While many movie-based games are notorious for being poorly made, that is not the case with Toy Story 3: The Video Game. Disney Interactive clearly spent the time to get it right; and the result is a great kids' game that offers depth, charm, and excitement. Disney even invested 160 hours in focus-testing with kids.
Two Modes of Play
In the game, kids have two choices of play: Story Mode, a linear path that sends kids running, riding, and flying through eight levels inspired by the movie; or Toy Box mode, in which kids explore a wide open world that puts them in control of how they interact with Andy's toys.
In both modes, kids can play as Woody, Buzz or Jess; and switch between the characters at will. That switching is part of the play component in the Story Mode where only certain characters can do certain things. For instance, you may need Jess's ability to nimbly jump on narrow platforms and then later switch to Woody so that he can use his lasso to slingshot across a broad expanse.
In the Story Mode, kids will find two kinds of levels: imaginary worlds where the toys pretend to have super powers and a real world where the toys are moving around in Andy's domain. The imaginary worlds are more about action, so you'll find yourself directing Woody to run along the top of a moving train while avoiding fire from Dr. Evil Porkshop (the character of Hamm in his superhero form). The real world levels are full of environmental puzzles aimed at getting the toys up to hard-to-reach places. By playing as Buzz, you can pick up Jess and Woody and then toss them up to places they couldn't otherwise reach.
In the Toy Box mode, kids are in charge. It starts as a western town where Woody is made sheriff; but it expands as you earn coins to purchase new playsets, including a Haunted House, a Space Port, and an Enchanted Glen. The toy characters offer you over 100 missions.
Not only are these beloved characters great fun to play with, but the game itself is kid-friendly. The game engine keeps track of how you play, and adjusts the game's difficulty to your needs. If you keep failing in an action sequence, the sequence will eventually get easier. Plus, the game offers on-screen help in the form of hints and/or a video showing you the best route.
Another bonus is that the Story and Toy Box modes can be played by two players. In the Wii version, though, the Story Mode allows for two, but the Toy Box mode is for a single player.
The PlayStation 3 version has unique extra content in the Toy Box mode, where you can unlock and then play as the evil Zurg, an outer space bad guy.
While this is a very well made video game, it is not perfect. The game allows you to "save" while in the middle of a level in the Story Mode; but when you return to your game, you must start that level over from the beginning. However, given how much fun this game is to play, that is not much of a hindrance.
Parents should be aware that there is a disconnect between this game's audience and the audience of the movie. While this is a fun game for kids age 10 and up (the ESRB rates this game as E10+ for cartoon violence and comic mischief), it is not right for the younger kids who will be seeing the film. There is a fair amount of cartoon violence in the form of aliens shooting at your character in frenetic battles, Woody throwing balls, and Buzz picking up enemies and tossing them. You will even use a laser turret to shoot plush aliens. And Zurg in the PS3 version is all about destruction. It is cartoony and not very scary, but it is not right for the preschool and early elementary crowd. Plus, the game is just too hard for younger kids to play, even with its special adaptive gameplay.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.