So I'm not sure what to think of the video game adaptation of Toy Story 3. See, movie tie-ins have a history of being...well, let's just say 'not that great'. Some are decent, some are mediocre, but rarely are they any good. I've played a good amount of these games, and generally I've expected exactly what I've gotten.
But Toy Story 3...well this is definitely different. It looks like developer Avalanche Studios has decided that a movie tie-in title doesn't need to be just some quick play that only appeals to the fans of the movie, it can be much, much more, a competent game in its own right even without the license.
The game starts out simple enough: replaying the western scene from the beginning of the movie as characters begin to retell the story to their new friends. But the Story Mode can be beaten in about three hours, maybe longer if you want all the collectibles. Story mode is dull (it's also hard to call it that, considering out of eight levels, three takes place in a kid's imagination, one is a minigame carnival thing, and another takes place entirely within a video game. Only three are related to the actual plot.)
But then you're immediately introduced to Toy Box mode, something that takes what could've been an unremarkable game and makes it impressive. Toy Box mode puts you into Woody's Roundup, a place filled with toys, missions, characters, mini-goals, racing, and more. It's essentially a sandbox game when you step in, and there is a lot to do here.
First, you can accept missions from townsfolk to perform, things that range from painting buildings to fighting giant enemies. At the toy shop, you can purchase more toys to play with, like more townsfolk and weapons, and even more areas to play in. These include places like Zurg's Spaceport and Sid's Haunted House, each with their own little tool that can destroy enemies and take out targets scattered around the landscape.
The place is fully customizable, too. Hundreds of capsules are scattered everywhere, filled with ways to customize your little townspeople, aliens, and buildings. There's actually a set of missions where you must look at photographs (well, pict-o-graphs), and customize characters and locations so that they match up with what you see.
In contrast to the short story mode, the Toy Box mode can last a good fifteen to twenty hours. It's varied enough to keep interesting for a good while, and though some parts can get a little repetitive, it's perfect for younger players to go through in bursts of an hour or two. There are a total of 103 gold stars that you can earn, little sub-missions that involve doing unique things like tossing animals in a well, completing missions, or collecting the myriad of capsules all of the various areas. These are probably what will keep you playing the longest.
Though the platforming mechanics of the game perhaps aren't as solid as they should be (characters control pretty loosely at times), it's alright because the platforming sections are actually not very common. The game plays a lot more like an adventure title, with things to collect and find, with some small bursts of platforming. Likewise, the driving is pretty loose, but except for a few specific areas, it's merely a way to get around faster and do some races.
Toy Story 3 also boasts a full jump-in-jump-out co-op mode, allowing a second player to play alongside the first player. This isn't some 'assist-type' co-op, either. The second player gains full control of another character, allowing two of them to run through the level.
Toy Story 3 isn't perfect, with some loose controls and a dull plotline to follow, seemingly more for the convention of having a plot in these games than anything else. The Toy Box mode adds a whole lot to the game, however, propelling it far beyond what a typical tie-in game offers. That said, on its own merits, the game is still pretty good, and perfect for any fans of the series. Being able to run around and just do what they want at their own pace really makes the game great for a younger crowd. It's fun, got a ton of content, and really redefines what a movie tie-in game can be.