Toy Story Mania! (Wii) - Review by Chris
The Toy Story films will undoubtedly have a special place in many peoples' hearts for being one of the most genuinely heart warming pieces of animation to come from Pixar. And with a third film coming in June next year, along with a re-release of the original two films in 3D in the run up to it, it's guaranteed that the world will once again be gripped by Toy Story fever. And so to almost coincide with the re-release of the first one, Disney Interactive Studios have teamed up with Papaya Studios to give you a game which takes many of its cues from a theme park ride of a similar name. But can the game live up to the joy that such ride can provide?
Toy Story Mania is a mini-game compendium set within the world of Toy Story. The story, if you can call it a story, goes that the toys, Woody, Buzz, Hamm and all the others, have set up a series of carnival-esque games in and around Andy's room and it's your job to play through them to unlock various prizes. That's all the backing the game gives and really, for the style of game, it doesn't need much more. The game sets itself up with an opening cinematic showing the toys going about their business and setting up their games in Andy's game which will undoubtedly bring a smile to many a face as the love for the series is rekindled. Unfortunately, while the various mini-games are specialised to specific toys, they don't quite recapture the essence of the films like this opening sequence.
Choosing from a list of 4 options in the main menu, there doesn't appear to be a lot here. Story mode is where you'll have to play through all of the mini-games in a set order and this is the only way that you can unlock some of the mini-games for play in free play. It's lengthy enough though and each mini-game gives you a set of tasks to complete to help you unlock other things within the game, such as stickers or other games to be purchased from the Prize option in the main menu. The only issue with it is that should you grow tired of playing the story mode and return to the main menu or turn the game off, when you come back to it you'll have to start again from the very beginning which will annoy some. The mini-games themselves unfortunately stumble quickly into the monotonous, especially if you are playing on your own, although the game is clearly designed to be played by multiple players at once for the best enjoyment. They cover a short range from shooting galleries to ring tosses to skeeball and don't require much in the way of skill to complete. The game tries to make up for the repeated play of these games slightly less repetitive by changing the criteria tasks that you need to complete in them. However, for experienced gamers, it's unlikely to help them stay long yet for younger kids, they'll absolutely eat it up.
Accompanying the main collection of games is a set of games that can be played in 3D. This means that you'll have to put on the red and blue glasses provided, of which you'll get two with the game, and get to enjoy a faux 3D experience. These 'special' mini-games are just a small collection of the already existing games that have been altered graphical to be played in 3D but the end result is rather lacklustre and doesn't make much of a difference. And the annoying thing is that if you're interested in trying these out right away, you can't as you have to purchase them for the Prize store on the main menu with tokens you'll receive from the Story mode. But that discrepancy aside, there are plenty of things to purchase in the Prize store and so the longevity will be there for those who keep coming back.
The idea of mini-game compendiums is that they are to be as accessible as possible so that anyone and everyone can play them. This remains the case here as the only thing you'll be using is the Wii-mote and its pointer capabilities. It's accessible but there are a few issues with the controls particularly with the game keeping track of the reticule in the shooting gallery games or the game detecting gestures in the small collection of games that require it. It's something that will instantly be recognisable by those who are experienced with games but as this is designed mainly for a younger audience, they won't take much notice and will just enjoy the game for its fun.
Papaya Studios have managed to capture the aesthetics that many will be familiar with in terms of the Toy Story series. The opening cinematic is great for greeting gamers and nice for bringing people back into the warm atmosphere that the films brought. All of the mini-games take place within areas of Andy's room and they all look decent. It's not something that will win the game any awards but it manages to capture the essence of the series and really, when it comes down to it, that's all that matters. The inclusion and use of 3D technology for some of the games is a nice touch but the difference between the games that use it and the games that don't is negligible and very unnoticeable.
Just like the graphics, the audio has been done to such a level that it captures the essence of the films. The music will instantly be familiar to those who've seen the films before and the voice, while being done by impersonators, are well done to the point that you wouldn't be able to tell whether they were impersonators or not, with a few notable exceptions where it's obvious that the real actors haven't reprised their voices for the game.
Toy Story Mania is a game that goes some way to recapturing the atmosphere of the films and will no doubt set people up for the much anticipated third film in June. There are quite a few draw backs but these will easily be overlooked by those to whom the game is aimed, but it is a shame that the game isn't as enjoyable as it could have been. The single player won't last you very long but the game has clearly been designed for multi-play and through this, you'll get considerable length from the game.
Pro: Graphics and sound capture the atmosphere of the films almost perfectly, great fun in multiplayer
Con: Some control issues, having to start the story mode over is a drag, mini-games quickly become stale in single player
Final score: 4.8