One of my favorite parts of reviewing videogames is being able to play some of the titles I normally wouldn’t give the time of day. With so many games on the market, it’s hard to find enough time to even play the games I’m familiar with, let alone the ones that I’m most passionate about. Having been a gaming critic for around 6 years now, though, it’s safe to say that I’ve received my fair share of titles I probably would have never touched before and with them comes a balance of disappointments and pleasant surprises; with systems such as the GBA, DS, and Wii, there’s really no way to distinguish a dud from a diamond in the rough. Therefore, I’m left with duds from established gaming companies like Ignition Entertainment’s Lux-Pain or Nintendo’s Mario Party Advance while I’ve played entertaining games by studios like Disney’s Buena Vista Games such as Nightmare Before Christmas: The Pumpkin King or even Kim Possible 3: Team Possible.
Having seen success from Disney’s studios before (also with games such as Lumines 2 and Every Extended Extra), I hoped that Toy Story Mania! might bring the same sort of quality to the table despite it being just another mini game compilation on the Wii (which we’ve seen far too many of). Mention of inspiration from rides from Disney’s own Disneyland and Walt Disney World were other reasons for me to be hopeful of the game’s success and the fact that they touted the game as a 3D title meant that it would be the first out-of-the-screen-3D title on the Wii to date. It seemed that I might have another quality Disney title on my hands…
Immediately booting up the game, players are greeted by the entire crew from the movie but the first thing that stood out was the lack of original voice actors. Now, granted, I understand that grabbing Tom Hanks and Tim Allen for a game that mainly children will play is probably not the biggest necessity but I was at least hoping that all of the voices would sound somewhat like their original characters. This is the case for most but characters such as Jesse should have been cut from the game entirely if they couldn’t find a better voice than the shriekish one she inherited. Also, I’ll mention for humor purposes that I felt very uncomfortable by the overly excited and happy greeting I received from the toys whilst my girlfriend only laughed from the other room. Obviously the average kid would be thrilled by the opening exchange but anyone over the age of 6 would have to be embarrassed by the happy-go-lucky howdy-do they impart upon the gamer.
In terms of layout, this game follows most mini game compilations; Toy Story Mania! features a story mode as well as free play as the main two modes of gameplay. In story mode, players can play one of 6 different “stories” where each has a theme and features one or more of the characters from the world of Toy Story. For instance, the Tea Party Story features Bobeep as the main character while the Barnyard Story features Hamm and Rex. Stories consist of nothing more than a brief introduction and ending featuring commentary by the featured characters sandwiched around a randomly selected group of mini games.
Unfortunately, there really is no engrossing part of the Story Mode to separate it from the Free Play mode. There is also no real added benefit to playing the story mode over the basic Free Play other than a few extra tickets at the end of completing a story. However, due to the broken autosave function, which doesn’t allow you to quit mid-story and then start back where you left off, Story Mode must be played through in one sitting in order to finish and receive the extra tickets.
Tickets are the game’s form of currency where they can be used to buy anything from new games in Free Play to pages and stickers for a sticker book. There are 33 games, 49 stickers, and 5 pages to purchase in all so there is plenty in the game to use your hard earned tickets on and to keep players playing. One mode that raised my excitement was the “Build” mode but I was immediately let down after realizing that it wasn’t a level editor but merely a mode where players choose a sequence of games to play in a row(like a set list).
Finally, multiplayer is available for up to 4 players but unfortunately, only two are allowed to play at one time. Devolving back a few generations, a party of 4 must take turns once again if all wish to play (the game randomly changes the players involved in each round). And to make matters worse, because the game is purely a set of mini games without a robust outer mode, the game further loses party appeal compared to other rival party games such as Mario Party, which at least contain extras such as the game board.
Enough about the game’s layout, I’m sure that any curious reader is probably wondering the most about the quality of the mini games. I can say that most of the games do feel like they contain a strong amount of production value, with nice, colorful looking graphics and lively, themed songs. However, this compilation of 33 games features more than half of the games as light gun shooters and though the environments and side objectives change for each of these mini games, the sheer magnitude of these causes more monotony than variety. To add insult to injury, players are not penalized by the amount of projectiles fired and there is not a large delay, thus making these light gun games nothing more than button mashing mayhem with far too easy objectives (I know it’s oriented at kids but come on).
As for the rest, there is a decent amount of variety encompassed through the other games including classics such as the wooden tilt maze (with metal ball), pinball, and Ski Ball among many others. I actually enjoyed some of these games but the fact that the majority of the games are shooters takes away from the game’s overall variety when playing through any of the stories (every other game is always a shooter).
Toy Story Mania! makes decent use of the Wii’s motion controls, especially in the light gun games, but there is also a large amount of unnecessary controls strewn throughout the game where players must frantically shake the remote in different ways. This was never a welcomed use of the motion controls since the day the Wii was released and it is still one of its most annoying implementations to date.
Menus are pointer based but are not easily navigable (and mini games do not have a ‘restart’ option mid-game, but rather require you to first completely finish the game before being given the option to replay). Also, I’ll mention that I didn’t even know you could pause the game until actually searching in the manual as the + button, conventionally used as pause in most Wii games, serves no purpose and rather up on the D-Pad is used to awkwardly pause the game. Still, I was at least a little impressed with the variety of motion controls used throughout the game.
Finally, my biggest qualm with the game is that it doesn’t even follow through on its most empowering claim: 3D gameplay. I was hoping for the most recent, high quality 3D visuals we’ve seen in recent movies that use the clear glasses. However, after opening the box and seeing the included Red/Blue dividing glasses from the 80’s, I knew that the game’s 3D aspects wouldn’t be as ambitious as I had hoped. Instead of receiving state of the art, out of the screen 3D, gamers are given 5 out of 33 mini games in “3D”. Also, I’ll note that I couldn’t really tell much difference between the 3D levels and regular levels as the Red/Blue color division technology is a primitive one that should have been forgotten with the 80’s (it’s nothing like the more recent 3D televisions/movie theaters we’ve seen nowadays).
Toy Story Mania! was released as a classic compilation of mini games featuring the use of 3D glasses to embolden the experience. Though the characters are revived visually in this hackneyed videogame, their voice acting is off, the mini games are too easy (and too repetitious), and the game doesn’t even create a 3D experience anything like that of the recent rereleases of Toy Story & Toy Story 2 in the movie theater. Unfortunately, Disney has merely added another mini game collection to a system that is chock full of similarly sub average titles. Kids may be able to overlook the game’s inequities but the game most definitely does not appeal to people of all ages.