Toy Story Mania! isn't what I thought it would be. I knew it was a mini-game collection, but I certainly didn't think it would be this awful. Considering the caliber of the Toy Story license, I was hoping to see something along the lines of a WarioWare title. Unfortunately, we're left with little more than a poor excuse at a licensed cash-in game that is conveniently on store shelves at the same time as the 3-D re-release of the first two films.
The title touts that it uses games from the Toy Story attraction at Disneyland amusement parks, and perhaps some of the activities are more fun to play in person, but they don't transition very well to the video game format. You're partaking in little more than carnival style mini-games: tossing darts to break objects, throwing rings around various things, smashing a hammer on a bell, guessing which cup contains the coin, etc. As much as I didn't care for Carnival Games on the Wii, I think that it actually handled better than this title. At least Carnival Games attempted to piece together its events with some type of game progression. Instead, Toy Story Mania!'s story mode lacks a story, and it uses a nonsensical ticket system to handle the unlocking of additional mini-games.
The title basically has two modes: Story mode and Free Play. Free Play is pretty useless when you begin the game because you need to unlock the mini-games before you can play them, and only a couple of unlocked mini-games are unlocked at the outset. There are two methods to unlock mini-games: complete them in the Story mode or purchase them via the ticket rewards system. You can take the tickets you win in either Story mode or Free Play and apply them toward the purchase of the locked mini-games. The ticket idea doesn't make a great deal of sense because it's difficult to keep track of what you win and how much, and the number of tickets seems to be pretty random instead of based on any skill that you may have with the game. Ideally, the best way to unlock things is by making your way through the Story mode, but by the time you're done with that, you probably won't have much reason to mess with Free Play.
When Story mode begins, you're plopped into your first game. Calling this a "Story mode" is a bit of a misnomer because there isn't a plot or story of any kind; it's just a series of mini-games that have been strung together, usually interrupted by a micro-game between rounds. There are Toy Story characters, and they have small speaking roles, but all they usually do is introduce a round, so don't expect any lengthy monologues. Aside from that, there's no story to speak of, which is a serious misstep if they wanted to appeal to fans of the films. The Toy Story skin fits very loosely over this game, and it could have easily been substituted with a number of other licenses without having to change the gameplay at all. If you're purchasing this title strictly because you and/or your kids are fans of Buzz and Woody, please know that this isn't their best video game representation. It feels pretty trite.
The actual mini-games don't help matters much, either. Each mini-game has a number of objectives to complete, only one of which is based on score, but the rest usually follow the mold of do X task for Y number of times. One positive note I'll offer up about the game design is that the screen definitely has a lot of simultaneous stuff going on during the shooting and ring-tossing events. Little items and icons are popping up and moving around quite a bit, especially in areas like the Army Men stage. There are plenty of available targets that you can hit, and while you're trying to knock out the individual goals, you can rarely fire off a shot without hitting something. The other events, like Skee Ball and Coin in the Cup, are pretty bland, and these are used to fill the gaps between the bigger events, so you only have two objectives for each game. I imagine the purpose of the objectives is tied to the ticket system; most require you to hit a certain amount before you can move on to the next game. The unlocking of the games for Free Play seems to be pretty automatic, as long as you're able to advance in the Story mode. There are a number of mini-games to check out, but you'll quickly realize that you're just doing the same thing over and over again, and once that sets in, the game becomes pretty boring.
Finally, the tacked-on 3-D element that comes with certain mini-games is distracting and poorly implemented. There are about five or six mini-games that allow you to make use of the red and blue 3-D glasses that come with the title. Certain objects pop out a bit from the screen, but I've seen the effect used better in film, and the color distortion caused by the glasses makes the game more distracting than it needs to be. I didn't care for them being used here, and I doubt that even younger kids will be very entertained by this. The effect seems more pronounced on a standard TV than a high-definition set, so depending on which one you primarily use for Wii gaming, this might make a small difference.
Ultimately, I was really disappointed with Toy Story Mania! because I had hoped the developers tried hard to craft something more interesting than a series of unrelated mini-games. The mini-games falter because they're not fun to play for more than a few minutes at a time, and with little in the way of unlockable content or interaction with the Toy Story characters, I'm left wondering why they needed the license in the first place — aside from tricking moms and dads into picking up this mess of a game for their little ones. I'd avoid this one even if you're a die-hard fan of the series.
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