one long depressing cycle for each ‘zone’ of the game. Party play should be where the most fun is had but only supports two players at once, seemingly Kinect’s fault for only being able to track two players. However there is a ‘play with controller’ option that you would think extended the participants to a sofa pleasing four players, but alas no. It’s a great shame as it could have been the game’s saving grace, and for a moment when traversing the single player I had hoped that this is where the bulk of the experience would be had, or at the very least, found to be more enjoyable.

Endless repetition may not be for adults but even my 6 year old son got bored after 20 minutes and when I asked him the next day if he wanted to play it again, he actually asked to see the movie instead. When a child doesn’t get enraptured with the Disney magic Papaya have attempted to infuse into Toy Story Mania, its clear there isn’t any there. In short, Toy Story Mania is a misguided attempt to cash in on the franchises name with what is arguably solid gameplay, but the duration and repetition of the game suggests that a better avenue for release would have been through Xbox Live Arcade. The game is out on the Wii though so it’s understandable why they went retail, but even with fairly solid Kinect controls it doesn’t justify full retail cost and one presumes it will be in the bargain bin come January.

Game details

Game title: Toy Story Mania
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Available for: PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii
Developer: Papaya
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Strengths: Solid physics on the hoops,balls and pies.
Weaknesses: It's only about hoops, balls and pies.
Score: 4 out of 10

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