In conjunction with the re-release of the old Toy Story movies, Disney has produced a new Wii exclusive video game called Toy Story Mania. Inspired in part by a popular attraction of the same name found in Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks, this multiplayer game lets kids play over 25 mini-games with the stars of Toy Story. Most of the games are based on carnival-inspired shooting galleries.
After a short, full animation video in which you see Woody, Buzz and the toys creating their own carnival midway, the game opens to that scene and welcomes you to try out the games. You'll need to start in the Story Mode so that you can unlock the mini-games to play in Free Play Mode.
While called a Story Mode, there isn't a story; rather you will be presented with a series of minigames that you must beat before you can move on to the next one. When you have beaten 10, new themed tents become available to you, allowing you to explore the mini-games in the following thematic worlds: Animal, Tea Party, Western, Space and Army. Beating mini-games earns you tickets that you can use to unlock all the games in the Free Play Mode as well as five special 3D versions of the shooting galleries. For these 3D versions, you must wear the enclosed, frustratingly flimsy 3D glasses which don’t stay on as you move about. You can also use the tickets to purchase stickers and sticker book pages.
An example of a typical shooting gallery game is Rootin' Tootin' Shootin,' where paper cutouts of cacti, buzzards, raccoon robbers and random bulls-eye targets appear moving across the screen. Each has a point value, and you are given the objectives of hitting 20,000 points, all the cacti, at least three buzzards, three raccoons, as well as the task of figuring out how to fill a barrel full of fish. If you achieve two of the five objectives, you move on in the Story Mode. Clear all five objectives and you'll unlock the game in the Free Play Mode. The shooting is as easy as pointing the Wii Remote at the screen, lining up the pointer with the target, and pressing a button. Occasionally, other waggle motions are required.
Toy Story Mania doesn't move the needle in terms of innovation in kids' video games. Most of the games are about aiming and shooting at inanimate objects to earn points and achieve objectives. Many of the other games simply reposition classic games, including the shell game where you must carefully watch as tea cups are spun around, as well as versions of Pong and Pinball. But what Toy Story Mania does do well is serve up a variety of simple shooting gallery games that are fun to play either by yourself or with a friend. We loved shooting rings at the three-eyed alien characters, as well as knocking down cutouts of all sorts of farm animals and "robber raccoons."
A minor complaint is that the navigation around this playroom is unnecessarily complicated. But trial and error will eventually teach you which buttons to push, and what all the stamps are about (they represent individual games that you have either unlocked by beating them or paid for with tickets earned by playing other games).
Here's the bottom line: Toy Story Mania is the good game for two little boys (ages 6 to 11) to explore on a rainy afternoon. It offers a ton of harmless shooting of cardboard cutouts and balloons, loads of fast-action games and fun banter by Woody and Buzz (voiced by the Tim Allen, who does the character in the movies). While the game can be played by up to four, the game play is set up to handle two Wii Remotes at a time, with the others waiting for their turns. If your kids like the Toy Story universe, they will enjoy with this game. But don't expect it to be a constant go-to like Mario Kart Wii. It will be fun every couple of months, and for that kind of play, it's a little pricey at $49.99.
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