When you purchase a video game based on a children’s popular movie there’s a set of likely criteria you come to expect. It’s going to be very easy, likely short in length, filled with simplistic achievements and most common of all … not very good. Toy Story Mania! unfortunately ticks all of these boxes, as whilst the game shows potential and charm with its warm Pixar inspired visuals and character narratives it ultimately falls short as a rather uninspired collection of mini-games that provide little variety or entertainment value.
Toy Story Mania! can ultimately be summed up as a mini-game collection with an emphasis on reticule based challenges that can either be completed by controller or use of Kinect. Activities typically revolve around popping balloons, smashing plates or hitting targets which have varied point values that contribute to your overall level score. There’s a handful of levels that don’t adhere to the overly familiar reticule and target formula such as hooking sheep and skeet ball that help to spice things up but are unfortunately few and far between.
Each mini-game lasts a few minutes and there’s a lot of inspiration in their design taken from the Midway Mania! theme park attraction that features familiar scenes involving Buzz Lightyear and Woody. There’s no denying that there is a charm to the presentation, with scenes set up to look like fairground attractions using billboards and props to represent a staged scene and having a continual background narrative play out from familiar characters to the films, from favourites Woody and Buzz to lesser personalities such as Bo Peep and Hamm. It’s a shame that the presentation, both visual and audio, is the highlight of the package.
There’s certainly a wealth of levels available, split across five different themes. The problem is that many of these levels are almost carbon copies of one another and often repeat the same tricks, gameplay or design elements again and again. You’ll be able to play the levels in a straight batch within the game’s ‘Adventure Mode’ or per level as you choose in ‘Free Play’. If you’re feeling adventurous there is ‘Party’ which will select a level at random. Depending on how you perform on each of the levels you have the ability to earn yourself special reward stickers, a leaderboard position and of course plenty of easy achievements. Lastly whilst there is support for two players on a single machine there is no online multiplayer to speak of.
Controls are straightforward moving the aiming reticule around the screen either via thumbstick or the human body. Firing can either be done singular or continual, which instantly halves the difficulty of aiming and shooting to just aiming. There are power ups that can be had in the form of targets that’ll appear randomly during levels and float across the screen, which such bonuses as exploding barrels that’ll hit all targets on the scene or stopwatches that’ll slow down time to make targets move at a snail’s pace.
I popped Toy Story Mania! into the console expecting the usual, along with a quick and easy thousand gamerscore added to my gamercard. I got exactly what I had anticipated having completed the entire game, all levels and all achievements within three hours. However I had also expected an entertaining collection of varied mini-games that might appeal to a younger audience and unfortunately sitting alongside more complete and engaging packages such as Disneyland Adventures and Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster it falls short, barely scraping together enough value and entertainment for an XBLA release let alone a full retail title.